Last week I wrote a piece called “The Progressive Case for the New England Patriots (Seriously).” It was an argument that even if you despise the defending Super Bowl Champs, they aren’t some kind of “Team Trump” stalking horse and the people who love them shouldn’t feel guilty about it… or at least they shouldn’t feel any guiltier than anyone else who consumes the National Football League. I also wrote that it’s foolish—except in extraordinary circumstances—to paint a team with political colors, as if it assists people fighting for social change if one set of laundry emerges triumphant. Hate the Patriots—and I do—if you must, but it’s weak sauce to paint that hatred with political colors.
For me, if the Patriots are like migraine that won’t go away, their Super Bowl opponents are more like a mosquito that never stops buzzing in your ear: the Philadelphia Eagles. My dislike for the Eagles is entirely irrational. Just as the Patriots are nettlesome for their 15 years of dominance, the Eagles have been almost if not equally aggravating over my entire life because they have never won a Super Bowl and their fan base cannot stop whining about it. Yet—again as with the Patriots—Eagles haters take this to an extreme and describe the fan base as something close to feral. They point to a well-worn history that involve the Eagles fans booing Santa Claus, mocking the neck injuries of opposing players, having a court of law under the stadium to quickly adjudicate drunken brawlers, and this past Sunday, throwing full cans of beer at people wearing Vikings gear. But while Eagles fans take the heat for being a particularly virulent strain of asshole, there are few NFL stadiums that anyone would describe as wholesome environments. Attendance isn’t low because of player protest. It’s low because most stadiums are places where middle-class fans in $300 seats role-play their twisted conception of working-class people, get liquored up, fight, and then ice their bruises and put on a tie for their Monday office jobs.
I’ve been to many NFL stadiums, and except for Miami, where no one really cares, and Seattle and Denver, where a gentle haze of legal weed floats above the tailgating, there is nowhere anyone would describe as “chill.” So leave the Philly fans alone.
The city is also a complicated, contradictory place to cheer: It’s the city of racist Mayor Frank Rizzo and the MOVE bombing under Mayor Wilson Goode. It’s the city that made a statue of fictional white boxer Rocky Balboa instead of the black boxer from Philly from whom so much of Sylvester Stallone’s creation was appropriated, Joe Frazier. It’s the city where you can buy a right-wing cheesesteak at the “English-Only” Geno’s, and bray for the execution of onetime Philly journalist Mumia Abu-Jamal. But it’s also a city where as of 2015, a Frazier statue now exists. It’s the city of powerful anti-Nazi demonstrations and where DA Larry Krasner was elected this past year, with heightened expectations that he would use his post to advocate against mass incarceration and for social justice. It’s a city of resistance in the time of Trump, and old Philly stereotypes need not apply.