With the exception of patrons at Chiefs bar Big Charlie’s and a handful of other iconoclasts, almost everyone who watches football in Philly pulls hard for the Eagles. But not all Birds fans live in Philly — as evidenced but the crowds who flew back for Super Bowl LII — and some have never even visited at all. A new platform aims to give the diaspora an online home.
Gina Lewis, the diehard fan who crowdfunded the Eagles victory billboard in Boston, has launched Chasing Eagles Nation with the goal of connecting supporters around the world.
“I wanted to find a way to make those fans not directly in Philly feel important,” Lewis told Billy Penn. “I know what it’s like to feel like an outsider sometimes.”
Lewis, a registered nurse who lives in Western Massachusetts, adopted the Eagles as her team back in 2002, when her newborn finally fell asleep on her shoulder right as Andy Reid and his crew appeared on TV. She stayed put because she didn’t want to wake the baby — and has been a fan ever since.
After her idea for a Birds billboard in Patriots country went viral last summer, and her story as a New Englander who championed Philly’s underdogs instead of swooning over Tom Brady was broadcast on national news, fans from all over the world started contacting her, she said.
“I had a ton of people reaching out to me…wanting to tell me their stories of how they became Eagles fans,” Lewis said. “It was awesome.”
She started a Facebook group for everyone to communicate, set up a Twitter account and a blog, and began actively soliciting subjects to write about. “I’m on a mission to find you and share your stories through blogs and video,” her website reads. “Tell me how you became a fan.”
So far, eight installments full of photos have been published, telling the tales of Eagles enthusiasts living everywhere from Biloxi, Missouri, to Brimley, Michigan.
“Eagles nation is a family,” said Ian Kronberg, who bleeds green from his home in East Haven, Conn., and whose Chasing Nation profile shouts out the Vick-led “Miracle at the Meadowlands” as a favorite memory. “Gina has started something that gives us a place to be together and meet fellow fans. I’m lucky to be part of this…and the feedback has been great”
Lewis does make it down to Philadelphia at least once a season to see her team in person, she said, describing the 4.5-hour drive as “totally worth it.”
Though the 43-year-old enjoys her day job as a nurse — “I love caring for people, it’s instinctive for me” — she would love an opportunity to work with the Eagles in some capacity. She has an idea for how that could start: her dream is for the Chasing Eagles Nation posts to turn into a regular segment on Philly local news.
There will certainly be no lack of material. Lewis said she’s been flooded with answers to her call for ex-pat fans and now has “a stack of stories to tell.”
What’s the appeal? Ask Ontario resident James Hainey, whose profile on the site is still pending.
“It’s great as a fan of a team to be able to share your story with other fans from all across the world,” said the Eagles enthusiast from Canada. “We may all come from different walks of life, [but] we share one common interest: the love for our favorite team — the Philladelphia Eagles”