Suddenly the Philadelphia Eagles are America's sweethearts

EAGL22-DDD
Eagles fans celebrate as Stefen Wisniewski, jumps into the stands after Alshon Jeffery scores in the 4th quarter against the Vikings. Philly finds itself fan favorites, but that has something to do with Tom Brady’s team.

It makes Virginia Montanez sick to admit it: Her heart was a little bit warmed Sunday night when she saw Philadelphia fans climbing on greased-up poles after the Eagles won the NFC Championship.

Montanez, 43, is a lifelong Pittsburgh Steelers fan and avowed Philadelphia hater. But come the Super Bowl, she said, she’ll temporarily be a Birds fan, even though, as she put it, Pittsburgh typically hates the Eagles “like they personally said bad things about our moms.”

But, here’s the thing: The Steel City hates the Patriots — “they are Satan’s team and they are cheaters, and they are never ever called for holding” — a lot more.

“We would personally like to melt down in a blast furnace every Super Bowl ring and trophy the Patriots have,” said Montanez, a former Pittsburgh blogger who lives in North Huntingdon, Pa., and is very much aware that a New England victory would mean Pittsburgh would have to share its record of six Super Bowl wins.  “Adding one more to tie us would be a gut punch.”

SIGN UP: Get our Early Birds newsletter for expert analysis as the Eagles set their sights on Super Bowl LII

The Eagles-Patriots matchup is putting cities across the country in a strange spot. Some will be rooting for the Eagles for maybe the first time ever. Maybe it’s the Birds’ underdog complex. Maybe it’s the humility that comes with a backup quarterbacking a blowout win. Or maybe it’s just that everyone outside Boston has a bit of problem with the Patriots’ (and that “pretty boy” quarterback) dominating the AFC for so long.

Poll

Does the Super Bowl point spread surprise you?

Whatever the reason, having a large contingent of outsiders pulling for Philadelphia is a game-changer for this city, whose reputation for unruly fans has long given foes an easy target.

For the next two weeks, many in Western Pennsylvania are going green.

Take Noah Strackbein. He’s a lifelong Steelers fan. But he’s about to buy a Nick Foles jersey. The 21-year-old, who lives in downtown Pittsburgh and runs a Steelers fan site, said just about everyone he knows is doing the previously unthinkable: rooting for a Philadelphia sports team to win a championship.

“Steelers fans don’t want to see Tom Brady win at this point,” Strackbein said. “Six Super Bowls from him alone would kill us.”

Reuben “Big Rube” Harley grew up in West Philadelphia but has been a lifelong Steelers fan.

“I wanted that turnpike Super Bowl, but Pittsburgh didn’t hold up their end of the bargain,” Harley said. “I’m looking forward to that Broad Street parade.”

Posted by NFL Memes on Sunday, January 21, 2018

But if social media’s any indication, that little red dot in the above meme over Dallas is probably right.

Apparently Dallas fans have less of a problem with the Patriots’ winning a sixth Super Bowl, surpassing the Cowboys’ five, than they do with the Eagles winning a first.

Krystal Spencer, 28, of Fairmount, has been a Cowboys fan her entire life. She relishes using the fact that the Eagles have never won a Super Bowl against them.

“It’s more fun to make fun of a losing team then to say, ‘Oh, I’m going to hate a legend who’s obviously going to be in the Hall of Fame,” Spencer said.  “I’ll be labeled a hater, but you know what, I don’t care. I’ll be bitter until the day’s end.”

Spencer said she’ll be watching the game indoors and in “neutral territory somewhere in New Jersey.”

“I live in the city, and it’s gotten a little unbearable. I mean, seriously, I’m scared. As much as I’d love to see some of my friends celebrate, just for their safety I think it’s a better idea if they don’t win one.”

 

Of course, there are exceptions to every rivalry.

Charlotte Clymer, 31, is a lifelong Cowboys fan who will be rooting for the Eagles come Super Bowl Sunday. The Washington, D.C., resident, who is transgender, said that for her, it comes down to politics. Patriots owner Robert Kraft has had a longtime friendship with President Trump, whom she does not support.

“Look, I grew up in Texas, where I was taught to hate anyone in our division,” Clymer said. “But I also believe in equality, and for me, I feel like the Patriots have been pretty shameless in their support of Donald Trump. So yeah, I’ll say it, I think this is Philadelphia’s time, and I really hope y’all bring it home.”

The Eagles bandwagon is picking up fans of other division rivals.

Naturally, not everybody is ecstatic about the choices.

Have a particularly conflicted fan story? Tell us about it: jterruso@phillynews.com or aorso@phillynews.com.