The matchup for Super Bowl LII is set.
The New England Patriots, making their ninth appearance in the big game during the Tom Brady/Bill Belichick era, will face the Philadelphia Eagles, a team seeking their first championship.
On paper this looks like a one-sided matchup. The greatest head coach and quarterback duo of all time going for their sixth title versus a team playing its second string quarterback in the most important game of the season. Stranger things have happened, but I wouldn’t bet on a Philly upset. We are not here for game previews and matchup breakdowns, though.
This is a game between the two most reviled fan bases in all of America. So, if you’re not a fan of either team, who you got?
Picking between the Patriots and Eagles has shades of the 2016 Presidential election. People are truly voting for the lesser of two evils. Though to be fair to Hillary Clinton, while she certainly has her many flaws and shady dealings, she isn’t on the same level of evil as the current occupant of the White House.
I digress. The Patriots, for all their winning over the last decade plus, are a fascinating study in the inferiority/superiority complex. Their fans love to tout the greatness of Belichick and Brady and rightfully so, but in the same breath they harp on how the NFL has it in for them (Spygate, Deflategate).
Mind you all situations they brought on by, if not outright breaking the rules/cheating, bending them so far the league had to get involved. New England fans need to choose; be arrogant or be whiny. Not both. You’re either the best franchise in sports or a “humble” upstart that wins in spite of the deck being stacked against you.
Speaking of the deck being stacked, have you ever heard a Patriots fan complain that the officials are always out to get them? Nothing could be further from the truth! In the AFC title game the Patriots were only called for one penalty, while their opponent, the Jaguars, were whistled for six. Now, the Patriots are a very disciplined football team, but no team is that disciplined. There were a number of questionable no calls. While I don’t think the officials meet and collude to give the Patriots the benefit of the doubt in close situations, I will just leave these two videos here for your review.
Official Congratulating Brady
Official After Patriots Touchdown
Part of this inferiority complex no doubt comes from knowing they will always pale in comparison to the cultural capital of the world, NYC. We don’t need to get into all the reasons NYC > Boston/NE, just know that it’s a fact. Perhaps it’s also because deep down New England fans know some of their championships have an asterisk next to them. It is why even with the Patriots' run of success, they can’t just let the victories speak for themselves. Each and every one must be dissected analyzed and trumpeted, while highlighting every miniscule slight along the way.
Boy, that sure sounds like a certain “leader of the free world.” While we’re on the subject, is there a football team more associated with #MAGA than the Patriots?! To be fair, at least half the population in America supports #MAGA, so it would stand to reason that at least half the football-watching public will be rooting for the Patriots. If you loathe everything about #MAGA and what it purports to stand for, you can’t roll with the Patriots, right?! Do you really want to see another picture of the New England triumvirate (Brady, Belichick and Robert Kraft) grinning on the White House lawn with the Vince Lombardi trophy and the aforementioned occupant?! Something about that entire image just seems wrong.
So we’re all on the Eagles right!?
If the Patriots fans have an inferiority complex, Philadelphia Eagles fans have that times a thousand. To Philly’s north, about 90 minutes away, is the aforementioned cultural capital of the world. About 2.5 hours south is the nation’s capital, where all political power resides. That’s gotta be tough. Then of course there is the city’s tortured sports history. While the Phillies have at least won a World Series in the last decade, the same can’t be said for the Flyers or the Eagles. Though the latter did come close in 2005. With that being said, it should be easy for everyone to rally behind Philadelphia and support them in pulling off the upset on February 4 in Minneapolis. But we just can’t; and it’s because of the reputation (mostly true) of the Philadelphia fans.
To say Philadelphia fans have a history of aggression is like saying the Atlantic Ocean is salty. After defeating the Minnesota Vikings in the NFC Championship game two weeks ago, Eagles fans were seen pelting the Vikings team bus with beer cans and whatever else they could get their hands on. This was after a game they won, where the outcome was never in doubt. It was a 38-7 blowout.
Wait, there’s more …
Come on! We can’t get behind a team whose fan base does this type of thing before the game and after wins. If you think that incident was isolated, guess again. Philadelphia law enforcement was so in tune with what might happen win or lose, that cops were sent out to grease light poles. That way fans couldn’t climb them. According to an NBC News report, the city also warned businesses owners to “secure their buildings and remove anything that could be broken or thrown. They also asked owners who have security cameras to please have them on."
Philadelphia fans have a history of churlish, vile behavior. Here are some of their highlights or lowlights as it happens:
In 2016, a Phillies fan threw a beer bottle at slumping slugger Ryan Howard.
In 2014, a fan threw a cheese steak sandwich at Washington player Chris Baker after he was ejected from their NFL game against the Eagles.
In 2010, police arrested a Phillies fan for purposefully projectile vomiting on an 11-year-old girl and her father during a game.
In 1999, Phillies fans threw D-batteries at St. Louis Cardinals outfielder J.D. Drew, whom the Phillies had drafted in 1997 but who didn't sign with the team.
In 1999, Eagles fans cheered when Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Michael Irvin suffered a career-ending spinal cord injury.
When the Eagles played Dallas, Cowboys coach Jimmy Johnson had to be escorted off the field by the police because fans were throwing ice, snowballs and beer at him.
In 1983, Philadelphia fans beat Washington mascot Chief Zee twice, breaking one of his legs.
This is why y'all can’t have nice things, Philadelphia. The country would love to root for you against the Patriots, but I don’t know if they can.
The fact of the matter is, this is the Super Bowl nobody wants, unless you’re a fan of either team. Now, the ratings and social media will paint a very different picture on Sunday. Because the Super Bowl is an American holiday, whether it’s to watch Justin Timberlake’s halftime act, the commercials or pay attention to the scores at the end of quarters to see if you won the pool, it is a huge event. But don’t be fooled, you don’t actually want to watch this game. You detest these two fan bases with passion. According to ESPN’s Darren Rovell, prices to get in Super Bowl LII have dropped rapidly. The Monday after the conference championships is usually a high-demand day, not this year. Prices have dropped from $5,000 to $3,800.
A final thought about the fans. There are good fans on both sides and I happen to know quite a few, as I’m sure many of you do. So I don’t want to lump them all in together. For their sake, I hope it’s a good game with the desired outcome. But of course there can only be one winner. So to appease both fan bases, here’s hoping for a tie. Yeah, I’m sure that’ll go over real well.
Jarod Hector is a New York City born-and-raised sports and pop culture enthusiast. A multimedia journalist & host who enjoys nuanced discussions of the intersection between sports, culture, and society. He believes My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy is the greatest album of the past 20 years and says if you root for billionaire owners over millionaire athletes you're part of the problem. You can find him on Twitter and Instagram @jshector
(Photos from left: Drew Hallowell/Getty Images, Jim Rogash/Getty Images)