A parade 3 million strong? Philly sports psychologist says Eagles win would be great uniter

Eagles fans celebrate the big win against the Minnesota Vikings. | HughE Dillon
HughE Dillon

Philadelphia needs to win a Super Bowl. There isn’t a single business or household in the region that isn’t eagerly anticipating Sunday’s Super Bowl LII match up between the Eagles and Patriots.

But why is it so important?

Joel Fish, director of the Center for Sport Psychology in Philadelphia, says it is. Even though the players come and go — as do the owners, managers and coaches. The jersey is worthy of devotion.

“I think Philadelphia is unique for several reasons,” Fish said. “First of all, we have three or four generations of Eagles fans here. I remember in 1968 going to Franklin Field with my dad, I’ve gone to games with my kids, my great grandfather was following the Eagles. That’s different than a lot of other cities.

“Our sports teams are central to our civic identity in a way that nothing else is. Our pro sports teams unite rich, poor, city, suburb, white, black, even Republican and Democrat, and it’s the central piece. That’s why it’s so important. You listen to talk radio. A high percentage of the calls use terms like ‘we won, we lost,’ they identify with the team.”

The potential win Sunday could bring a celebration of epic proportions, Fish contends.

“It will be three million people,” he said. “It will be like the United Nations of age, race, it’s the glue in many ways which ties or region together and it’s a positive thing.”

It’s positive if they win. But if they don’t, the inescapable negative media, portraying Philadelphia as a city of ignorant jerks and lovable losers will continue. And it’s worth fighting against.

“When someone disses Philadelphia fans we take it personally,” Fish said. “For Boston and other media to bring up snowballs and Santa Clause instead of the 25 positive examples of fan behavior, that says to me that these media folks have a need to put us down. And the reason others put us down is to make themselves feel better.”

Eagles fans are no doubt sick of the insults, the stereotyping and the losing. Their shot is next Sunday.