By now, you know about the North Dakota radio host who ripped Philadelphia on Monday, describing his horrendous experience at Lincoln Financial Field in a letter titled, “Dear Amazon, anywhere but Philadelphia.”
Joel Heitkamp explained that his family was shoved and spat upon and had full beer cans thrown at them. He claims he was headbutted by a drunk Eagles fan and that police officers were complacent with the boorish behavior.
“I have never seen such a display in my life,” Heitkamp wrote.
He followed up with Philly Mag on Tuesday in a more tempered question and answer format, an interview where he didn’t really back down from his criticism of Philadelphia but did mention the hospitality of a “good guy named Ed.”
That’s Ed Callahan, the guy who runs the “Eagles Mobile II” tailgate. A Crossing Broad reader suggested we get in touch with Ed for his side of the story, so we did. Ed was nice enough to spend a few minutes on the phone Friday morning, and so was Joel, who got in touch with us later in the day.
Here’s what Ed had to say:
Ed Callahan: Let me give you the whole story as I know it. I do not know what happened to him inside the game. We had nothing to do with that. We have a following in North Dakota, our tailgate, because we’ve been welcoming North Dakota State Bison fans. Some of the folks up there reached out to Heitkamp and had him get in touch with me. We had coordinated earlier in the week. I not only welcomed him to the tailgate, but I arranged for the Green Room bar at 20th and Green Street to be the site for his Friday broadcast back to North Dakota. He interviewed me over the air for about ten minutes Friday afternoon. We also invited him to come down to the tailgate. He showed up and spent about an hour and a half with us. We did shots with him. I told him, about wearing Vikings gear, as long as you’re at my tailgate, you’re safe. Once you cross tenth street, my hands are clean. I have no responsibility for what happens then. Now, on Monday, I texted him and followed up and mentioned that it was a tough loss for them but that we enjoyed meeting you and your company. That’s when he unleashed on what happened in the stadium. But he said, he said to me, this was all in text, ‘you guys were great, I really enjoyed your time.’ Then he shoots out his story. Now, I think he wrote his story in the airport, and it got back to his station in Fargo, and his producer took the picture of my tailgate that I sent to Joel so he could find us, and put that picture as a header on the online story. I don’t know if you notice that when it pops up as the thumbnail.
Crossing Broad: Yeah, I saw that.
Callahan: It’s got a picture of my tailgate, and no mention in the story of how he was treated by us and how we arranged things for him, how we bent over backwards to welcome him. He enjoyed our hospitality for a couple hours, not only him, but his wife, his sister – not the Senator sister, another sister.
Now, he’s a pretty gregarious guy, okay? I think he’s a flame thrower in Fargo on his radio show. So, I have no doubt in my mind, that while he was treated like shit in that stadium, he wasn’t exactly taking tea and cookies to the Calcutta pool with Mother Theresa either. I waited three days after reading that story, because I read the story after exchanging those texts with him. And I went back to him – I’m a 28-year retired Naval officer – the first thing I said to him was, ‘Joel, one of the first things I learned in the Navy is never write anything for publication when you’re angry. Here’s what I’m pissed at. I’m pissed that we had reached out to you, that we had made arrangements for you, and you use a picture of my tailgate in that screed against Philadelphia.’ I said that’s unsatisfactory. He apologized. And he said he’s been over the air in Fargo saying how great we were and how accommodating we were and all of that. But hey, he’s miles away. He also said, ‘talk to the Philly papers,’ because he has gotten back to some folks I guess, and mentioned us. I didn’t see the article that was referenced in the Crossing Broad story by the Philly Mag guy. Did he mention anything positive in that interview or was it just not included?
CB: He did mention you guys there. Let me read the section. He said, quote, “we had been invited to a tailgate by a good guy named Ed. He told us that it was going to be interesting and that once we left the tailgate and went into the stadium, we were on our own.”
So he did mention you guys, but not in the original letter that he wrote. He didn’t talk about the positive experience he had at the tailgate until he spoke with Philly Mag later in the week.
Callahan: Okay, I saw that original story.
CB: Is it disappointing to you that he would leave out the part about your tailgate in his original letter?
Callahan: Oh, absolutely. But let me tell you also what he said. He said that the picture of our tailgate was attached to that story by his producer, and when he got back to North Dakota, he chewed them all out for doing that. And he did apologize, and I accepted his apology for lumping us in with whatever happened to him.
As far as I’m concerned, he was a pretty good guy. We had fun with him, trading barbs back and forth and trash talking, having a few drinks and enjoying ourselves. I also think the ass whipping that the Vikings got contributed to some of the vitriol in that letter.
Callahan and Heitkamp appear together in this picture posted to the tailgate’s Facebook page. Ed is on the right and Joel is in the middle:
And Heitkamp hosted his radio show on Friday from the Green Room in Fairmount:
Joel was good enough to give us a shout a little later on Friday, after wrapping up his show, to offer up his side of the story. We continued the discussion about his experience in Philadelphia and talked about some of the ways in which we can address the fan behavior problem:
Heitkamp: The picture of Ed’s tailgate shouldn’t have been up there. I’m not trying to throw my producer under the bus, but after we wrote it and sent it and she posts it, she used the Philly bus that was sent to us. I apologized to Ed for that, because that RV wasn’t a bad memory for me. I want to be upfront about that. The other thing about it was, whether or not I put Ed in the article, I knew that this article was going to cause trouble. I did. I was talking in generalities, and in fairness to Ed and his tailgate, and what I learned about Philly fans, I’m not not sure Ed wanted me to say, in any way, shape, or form, that he welcomed me around. I mean, think about it. Should I have put him in there? Probably. But in terms of, ‘boy, you didn’t mention the good,’ that’s pretty minor compared to the population of fans where it wasn’t good. I think what pushed me over the top was, well, number one, getting headbutted wasn’t good. But the more important thing was when they circled my wife and my sister and told them that they were going to rape them up the ass. That pushed it over the top for me.
