I won’t lie and say that I’ve been a Philadelphia sports fan my entire life. My friends essentially forced me into following them, as they’re some of the most devout fans you could imagine. But despite growing up in the Wilkes-Barre area, which is home to the New York Yankees’ minor league team, as well as my family originally being from New York, I’ve come to love and appreciate Philly sports, especially since moving here.
People nowadays recognize me more as a Philly fan than anything else, and I don’t blame them. The infectious nature of Philly sports has given me a new outlook on sports as a whole, one that has led me to realize that Philadelphia has the best sports culture out of any city in the country.
There’s no place quite like the Philadelphia Sports Complex anywhere else in the world; four major American sports, housed in one concrete paradise. Since arriving in Philly almost three years ago, I’ve gone to visit the complex too many times to count, so much so that I have a wall of souvenir cups from games that I’ve attended.
However, the culture of Philadelphia sports expands well beyond the bounds of South Philadelphia. Walking through Center City, you’ll be hard pressed to find a substantial stretch without some sort of Philly sports paraphernalia, whether it be from people wearing gear to storefronts proudly waving a flag. Even here on campus and in nearby West Philly, the love for sports is clear. I’ve had many great experiences walking into a bar or restaurant, seeing a game on a nearby TV, and sparking a conversation with a stranger about whatever game happens to be on.
I wear jerseys to class quite often, typically of Philly sports heroes like Bryce Harper and Jason Kelce. And whenever I do, students and professors will come out of the woodwork to comment, typically in support. But the diversity of the people that remark on whatever team I may be supporting that day is what catches my eye; they can be the most diehard of fans, tracking every minute of every game, or they can be the casual observer, following when teams are successful. Regardless, this city comes together like no other. There’s no in-city rivalries like in New York or Los Angeles, simply the deepest appreciation of the city and its teams.
I think the biggest indicator of this comes when teams are playing well. That sounds obvious, but there’s a certain magic to it here. I’ve never seen a city as united as Philadelphia was when the Phillies had their postseason runs these last two seasons, or when the Eagles made the Super Bowl this past year. Things might not have ended like everyone wanted, but it was an incredible experience that so many people are still talking about. Even for the casual fan, getting to celebrate with thousands of other Philadelphians on Broad Street or party hard for the everyday win, are memorable experiences.
Certainly, other sports cities like New York or Chicago have their diehard fans, but when 50,000 fans attend a practice for the Eagles, filling up the majority of Lincoln Financial Field, or when the Phillies lead the MLB in attendance growth, it becomes hard to deny the passion of Philly fanatics. On the flip side, there are dozens of bad things that people will say about Philly sports fans as well. They’re too rowdy, too obnoxious, too crazy. They can be hyper-critical at times, even when things are going well. My friends will be the first to complain about the Eagles’ shortcomings, even when they win a game.
Genuinely, that’s part of the charm of Philly sports: the passion is something that’s undeniable from top to bottom. Fans will party hard when teams win, and will cry just as much when they lose. Fans have dyed their hair, designed premature tattoos, and done it all in the name of their beloved Philadelphia sports teams.
Their devotion does not go unnoticed either. The fans provide an edge to their teams, giving Philly some of the best home field advantage across all sports. Citizens Bank Park was so loud this postseason, the decibel reading was equivalent to standing by a jackhammer.
There’s also been some long periods without success that these fans have had to endure. Just last season, the Phillies ended a 10-year playoff drought before losing in the World Series. Before the 2017 season, the Eagles had yet to win a Super Bowl and have had some up-and-down seasons since their victory. The 76ers went through one of the most infamous rebuilds in the history of basketball-nicknamed “The Process” — and while that portion may be over, the Sixers have yet to make it past the second round of the playoffs since 2001. As for the Flyers… let’s just say a generation or two has passed since their last championship.
In spite of these long stretches of mediocrity, fans still came out to support their teams, night in and night out. That marks the biggest sign of true fandom: sticking with your team through thick and thin. This city has been through a lot with its sports teams, but the people of Philadelphia have made it known that they’ll still be watching. They might boo, holler, and heckle, but they’ll still come out for the next game, just to complain again.
That is what makes Philly sports so special.
ANDREW STRATTON is a College junior studying political science and journalistic writing from Nanticoke, Pa. His email is firstname.lastname@example.org.