Rooting for perennial winners is easy, but real dedication, real fandom, means sticking with your loser, year in and year out.
E-A-G-L-E. . . you get it.
In a rectangular state with cities on both ends, though, Pennsylvanians’ rooting interests are not evenly split. The state, according to fan maps released by Facebook and Twitter over the years, bleeds mostly black and gold, with Steelers fans stretching to Wayne County, above us, on the New York-New Jersey border.
Mix purple from Baltimore and Eagles midnight green, and you have an accurate map of NFL fans in York County. In some places — say, State College — football’s only played on Saturdays. Some northeastern Pennsylvania counties are lousy with New York Giants fans.
The most palatable answer for this is geography. York is close to Baltimore. Monroe County, Pa., is a straight west from North Jersey on I-80. New Jersey is much more evenly split, with Interstate I-195 a belt between Giants fans in the north and Eagles fans in the south.
But the hard truth? We’re surrounded by winners. Five teams within a day’s drive share 20 Super Bowl wins.
The Steelers have six championships, and their fans have gloated eastward — far past the middle of the state — to taunt us.
“The biggest thing, I guess, is … all the rings they have,” said Jim Casterline, 57, owner of Steagles Bar in Wilkes-Barre, Luzerne County. “My daughter is a Steelers fan. She does it to piss me off.”
Both Facebook and Twitter released maps of the United States in 2014 that showed most of Pennsylvania, like a golden shark, devouring leafy Philly and its surrounding counties. The Steelers’ media relations department didn’t return a request to comment, because, what’s there to say?
They have the rings, as their fans often mention, so they get fans.
On NFL.com, Carson Wentz’s No. 11 jersey is the seventh-best seller in the country, besting that of Pittsburgh wideout Antonio Brown, who’s named on the nation’s 10th most popular jersey. Wentz is the jersey of choice for the people of Delaware and North Dakota, where he played college ball.
Pennsylvania’s top seller bears the number of Pittsburgh rookie running back (and Pitt grad) James Conner.
The Eagles blanket South Jersey and most of Delaware in the maps and Brett Strohsacker, a team spokesman, said they claim season-ticket holders from 46 states. In Pennsylvania, season-ticket holders come to Lincoln Financial Field from 545 of the state’s 2,561 municipalities.
Neither Facebook nor Twitter has updated its map since 2014, so there’s no telling whether the “word of Wentz” has spread Eagles green westward. Facebook gave York County to the Steelers, based on “likes,” but Twitter has the Baltimore Ravens nudging out the Steelers and Eagles there.
“Eagles are rare here,” said Clint Pettey, an employee at Game On Sports in York. “Ravens are huge.”
York is 66 miles north of Baltimore, its highways full of billboards for the Orioles.
Pettey, who grew up in Florida, is an Eagles fan because of Tecmo Super Bowl for Nintendo.
“They had a really fast quarterback,” Pettey said, referring to an unnamed Randall Cunningham in the video game.
Pittsburgh had Bubby Brister and Rick Strom in the game. Baltimore didn’t yet exist.
Game On Sports in York displayed some Steelers and Ravens gear but nothing in midnight green on a recent day. At the Dick’s Sporting Goods, just off Route 30 there, the nationally ranked Penn State Nittany Lions took up the most space.
In the store’s NFL section, a few Wentz shirts were outnumbered by Ravens gear. The store didn’t appear to have any Steelers stuff, despite the Facebook map’s showing York County fully in yellow and having a Pittsburgh institution, Primanti Bros., about 5 miles from there. Census data show that 1,110 people moved from Baltimore County to York County between 2011 and 2015.
Casterline’s bar in Wilkes-Barre is named after the Steagles, the combined Pittsburgh-Philadelphia team that competed in 1943 during World War II. Casterline says the working-class bar is 60-40 in favor of Philly.
The walls of Steagles appears evenly split, half in gold and black, the other in Eagles gear, including a Charlie Garner jersey and one with the name “Big Jim” emblazoned on the back.
The bartender, Nick Ferino, is a North Jersey native and had a passing resemblance to former Giants tight end Mark Bavaro.
“I’m a Cleveland Browns fan, so how about that,” Ferino said. “I don’t even count.”
Pike and Monroe Counties in northeastern Pennsylvania are in red on both maps for the Giants, the third most popular team in Philly, too.
Gary Huether Jr., president of the Arooga’s Grille House & Sports Bar chain in Pennsylvania, said he believes central Pennsylvania is split 50-50 for the teams, but both fandom maps show the Steelers reaching far past the state’s geographical middle, Centre County.
During the Eagles’ third preseason game, against Miami, Arooga’s Lancaster location had a few fans in green, lamenting the other fans who exist here in this state.
“I don’t have a problem with the Steelers, but I have a problem with the Steelers fans,” said Keith McDonald, a 21-year-old Millersville resident who was wearing a Wentz jersey. “I see a lot of Steelers and Dallas and Eagles fans. There’s a lot of Dallas fans in Lancaster County. They’re America’s team, I guess.”
Dallas is the third most popular team in Lancaster County, according to Twitter.
At Shippensburg University, near the middle of the state, sports PR man Bill Morgal said he thinks the student body leans toward the Eagles. The school recruits more in the Philadelphia area. The town itself may lean toward Pittsburgh.
“In this area, at least, Penn State tops both, I feel,” Morgal said.
Twitter showed the Steelers edging the Eagles in Dauphin County, home of the state capital.
“Whenever I would go to stores or malls around Harrisburg, I was always struck that Steelers memorabilia dominated for football but Phillies clothing and memorabilia dominated for baseball,” said U.S. Rep. Brendan F. Boyle (D., Pa.), a former state legislator.
“Even at local bars there seemed to be more Steelers fans than Eagles fans. For football, I would say the ‘DMZ line’ is eastern Lancaster County or Reading.”
Until we meet in the Super Bowl, Eagles fans living among the gold and black will hear about the rings.
The Eagles hold a 48-28-3 lifetime lead against the Steelers. Along with our tough Tecmo Bowl squad, it’s one thing we can gloat about until their fans bring up the Penguins.