For many at Penn, next Sunday’s Super Bowl will be a time to come together and proudly cheer on the city’s team, the Philadelphia Eagles.
But there is a smaller group on campus that would love nothing more than to see thousands of Eagles fans sulking in disappointment after the game. This smaller group is, of course, the New England Patriots fan base, a much smaller but still somewhat prevalent crowd currently at Penn.
A lot of people would be bothered by the scoffs and dirty looks that come from wearing an opposing team’s jersey in Philly.
But not these fans. In fact, they seem to enjoy it.
“Why like what everybody likes when you can like what everybody hates and envies?” joked Jamie-Lee Josselyn, who graduated from Penn in 2005 and currently works as the Associate Director for Recruitment for the Creative Writing Program at Penn. “It’s a lot of fun to have won as much as we have, and it’s a lot of fun to see other people’s jealousy about that.”
On a more serious note, however, being able to watch the Patriots’ success over the last decade and a half has allowed many Pats fans at Penn to feel a strong connection to home and family.
“The first Super Bowl win [for the Patriots in 2002] was special because I was just starting to understand my identity as a New Englander,” said Josselyn, who was a freshman at Penn at the time. “For many of us, you have to leave home to understand what home is.... To be at Penn [during the Super Bowl], I felt a little disconnected but it also, at that point, became something that I could call to home and talk about.”
Current Penn students from New England have a similar sentiment now that their team is facing off against Philadelphia’s team. Freshman Lorenza Raggio Colagrossi, who has lived in both Connecticut and Brazil, still feels bonded to her family through the Patriots.
“I was video-chatting with my family during the [AFC Championship],” Colagrossi said. “My parents were in Europe and my brother lives in New York City, so we were all doing a joint family watch-party from different locations, which was super fun.”
Despite being in the minority, Josselyn and Colagrossi are not alone in their support for the Patriots in Philly. There’s no better example of this fact than the story of Professor Michael Horowitz, a die-hard Pats fan in his eleventh year at Penn.
When Horowitz moved to Philadelphia, one of the things that he needed to do was find a local bar to watch the Patriots games on Sundays. Unaccustomed to the huge presence of Eagles fans in most of the bars in Center City, Horowitz, his wife, and a group of friends sought a new spot in town to watch their beloved team. What they finally came across was Smith’s Bar on South 19th Street.
“We ended up at Smith’s, and it was a [Cleveland] Browns bar at that point,” Horowitz said. “There were four or five Patriots fans, and we sat in the corner of the bar, and we had like one TV. And then we just started bringing more people, and we just kind of got the word out. One of the Browns fans bought a [different] bar, so the Browns fans left, and we kind of inherited it.”
From there, the Pats fans came to Smith’s in bunches, making it a prime location to watch New England play on any given Sunday.
“At the high end, there’ll be up to 150 people that’ll come to Smith’s specifically to watch the Patriots. It’s like a little slice of home on Sundays in the fall.”
As Smith’s case shows, Patriots football has the power to bring people together. But it also has the power to tear people apart, at least on Sunday afternoons.
Freshman Nathalie Rodrigues Vaz Falcão knows all about this, being a Pats fan with a boyfriend who is an Eagles fanatic. Falcão was able to see the NFC Championship in enemy territory, as she watched the Eagles game at her boyfriend’s home in the suburbs of Philly. The experience, according to her, was surreal.
“Going to [Jack’s] house, the only way I can describe it is that it’s like the closest I’ll ever get to going to a cult meeting without actually joining a cult,” said Falcão, half-jokingly.
Next Sunday, then, will be an intense time for both Jack and Nathalie, who will have to put their respective teams ahead of everything else for a few hours.
New England fans, of course, are not short on confidence, but that doesn’t mean they’re taking the Eagles lightly. Freshman Cameron Vaziri, a lifelong Pats fan, views the Eagles as a tough matchup.
“I’m a little worried because the Eagles’ offense is one that stretches the field horizontally, and that’s what the Patriots have struggled against this year,” Vaziri said. “Also, the Eagles’ defensive front is tough, so I’m a little concerned.”
Nonetheless, Vaziri, just like every other Pats fan, believes that Tom Brady and the gang will have enough left in the tank to take home a sixth Super Bowl.
Only time will tell, but when the Patriots are involved, the game is almost always that much more entertaining. Things are shaping up to be the same way on Sunday, and one thing’s for certain: Patriot Nation at Penn will be ready no matter what. After all, they’re the group that everyone loves to hate.