Hadfield: Finding a home away from home in sports

Growing up in a Philadelphia suburb during football season, I knew there was one rule in my family— Sundays were for the birds. 

Game days were an all-day affair in my family—dressing up in our midnight green, preparing game day snacks, and getting our Philadelphia Eagles blanket and stuffed mascot set up on the couch. We’d scream at the TV for three hours and, for most of my childhood, we ended up fairly disappointed with loss after frustrating loss. 

Then came the miracle of Super Bowl LII—the victory I had waited for my whole life, the pinnacle of success that my mom, dad, and I dreamed of every Sunday for 18 years. And the victory came during my first year away from home. 

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As much as I was thrilled that my team and city were finally bringing home the Lombardi Trophy, it was bittersweet for me to not be able to celebrate with my family. And it didn’t help that my new home city was in the heart of New England—enemy territory. 

But luckily, that same year I found my new Eagles family away from home—The Philadelphia Eagles Fans of Boston. The group has its own bar, Finn McCool’s, where it streams every Eagles game all season long on every single TV. The energy on game day is electric. On the group’s Facebook page, even during the offseason and in between games, fans exchange jokes, post their frustrations with the team, seek out fellow fans in their region of Boston, and share niche Philadelphia-themed content. 

When it’s baseball season, the group focuses on the Philadelphia Phillies as well. This past season, the group bought two blocks of tickets when our team came to town to play the Boston Red Sox, and our strong Philly contingency made our voices heard as we swept the Sox in a two-game series. 

Coming to Emerson, I knew there wouldn’t be a huge culture of diehard sports fans, and especially not Philadelphia sports fans. But I never expected to find such an amazing group outside of school that reminded me so much of home. I didn’t experience much homesickness freshman year, but watching Eagles games alone in my dorm made me feel incredibly lonely—especially watching my team make a miracle run and knowing that none of my roommates or friends understood my excitement. 

The Eagles Fans of Boston gave me a community—both online and in real life—that shared in my fanaticism, my passion, and my love for my home city. There’s a unique bond that forms between sports fans away from home. We can’t be in our city, we can’t be with the rest of our people, and so we rely on one another, and those kinds of connections can be more comforting than anything during times of trouble. Celebrating with others over sports can form connections in ways you never thought possible. 

This past summer living in Allston, I found a chunk of sidewalk with the Super Bowl LII score, 41-33, traced into the concrete—I knew someone must have drawn it in when the sidewalk was added. I posted it in the Facebook group, and sure enough, a woman commented she had drawn it over a year prior. In these small ways, like a score etched into a sidewalk, I find little pieces of home all over the city. 

When I go to the Eagles bar and I’m high-fiving and hugging random strangers, it doesn’t feel odd to be so close to these people that I don’t really know. When I was a kid, my dad used to joke that going to Eagles games was like watching with 70,000 of your best friends—and the more time I spend away from my physical home, the more I know that my home will always be with Philly sports. 

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