By Connor Smith
PHOENIX — After the Philadelphia Eagles defeated the San Francisco 49ers in the NFC championship, Philadelphia-area native Bill Rothwein knew he had to head to Phoenix and watch his team play in Super Bowl LVII.
Rothwein attended Game 4 of the 2022 National League Championship Series (NLCS), when the Philadelphia Phillies defeated the San Diego Padres, 10-6. He said he loved the crowd’s energy and hopes Sunday’s game will provide a similar experience.
“I think it’s going to be one of the best days of my life,” Rothwein said. “Hopefully afterward, the tailgate and before, it’ll just be a day to remember.”
Rothwein, who has had Philadelphia 76ers season tickets since the 2017-18 season, is proud of what his teams have accomplished. Three months after Bryce Harper led the Phillies to the World Series, quarterback Jalen Hurts helped the Eagles advance to their second Super Bowl in six seasons following a 14-3 regular season.
Along with the Eagles and Phillies, the 76ers also remain top contenders in the NBA, sitting third in the Eastern Conference. Of the city’s four major professional teams, only the NHL’s Flyers are out of a playoff spot. Additionally, Villanova men’s basketball is coming off a Final Four appearance, its third in the past decade after winning the 2018 NCAA Men’s Division I Tournament.
“It really elevates everyone at every level,” Rothwein said. “You can see that everyone’s enjoying it, everyone’s loving it because there’s no other city like Philadelphia when everyone’s winning.”
Philadelphia’s teams have found their own unique paths to success. The Eagles drafted 10 of their 11 offensive starters, including Hurts, before acquiring wide receiver A.J. Brown last April. The Phillies signed Harper to a 13-year contract in 2019 while also trading for All-Star catcher J.T. Realmuto that same offseason. The 76ers drafted Joel Embiid third overall in 2014 and later acquired 2018 NBA Most Valuable Player James Harden in February 2022.
However, one thing they have in common is hungry, passionate fans.
“They know players’ names; they know players’ families,” Eagles fan Erik Masingill said. “They’re prepared to support and die cheering for the people that suit up and play for them, but as soon as they have any demons and they turn away, they let them know.”
Masingill lives in Phoenix but was raised on Philadelphia sports by his dad, John. He said two of his favorite Philadelphia sports moments are when Nick Foles led the Eagles to their first Super Bowl win in 2018, a 41-33 defeat of the New England Patriots, along with Harper’s eighth-inning two-run home run in Game 5 of the 2022 NLCS, helping the Phillies reach their first World Series since 2009.
“When you put so many people that are united by sports in general and they know how to support their teams, it’s energy after energy,” Masingill said.
Like Rothwein, Annie Finnell decided to buy Super Bowl LVII tickets after watching the Eagles advance. Attending the game with her friend Missy Walker, she said it would be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity despite having other responsibilities back home.
Currently living in Washington, D.C., Finnell said she grew up watching football on her “dad’s chest.” She added she supports the other Philadelphia teams but follows the Eagles closest.
“I think people from Philadelphia are so down to earth and salt of the earth, and they care about things like football,” Finnell said.
Andy Moffatt, Philadelphia Eagles Drumline captain, said the city’s fans provide an electric atmosphere each time he takes the field. An official part of the team, the group performs outside the stadium during tailgate festivities, as well as on the field before each game and during TV timeouts. Moffatt has been part of the drumline for 13 years and added when the playoffs hit, there’s an extra oomph.
“Every day, every game, every time we get to step on the field for soundcheck, you get the tingles,” Moffatt said. “You get the feeling, the goosebumps on the back of your neck.”
Attending every home game, Moffatt has watched the Eagles evolve into the contenders they are now since Super Bowl LII. After a 4-11-1 campaign in 2020, the team went 9-8 in 2021 in Nick Sirianni’s first season as head coach before falling in the NFC wild-card round. The Eagles then largely exceeded expectations in 2022, finishing No. 1 in the conference.
Moffatt said he sees many similarities between this year’s team and the 2018 club.
“You can just start seeing it when everyone starts jelling and feeling it, and they’re playing so well together, playing for each other,” he said.
Whether it’s Hurts leading a touchdown drive at Lincoln Financial Field, Harper providing heroics at Citizens Bank Park or Embiid guiding the 76ers at Wells Fargo Center, Philadelphia has cemented itself as a sports town, with fans who have thrived off their teams’ performances.
“It’s very loyal, and it’s very outgoing,” Rothwein said. “They don’t really care what people think; they’re just living their life.”
Connor Smith is a sports media graduate student at Medill. You can connect with him on Instagram and LinkedIn.