Halfway through the Eagles’ rout of the Vikings in the NFC Championship, Jessie Magee booked her flight. She was one of hundreds of fans to buy plane tickets, pack their bags, and plan hours-long trips to watch their team make a showing in the Big Game.
But like many other Philadelphia expats who still bleed green, Magee wasn’t heading to Minneapolis, host city for Super Bowl LII. She was heading home.
“It’s not about where they’re playing anymore, it’s about the city,” said Magee, 37. “Sports are such a part of life in Philly.”
The lifelong Birds fan is originally from Westmont, NJ, but has lived in New Orleans for about five years now. She made a mid-season bet with herself to return and watch the Super Bowl with family if the Eagles made it in, but then studiously avoided any talk of postseason plans. She and her friends even began using coded language so as not to jinx anything.
Superstitions started to subside during the conference title game. At halftime, it finally looked like a lock. The Eagles were up 21–7, and Magee officially booked her trip.
She wasn’t alone. In San Francisco, Mike Whitworth, 28, woke up that morning singing the Eagles’ fight song, he said. At some point in the middle of the third quarter, he got his fiancée’s somewhat incredulous approval to fly home this weekend. They’ll be catching the game with family in Philly on Sunday.
Really, wherever fans watch the Super Bowl in Philly, they’ll feel like they’re with family. Sports fans here are bonded by the love — it’s something they’re born into.
“There’s nothing like an Eagles fan,” offered Mike Murray, originally from Darby, Pa. “It’s cult-like.”
The closest thing to Philadelphia sports fans, Murray said, are — maybe — the “rabid soccer fans” in Europe.
“You can’t compare us to any of these American sports teams’ fan bases: the Yankees, the Red Sox, the front runners. They’re not real,” Murray continued. “They’re only there when their team is doing good and when their teams are doing bad they’re hiding behind a rock somewhere.”
Since moving to Rhode Island in 2000, Murray said he’s seen his fair share of fair-weather Patriots fans, the kind that don’t feel like they have to call out of work after a Sunday night loss. For him, as for most of the Eagles’ fanbase, he said, a loss is as visceral for them as it is for the team.
Although Army Sgt. Kristine Fryer Robicheaux, 24, wanted nothing more than to join her hometown in celebrating the Eagles’ best run in recent history, she won’t be able to make the trip from Hawaii this weekend. The U.S. military doesn’t have an allowance for “my team’s in the Super Bowl” leave. Who knew?
“Unfortunately, the Army won’t allow me to take leave at this time ‘just for the Super Bowl,’” said Fryer, who is stationed in Oahu. “I guess they don’t understand the passion us Eagles fans have.”
Instead, Fryer said, she’ll be decking out the house with all the Eagles paraphernalia she can find — roughly 25 jerseys and various flags — and has already invited every Eagles fan she’s met in Hawaii to her house for the game.
She’s even kept up her superstitions from thousands of miles away. Fryer rotates five jerseys at the beginning of the season. “Whatever game we win first, that’s the jersey I wear for the rest of the season. I was even in the field for training with my unit and brought my Brent Celek jersey with me and wore it underneath my uniform on both Sundays,” she said. “I still haven’t told my leadership about that one.”
Andrea Cancelliere, 34, who has lived in Lexington, KY, for more than a decade, will be making the 11-hour drive home Friday night with her twin sister Amy and their three children, ages 2, 4, and 6.
The sisters (“originally from Frankford, and then Lawndale”) are hoping to show the kids how deeply the Eagles tradition is rooted in their family, something that hasn’t been easy to do when the closest NFL team is the Cincinnati Bengals.
“They don’t get it,” Cancelliere said. “We talk about being from Philly and family, and we try and tell them, ‘Oh my gosh, if we were in Philly right now everyone would be at grandma’s house and … we would’ve been watching this game together.’ And they don’t get that because they don’t see it and it’s just not how things are done here.”
Magee said it never occurred to her that there were places that didn’t live and breathe sports until she moved away from the Philadelphia area.
“Even if you don’t particularly care about them, you care about them,” she explained. “This is one of those things that’s gonna be a marker in everyone’s life who experiences it.”