This week, Deadspin and Jezebel swap beats to celebrate America’s most dangerous and controversial pastimes: football and fashion, two sports that have far more in common than you think.
Philadelphia is a city of many great things. Brotherly love. Amish markets. Rappers like Lil Uzi Vert. Something called “scrapple,” which you shouldn’t Google image search and just eat, okay?
It is also, notoriously, a city of insane sports fans. And I mean that as a compliment, sincerely. I grew up in South Jersey, minutes outside of Philadelphia, and Philly sports teams were the only ones I really knew. Because of this, I’ve grown up thinking passionate fans climbing telephone polls, setting fires, and hurling snowballs at beloved Santa Claus is all normal behavior. But apparently fans of other football teams don’t take to the streets eating horse shit after a stellar game? Who knew!
As someone who knows absolutely nothing about football (or hockey, or basketball, or baseball, etc.), ahead of tonight’s Eagles game I reached out to the fans in my family and inner circle who are Philly-area natives to ask: why are you like this? Seriously, why? And while I was MORE than prepared to dunk on them, their responses were surprisingly moving, a testament to the fact that Eagles fans are perpetually misunderstood.
Responses have been condensed and edited for clarity.
Sydney, my cousin:
I think Philly is a no-nonsense city and we have a really obnoxious pride about ourselves for absolutely no reason. I think I share that. I was actually just at the Eagles game last Thursday and I went with a Jets fan and he got into multiple fights, none of which he picked. I think we’re also really proud of how obnoxious we are. You play into it. I feel like I get to be more obnoxious than a usual person when it comes to sports. Even when I’m at work [at the hospital] I actually get to watch the games walking by rooms and it’s actually fun [because] on the telemetry monitors where we monitor heart rates, everyone’s heart rates go up really high when the game is going. As soon as you say you’re an Eagles fan people always give you shit and bring up the Santa Claus incident, from like 30 years ago. I don’t think that will ever die, it’s brought up literally every time. I don’t mind it though because then I get to get a little aggressive about it. [Laughs]
Malcolm, my brother:
I was talking about this yesterday with someone, why are Philly sports fans so fucking crazy? [Laughs] You know that story about that robot who came to Philly for his last day? [yes, Philadelphians stomped a hitchhiking robot to death] That made me happy, to be from Philly, hearing that story. Yelling at games, climbing telephone poles, that’s what I like about Philly, that fans do stuff like that. It’s just chaos. I don’t know why. [Laughs] I guess it’s my ‘toxic masculinity’ or something. When I used to go to the Sixers games, like the playoff games, that was the first time ever I was literally like [screams] YEEEEEEEAAAAAAAH! DESTROY THEM! And I remember there were like three members on the Chicago Bulls who got injured, one after another, and...we all applauded. I think when you’re in an arena with screaming fans, you go along with it. It’s like [extremely thick Philly accent impression] we’re family. We’re thicker than blood.
Kenneth, my father:
We’re a hard, scrappy East coast town. [It’s] full of people who want to take their frustrations out and win. It’s like, we’ll get you guys, we’re just as good as anybody, we’re better than the New York Giants, you New Yorkers, who think they’re better than us. We love to beat the shit out of you guys because it’s a way for personal redemption. I definitely hold [the Eagles] up as my team and I want them to win because I love my town, but everybody does. You want to be proud that your team wins. I think [Philly’s] reputation gets a bad rap, you know? Now we play at the Linc, which is a super-modern facility. But before we played at the Vet, where Phillies and Eagles shared the stadium, and they had a court and a jail down there. It just added to the bad-boy image, I think people love that tough guy image. Me, personally, with my friends, we like to watch the games together, [but] we think it’s a jinx if we all get into the same room. Because every time we get together for some reason we always lose, so there’s a joke that we can’t get together. And when we finally did get together for the Super Bowl and we won and said, we broke the curse! [Laughs] We can all be in the same room!
Sam, my boyfriend:
I think it’s more than just growing up watching games with my family, I think it’s also growing up watching games where the Eagles lose so many times. So when we win it’s extra-intense. When I think of things I associate with Philly, like Todd Rundgren or Rocky, I think of underdogs. With Rocky, that’s sort of the story of Philly, getting back up no matter how many times you get knocked down.
Ariel, Sam’s sister:
Philly just has the underdog mentality, which was brought to light with the [dog] masks this year. We’re just really used to losing and being mad, so when we win it’s just so wonderful. I think all fans get upset when they lose, we just have a reputation for really not handling it well or throwing snowballs at Santa Claus. Like one time I went to a game with my dad and people were throwing snowballs at 49ers fans in the stadium and the game wasn’t close. We don’t hate the 49ers, they were just being assholes and the fans had to be escorted from the stadium. There’s not even a rivalry there! It was just to do it. I think it’s just who we are, it’s what we do. They have to grease and butter the poles because of course we’re going to climb them, of course we’re going to riot if we win or lose. And the butter won’t stop us. The grease won’t stop us.
Erica, my cousin:
[It’s] probably because [the Eagles] haven’t done well for so long, the passion has been built up. They’ve waited for so long and everyone kind of just counts them out. People don’t think they’ll be successful. And they have a bad rap with the Santa Claus story and I think fans feed into it almost. People think we’re crazy, so let’s just continue being crazy. I do think I get a little bit intense. I get nervous because of how much it matters to me. I take it personally, and I’m a little bit superstitious too. [Our grandma] is very superstitious. When she was at our house one time a couple years ago there happened to be a game that night. She was up in the kitchen and she started to walk down the stairs as we were all in the living room watching. The game was going fine, then she started to walk down the stairs, and all of a sudden it wasn’t fine, and she said “I’m going back upstairs, I can’t watch!” My mom does it too. Last winter we were watching at the house and she was watching and left for a little while and when she came back, something bad happened, and we all turned and screamed at her that she wasn’t allowed to watch anymore because she was bad luck. [Laughs] I guess it runs in the family.
Laura, my cousin:
There’s something about Philly pride I find really interesting. Maybe we’re so close to New York that [the city] has like an inferiority complex? It’s like we’ll always be underestimated. [Laughs] Being in South Philly at an Italian restaurant the night before the Super Bowl was one of the most warm feelings I’ve had in a long time. Everyone was family that day. My uncle started singing the fight song at our dinner table in a restaurant and the entire place stood up and sang. It was a really beautiful thing to be a part of! It’s almost like Rocky. Rocky is like this random movie nobody really cares about but somehow everyone in Philly cares about. It’s like how I played sports in high school and college and it’s not even that I love playing sports but being a part of that camaraderie, that group optimism, feels so good. And then when you’re sad together, you get that we’re family and we care about each other.