This is going to feel a little strange, Philly. Other people around the country are actually rooting for us.
Put together a consensus list of the most hated teams in American sports and the order would look something like this: The Yankees, the Patriots, Duke basketball and every team from Philly, especially the Eagles.
(Sure, in Philadelphia, people hate the Dallas Cowboys. But around the country, there are as many Cowboys fans as there are haters. It’s sad, but true.)
Actually, it’s not all Philly teams that people hate. There’s a case to be made that fans around the country actively love the Sixers now. Joel Embiid didn’t just make the Sixers better, he also made them more fun. And maybe it’s starting to rub off on the rest of the city.
There aren’t a lot of Philly supporters outside of the Delaware Valley. Most others around the country hate our heart-on-the-sleeve mentality — the fact that sports really matters to people here.
And while every team in every city has fans that are jerks, sensational incidents like the snowballs at Santa, the batteries at J.D. Drew, the cheering when Michael Irvin got hurt and the punching of an off-duty cop all stick in the public consciousness more than boorish behavior from fans in other cities.
For other cities, fans acting like jerks is something that happens sometimes. For Philly, as far as the nation is concerned, it’s who we are.
Yes, a couple of drunk idiots punched police horses this week — our fans are not perfect — but they are not the only terrible fans.
Google “Dodgers fans” and see how many results say “arrested after bloody beating.” A search for the term “bad fan” comes back with this Nov. 2017 headline: “Alabama fan arrested for allegedly shooting Auburn fan over Iron Bowl argument.” (No, the Iron Bowl wasn’t played in Philly last year. I checked.)
Vikings faithful returned to Minnesota with stories of how Eagles fans stole their hats and peed on them. Others complained their friends were pushed down or punched. Admittedly, we are not all saints. Many of us are rude, obnoxious jerks, and some — a very select few — get violent. Those people should (and usually do) go to jail.
The rest of Philly sports lovers are just happy idiots who try to climb greased lightpoles after big wins. And now, with the rest of America watching, this generation has a chance to change people’s perception of us — forever.
There’s something relatable about an riled up fan base that never wins anything.
Basically, we are you, rest of America: Failure almost all the time.
We’re a city defined for generations by its lack of sports success, so when those triumphs come, there’s a sense of togetherness to draw in fans of other cities that also routinely fall short. Minnesota Vikings fans? Sure, we might have been mean to some of you this week, but for a team with as little Super Bowl success as we have had, you really want to root for the Patriots to win?
Remember, New England’s fans are just as obnoxious as Philly’s, but their attitude stems from being So. Damn. Good.
Since 2000, the Patriots have won five NFL titles, the Red Sox have won three World Series and the Celtics and Bruins have each won one championship.
In my lifetime, Philly has won three professional championships: The 1980 and 2008 World Series and the 1983 NBA title.
Boston has 13.
Since 1960, the last time the Eagles won the NFL championship, Philly has seven titles — two for the Phillies, Sixers and Flyers and that one in ‘60 for the Birds.
Boston has 26.
And trust me when I tell you that every time you talk to a Boston-area fan they remind you of both their recent and long-term sports successes. No one denies this.
Here’s what else no one denies: For all the bad behavior Philly fans get, there were no arrests at the NFL Draft — widely viewed as the best draft in league history — and just six arrests surrounding the Eagles’ win over the Vikings, three of which were for scalping fake tickets.
So, if keeping score, the Eagles started this NFL season by hosting the best draft ever, and are ending it by facing the most hated regime of perpetual cheaters the sport has ever known, all while the fans have been pretty-darn well behaved.
Whether or not you think DeflateGate was largely overblown, Tom Brady lost four games of his Hall of Fame career last year because of it. SpyGate was a huge scandal too, and Bill Belichick was docked half a million dollars, with the team losing a first-round draft pick, in its aftermath.
The Patriots have become the most successful franchise in NFL history. They are the best, and objectively also the worst.
And so, if you were an impartial fan, which team would you rather root for, the one that always wins and often cheats to do so, with fans who think they’re better than everyone else because of all the big, shiny trophies their local teams win, or the team that defines die-hard, that’s cheered on by — deep-down — mostly lovable losers?
Not convinced yet? How’s this:
Donald Trump, lifelong New Yorker, loves the New England Patriots and their white-collar-blue-shirt-wearing owner Bob Kraft, who he considers a close personal friend.
He loves Belichick, who wrote a personal letter to Trump the day before the election, in which he said, “You’ve proved to be the ultimate competitor and fighter. Your leadership is amazing.”
He looooooves Brady, who is basically the handsome, successful son Trump never had.
Now, look, before we get too far down this road let’s admit there are a ton of Eagles who voted for Trump. Moreover, the Patriots are full of class players who do a lot for their community. The Eagles are led by an owner who hasn’t always said the right thing publicly, but reportedly stood up to fellow owners who wanted to shut down the player protests during the national anthem this season, while Malcolm Jenkins has become one of the leading voices in America — not just the NFL — when it comes to racial equality and civil rights.
The Eagles are a franchise dedicated to autism research, and an organization that reconfigured its stadium energy grid with wind and solar power to be more, pardon the pun, green.
Chris Long, who won a Super Bowl with the Pats last year, played this season for free after donating his game checks to local youth organizations focused on education equality.
Lane Johnson donated all the money he’s making from his underdog shirts to Philly schools. (Oh, right, Johnson was suspended last season for cheating. Hmmm. That one’s tough…)
But let’s be real, an impartial observer rooting for the Patriots in this Super Bowl would be like going to see the new Star Wars movie and rooting for Supreme Leader Snoke. No joke, SB Nation did a Twitter search for “evil empire” and the Patriots had more returns than any other team in sports, including the Yankees, who have worn that nickname as a perverse badge of honor for decades. Rooting for the Patriots in the Super Bowl is like rooting for the evil empire! It doesn’t matter how obnoxious you think Eagles fans might be, Joe and Jill America, there’s no way you can look yourself in the mirror and support the evil empire!
And, sure, there are tons of people — as Kevin Kinkead at Crossing Broad found out, mostly Giants fans — who will claim they either won’t watch the Super Bowl or will “not root for anyone” in the game, but they’re all liars. What’s great about sports is that no matter how little you think you care about two teams in a game, there’s a part of all of us that thrives on the thrill of competition.
With two seconds to go and the game on the line, every sports fan reacts in some way when that final pass is caught or dropped. It’s in our DNA. And, just this once, all of America outside New England and maybe some tiny pockets of Dallas and New York will be rooting for the Eagles. They’ve become America’s team, if only for two weeks. Then everyone can go back to hating us in time for the parade.