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Penn men's basketball junior guard Jake Silpe has been a fan of the Philadelphia Eagles since he  "came out of the womb".

Credit: Chase Sutton

The Philadelphia Eagles will march down Broad Street on Thursday to celebrate their Super Bowl championship over the New England Patriots. 

And Penn men’s basketball is making the most of it. 

With university operations now suspended on Thursday so that the Penn community can engage in the parade festivities, the Quakers are taking advantage of a clear schedule to prime themselves for success this weekend. 

Now that the student-athletes are off the hook from class, coach Steve Donahue decided to move practice up to 11 a.m., so that the team can get on the long bus to Hanover, N.H. early enough to beat the traffic and settle down at Dartmouth before the big game on Friday. The extra time should alleviate any concerns the Quakers may have about playing at Dartmouth, a tough trip which often generates a trap game for the league’s elite. 

While the team won’t be celebrating with the Birds at the parade, having to prioritize basketball instead, many of the players still feel there’s something to draw from the celebrations anyway. 

“The whole reason why I keep talking about the Eagles is because I feel like it totally translates to what this team is going through,” junior guard Jake Silpe said. “Being 0-6 last year in the Ivy League, everyone counted us out. But we turned it around and made the Ivy League playoffs. This year, we’re clicking, the guys have each other’s backs, there’s a lot of love in the locker room and with the coaches, and we trust each other. It’s one team with one goal. Same as the Eagles.”

Silpe isn’t alone in his thinking. With the exception of the team’s three Patriots fans — Jackson Donahue, Collin McManus, and AJ Brodeur — the Quakers have aligned themselves with the Eagles’ success story in order to learn from the journey both teams have traveled. 

The Red and Blue are almost halfway through their Ivy League season, standing alone at the top of the standings at an undefeated 6-0. Should their play continue this way, they’ll end the season Ivy League champions for the first time since 2007 — but they’re quick to point out the season isn’t even halfway over. 

The Eagles, however, made it to the end of their 2017-18 campaign supreme champions. 

And many of the Quakers were there to share in the elation. 

“Five minutes after the game, we hopped on the train to go downtown, and we were right there to see that kid standing on top of the van,” sophomore Ryan Betley recounted. He could only sum it up by saying it was “a lot of crazy stuff.”

Other players were downtown on Broad, but they were smart enough not to go too wild — a rivalry game against Princeton was less than 48 hours away. Additionally, Silpe pointed out that he had a fear of heights. Any light pole or awning would have proved too tall a task. 

But that couldn’t stop Silpe from enjoying the moment. 

“I’ve been a fan since the day I came out of the womb,” he said. “I’ve been on the bandwagon this whole time.”

Though he can’t attend the parade, he noted his heart will still be there. He cared so much about the Eagles’ season that he planned his life out to the tee for two weeks leading up to the big game: one day, he spent the entire day working on assignments and studying for exams, so he could go downtown the next day and get more Eagles apparel. When the Quakers gathered to watch the Super Bowl, he ended up retreating to his room because of the Patriots fans on the team. 

Now that the victory is past, Silpe and his team are determined to capitalize on the Birds’ success story moving forward. 

“You could say that there are some parallels [between the two teams],” Betley said. “I still feel like we’re underdogs in this league, even if our record in the league might state otherwise.”

That’s how the Eagles saw it. Even at 13-3, the whole league counted them out when star quarterback Carson Wentz went down. Even though the Quakers are top dogs, the Ancient Eight still sees them as underdogs when stacked up to Harvard and Yale. 

Harvard will be the last Ivy team Penn faces this season when the two finally meet on Saturday. It will have been a wild week for the Quakers, who played Princeton midweek after a doubleheader last weekend and Super Bowl celebrations on Sunday. But inside the team camp, it’s all focus. 

“I still got to my 9 am the next day [after the Super Bowl], with my mind on Princeton,” Betley said. “School and basketball come first.” 

“This is the most important thing we’re doing right now,” coach Donahue said. “We’re all one family.” 

With that family mentality, and with that chip still firmly planted on their shoulder, the Quakers will keep marching on this weekend — even if they can’t march with the Eagles down Broad.