A Super Sunday in Minneapolis

By on February 7, 2018
In the final moments at U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis, Minn., Rihn and Winters celebrate the Eagles’ historic 41-33 win over the Patriots

In the final moments at U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis, Minn., Rihn and Winters celebrate the Eagles’ historic 41-33 win over the Patriots

Local Eagles fan shares his once-in-a-lifetime experience

There’s a good reason that Lititz’s Chris Rihn decided to fly to Minneapolis rather than drive for Super Bowl LII.

“I thought if (the Eagles) don’t pull it off, it’s going to be a long drive home,” he said.

The Eagles, of course, did pull off the historic win, beating the New England Patriots 41-33 to capture their first Super Bowl title in franchise history.

And Rihn and his fiancé, Angie Winters, had front-row seats for the big game. Well, OK, it wasn’t exactly the front row — they were seated in Section 310 of U.S. Bank Stadium, at the 20-yard line — but it was the experience of a lifetime.

“All-time (best),” Rihn said. “Besides the birth of my three kids, it was the greatest day of my life up to this point, I’ll say. Without a doubt.”

A life-long Eagles fan, the 46-year-old self-employed insurance broker has season tickets at Lincoln Financial Field. He attended the 2005 NFC Championship Game and watched with one of his closest friends as the Birds knocked off the Atlanta Falcons 27-10 to advance to Super Bowl XXXIX. Sadly, that friend passed away a couple years ago.

The morning after the Birds knocked off the Vikings 38-7 to advance to the big game in Minnesota, Rihn went online to book his trip.

“I said, ‘If I ever get the chance to go to a Super Bowl, I’m going,’” he recalled. “As you know, every day is a gift, and you just never know. So I thought, ‘I’m doing it.’ It wasn’t cheap, I can tell you that. But it was very well organized.”

According to StubHub, the average ticket price for this year’s Super Bowl was $5,309.

During a pep rally the day before the Super Bowl, Lititz’s Chris Rihn (right) and his fiancé Angie Winters (left) got the opportunity to meet Pro Football Hall of Fame writer Ray Didinger.

During a pep rally the day before the Super Bowl, Lititz’s Chris Rihn (right) and his fiancé Angie Winters (left) got the opportunity to meet Pro Football Hall of Fame writer Ray Didinger.

Rihn wasn’t disappointed in his investment. In a shoot-out that resulted in an NFL-record 1,151 offensive yards, Eagles QB Nick Foles out-dueled the Patriots’ legend and future Hall of Famer Tom Brady, throwing the go-ahead 11-yard TD pass to tight end Zach Ertz with 2:21 remaining on his way to capturing MVP honors.

After Brandon Graham strip-sacked Brady, causing a fumble that the Eagles eventually turned into a Jake Elliott 46-yard field goal, they still had to bite their nails through a last-second Hail Mary attempt by Brady. When that pass fell incomplete, the Eagles finally had their Super Bowl title.

“Going out there, it was a little bit of an expensive trip, but I would have paid five times what I did knowing the outcome,” Rihn said. “I’ve been to a lot of games, but just being there to experience that first-hand was very cool. I was nervous as heck. I will say at the end, I could hardly watch. And I did cry like a baby.”

That was the capper to a journey which began with a 5:30 p.m. flight to Minneapolis last Friday.

The first full day there for Rihn and Winters included a pep rally at the Pourhouse, where the whole Philadelphia Comcast SportsNet crew — Michael Barkann, Barrett Brooks, Derrick Gunn, and Hall of Fame writer Ray Didinger — was taking questions from fans and talking about the game.

Afterward, Didinger stopped for a photo.

“He was very cool,” Rihn recalled. “I told him how much I enjoy listening to him, and he was very thankful and appreciative of that. He was down to earth and very nice.”

During their conversation, Didinger said that he predicted Eagles All-Pro defensive tackle Fletcher Cox would win Super Bowl MVP honors.

“He thought it was going to come down (to defense),” Rihn said. “It wasn’t a defensive struggle, that’s for sure. He didn’t predict a score at that point, but he was foreshadowing that Sunday would be a day to go down in Philly sports history.”

While leaving the bar, Rihn and Winters bumped into Eagles Vice-President of Football Operations Howie Roseman.

“I tried to get a picture with him, but he was like, ‘Ah guys, I’m in a hurry to meet my wife for dinner,’” Rihn recalled.

Then, the chance meeting took a funny turn.

“We didn’t bug him. We were like, ‘OK, no problem,’” Rihn said, “and a couple minutes later, he comes walking back out (and says), ‘Um, I went in the wrong way.’”

Didinger and Roseman weren’t the only brushes they had with celebrities in downtown Minneapolis. They also crossed paths and said hello to baseball Hall of Famer Dave Winfield and Bryant McKinnie, a former tackle with the Vikings and Ravens.

“They were very nice,” Rihn said.

Of course, it was the Vikings who were looking to become the first NFL team ever to have home-field advantage in the Super Bowl. The Eagles spoiled that dream in the NFC Championship Game, and although most of the Vikings fans Rihn and Winters met were friendly, that didn’t speak for all of them.

“Everyone was wearing green everywhere,” Rihn said, “so there were a couple knuckleheads, but overall the people were pretty nice. Most of them I ran into were rooting for us, but then there were a couple that didn’t have nice things to say — things you couldn’t print, I will put it to you that way.”

Once Sunday arrived, Rihn and Winters got to their seats about an hour and a half before kickoff. In their section, it was a good mix of Eagles and Patriots fans, and Rihn was pumped that U.S. Bank Stadium blared the Rocky music and Eagles fight song when Philadelphia scored.

“It looked like (Eagles fans) did outnumber them, but it wasn’t like 10 to 1 or anything like that,” Rihn remarked. “We were louder than (Patriots fans), I think that was for sure.”

The fact that the Eagles played Brady and the Bill Belichick-coached Patriots, who have won five Super Bowl titles since 2002, made the victory that much sweeter for Rihn.

“I use the phrase ‘to be the best, you’ve got to beat the best’,” he said. “And I liked that Gronkowski (the Patriots’ star tight end) played too, so there was no, ‘Well, if we would’ve had Gronk.’ If you would have told me at the beginning of the game that it was going to be a shoot-out like that, Foles against Brady, and the Eagles would still end up winning, I would’ve said you’re crazy. So that was definitely cool.”

When the clock eventually hit double zeroes, Rihn and Winters stayed for the Vince Lombardi Trophy presentation and then continued to party into the wee hours of the morning back at their hotel.

Understandably, Rihn and Winters didn’t get much sleep before their 5:30 a.m. shuttle to the airport for the 9 a.m. flight home.

“I got three hours of sleep,” Rihn recalled.

His only regret was that he couldn’t take his three sons — Colin, Corbin, and Caydin. But as of Monday night, he was planning to take them to Thursday’s victory parade in downtown Philadelphia.

“The boss said I should take off (work) the rest of the week,” he quipped. “At this point, I’m taking my boys to the parade. I think we’re going to take the train down to Philly and soak everything up, as much as we can, because these times don’t come around too much for a Philadelphia Eagles fan.”

Bruce Morgan is the sports editor for the Record Express. He welcomes reader feedback at bmorgan.eph@lnpnews.com.

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