Crossing Broad: I originally thought, and Ed mentioned this, that maybe you were just writing emotionally and off the cuff after a difficult weekend. But you haven’t backed away from any assertions about Philly fans, have you?
Heitkamp: No, I haven’t. And I haven’t because I saw, first hand, all of it at its worst. People have been sending me blog posts and Youtube and all of this, saying (audio cuts out briefly). And I knew that was going to come. Absolutely knew it was going to come. Then it was because, ‘we lost.’ But, Kevin, this went way further than that. It did. Beer cans thrown at you, people getting up and screaming in your face. I mentioned what happened to my wife. Check with the Vikings’ parents. They were sitting in a group and had beer cans thrown down on them. They ended up having to go up in the stands and arrest people and take them out. I’m not lying to you when I tell you that a security guy at the stadium told me, after the screaming in my face, to ‘get the hell out of here.’ It was, ‘you were never welcome here’ kind of stuff. This is a guy working for the stadium. And so, here’s what I’ll stick by – I’ll stick by my challenge of, when the Eagles play the Cowboys, the Chief of Police and the Mayor of Philly need to put Cowboy jerseys on, Cowboy baseball caps on, and just see how bad it is. Walk around. Walk around the tailgate and see what happens to them.
CB: My take on this has always been that the decent, law-abiding, tax-paying normal Philadelphian looks at those people and doesn’t feel any sort of pride or connection to that. But I also don’t think it’s just a ‘Philly problem.’ I mentioned the Giants and Dodgers fan stabbing from a few years ago (in another article). There’s been awful stuff at foreign soccer games. So I think where you start to lose some people is when this is described as a ‘Philly’ thing when we sort of look at it as a human problem, as trashy people acting like trash. Does that make sense?
Heitkamp: I understand what you’re getting at, I just disagree with it. I think they take specific pride in what they do. And I think the average fan that wouldn’t do that, I saw a number of fans there that were just chuckling while this was going on even though they weren’t the ones screaming and getting in your face. And the other thing, Kevin, is that it wasn’t an age thing. It wasn’t ‘hey these are 25 and 30 year olds.’ This was something that I think people have grown up with and taken some pride in, because it was 50 and 60 year olds, people my age. I just think it’s become acceptable. That’s what repulses me the most, that it’s acceptable.
CB: So, let’s “advance” the story here. That’s the old industry term, yeah? Let’s move the story forward. Outside of just attrition, and that mindset going away over time, what is the solution here? What can law enforcement do? What can the mayor do? Are there steps to be taken by the normal, decent Philly resident?
Heitkamp: Sure. Here’s what I would do if I was the Philly mayor, and I doubt he’d do it because it will cost him some votes. But first off I’d place undercover police so they can monitor all of this. Second, there’s no way I’d let people start tailgating at 9 a.m. for a game that’s going to start in the five o’ clock hour. No way I’d do that, they’re gonna be hammered, and hammered badly. I’d certainly monitor throwing beer cans at people. The city itself has to monitor physical violence and has to monitor people that are committing acts of terror, and that’s what they were doing. For my wife and my sister to go through that, that’s completely ridiculous. And the other thing I would do if I was the Eagles themselves, I would monitor every arrest, and if I found out that those people were season ticket holders, I wouldn’t let them be a season ticket holder. Because that would stop it. People would go, ‘I don’t want to lose my season tickets!’ And I know that there are a lot of people who tailgate who don’t have tickets and don’t go into the game, but if you put a list on there of people who can’t be STH anymore, you’re telling me as passionate as those fans are, they they wouldn’t stop it or curtail it? You bet it would. The other thing is, the NFL. The NFL itself has this family reputation that it wants. If the NFL wants to be represented that way, fine. But the ratings are down. They’ve been struggling with the general public over their image, if they want that to be their image, they need to look at one of their members and do something about it.
And one more for you, and this one is gonna blow you away a little bit – I believe that if somebody from my team, that if people wearing my colors are going in and the home team does that, I’m gonna get involved (in stopping other fan’s behavior). (Vikings owner) Zygi Wilf needs to deal himself a hand. He needs to call ownership of the Eagles and talk to the commissioner and advocate on behalf of his fans that had all of this done to them.
CB: I’ll leave you with this one; sounds to me like you think the change really begins with the neutral fan who is complacent in letting this happen, and not even necessarily the offenders themselves.
Heitkamp: I agree, and it has to start at the top of the Eagles’ organization. The Ed Callahans of the world are not the problem. Ed, while we took a lot of crap from them when we got to the tailgate, we should have! We were wearing Viking colors and that’s good rivalry stuff. I get that. But that isn’t the problem. You can deal with that and have fun with that. It’s the physical violence, it’s the vulgarity, it’s the intimidation. It is women who spent money on tickets, leaving, leaving at halftime and saying, ‘how are we going to get out of here?’ No woman that bought a ticket to a game should have to talk about the threat of being raped.
As we wrapped up the discussion, Joel wanted to throw in one more thing about the Philadelphia fans who have been sending messages of apology for the fan behavior:
Heitkamp: I keep emailing them back, saying, ‘it’s not your fault.’ It’s not your fault. It should be directed at Eagles’ management and the city. If those two do their jobs, then it’ll get fixed. But it’s not your fault.
So there you have it, some clarity on the tailgating situation and doubling-down on the in-stadium fan behavior.