Pala: There’s no logic to Philly sports fandom

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Philadelphia Eagles fans flood the streets of Philly after the Eagles won the NFC Championship on Jan. 29. - Photo / Simone Brooks

Philadelphia sports fans are the eighth “Wonder of the World.” It’s a unit to ironically marvel, with a cult-like culture that is built on blind faith and high levels of emotion that you simply have to admire but also hate to deal with.

There are few moments better to be a Philly sports fan than right now. Fans are celebrating an improbable and gritty run by the Phillies to the World Series, the successes of Joel Embiid and the Sixers, and most importantly, a Super Bowl return for the newly crowned NFC Champions, the Philadelphia Eagles.

Globally, there are very few sports fan bases that take the small victories to the degree of the typical Philadelphia sports fan. In 2023, they’ll often remind you of the glory years of 2018 and 2008 as if they were an hour ago. The devotion to both the teams and the players within the city’s landscape is unheralded, and sometimes concerning.

The whimsical and occasionally delusional faith of the typical Philadelphia sports fan has led to some hilariously emotional and entertaining breakups between the fanbase and stars and teams of the past. From the extreme buy-in of “The Process” and the lofty expectations of Ben Simmons’ superstardom to the 2011 Philadelphia Eagles “Dream Team,” the delusions of the city have fallen to the delight of laughing onlookers like conspiracy theories.

With that culture instilled, a typical win of any significance quickly turns into the barbaric climbing of flag poles, and the complete shutdown of the nucleus of the city, with every notable resident or affiliate of the city in attendance.

As a migrant South Jersey resident hailing from the northern half of the state, the level of loyalty to the franchises within the “City of Brotherly Love” on this side of New Jersey embodies the passion of a lost art form. The goal of sports as a form of entertainment is to unify and entertain, and Philadelphia sports fans truly serve that purpose.

The unwavering loyalty of Philly sports fans makes fans from other areas — like myself — start to tackle their insecurities, searching for answers on why this level of fortitude seems unachievable in other places. Up north, loyalty to your region as a fan is scarce, and many of my peers growing up supported teams from different states. The issue may be one that boils down to choice. There are almost two of everything where I come from, with fans being split right down the middle between the Giants and Jets, Yankees and Mets, and the Nets and the Knicks. 

In thinking about the fan loyalties I decided to forge at a young age, I realized each choice was intentional and well thought out, devoid of a sense of heritage or an emotional response to moments that unified me as a child. In the first Super Bowl, I was able to understand I watched my team (The New York Football Giants) win — my loyalty came with it. However, many Eagles fans waited their entire lives faithfully to see their team win their first title in 2018. I saw my peers waver in loyalty as the teams we’ve come to know and love struggled more than usual, which is something I’ve never seen from a Philly sports fan. 

No matter what year it is, how good the team is, or what the chances of winning are, Philadelphia sports fans show up and show out, embodying the concepts that made sports such an important part of entertainment and American society. While I will not close this story by chanting “Go Birds!” I can and will admit that the essence of being a Philadelphia sports fan is the essence of being human.

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