One of the more interesting matchups in this Super Bowl is between the two fan bases.
Even though Philadelphia and Boston are both Eastern seaboard cities with a rich history in the founding of the country, they have very different histories when it comes to football.
Starting with their names. The Eagles aren’t the Eastern Pennsylvania Eagles. They’re Philadelphia to the core.
Boston changed its name to New England in 1971 to try to become a regional team the year they opened the stadium in Foxboro.
And then there’s the stadiums. Philadelphia’s stadium is in the city of Philadelphia. The Patriots could never get Boston to build a stadium so the Sullivan family built a 60,000 seat metal bench stadium in Foxboro for $6 million in 1971.
And after Robert Kraft bought the team, he even made a deal to move the team to Hartford that fell through and he finally built a new one, but it’s still in Foxboro.
The current Patriots started in 1960 in the AFL. Two previous NFL teams failed in Boston. Boston first got an NFL team in 1932 and George Preston Marshall moved to Washington in 1937 after the team won its division in 1936 and drew 4813 fans to their second to last game.
Marshall even moved the 1936 NFL title ground to the Polo Grounds in New York and Boston lost 21-6.
The NFL took another stab at Boston with the Boston Yanks from 1944 to 1948 but they moved to New York as the Bulldogs and Boston didn’t have a pro football team until he Pats and the AFL were born in 1960 with Billy Sullivan as the owner.
Sullivan operated on a shoestring and he was finally forced to sell to Victor Kiam in 1988 after Sullivan’s son, Chuck Sullivan, lost big money backing the Jackson Five Victory Tour.
James Orthwein, who had designs on moving the team to St. Louis, bought the team in 1992, but Kraft had purchased the stadium when it was in bankruptcy and used that as leverage to buy the team in 1994.
In their turbulent first 40 years, the Patriots generally ranked fourth on the Boston sports scene behind the Red Sox, Celtics and Bruins.
They went to just two Super Bowls in that era, losing to Chicago in 1985 and Green Bay in 1996. Typical of the Patriots in that era, Bill Parcells left after that Super season and signed with the Jets. The Patriots got four draft picks as compensation.
After hiring Pete Carroll for three seasons, Kraft made the controversial move of hiring Bill Belichick in 2000. Belichick drafted Tom Brady in 2001 and the rest is history.
Meanwhile, the fair-weather Boston fans discovered pro football and they now claim to be No. 1 on the Boston sports scene.
It will be interesting to see how these fans will react once Brady retires and the Pats are no longer winning Super Bowls.
Win or lose, we know how Eagle fans will react. They remain among the most passionate in the league even though the team hasn’t won a Super Bowl and has appeared in only two.
As super fan Larry Poff told sbnation.com, “This city is built around football and the Eagles.’’
They sometimes cross the line the way they did when they abused Viking fans and the family of Case Keenum last week.
They are also noted for booing Santa Claus and throwing snowballs at him in 1968.
But they’ve stuck with the team through all the bad years. They were founded in 1933, the same year as the Steelers because Pennsylvania lifted the blue laws and allowed them to play on Sundays.
They had their best era in the late 1940s when they lost the 1947 title game and then won the next two with Hall of Fame running back Steve Van Buren.
Their other championship came in 1960 when they handed Vince Lombardi’s Packers their only title game loss. Coach Buck Shaw, quarterback Norm Van Brocklin and Chuck Bednarik all then retired and they appeared in one Super Bowl under Dick Vermeil and one under Andy Reid and both lost.
Now they’re in their third, but the hard-luck Eagles suffered a blow when Carson Wentz was hurt late in the year. Despite his good performance against Vikings, Foles will probably be overmatched against Brady. He’s trying to become the fourth quarterback in NFL history to replace the starter late in the year and win the title.
If the Eagles lose, they face the fact that no team has lost the Super Bowl and won it the next year since the perfect Dolphins in 1972.
Still, Wentz should be back in good form next year — and the Eagles fans definitely will.