No, not another reference to The Big Lebowski. I’m talking about the Philadeplhia Eagles whose fans are known as some of the biggest assholes in NFL history. They throw snowballs and cuss out Santa Claus at Christmas, seriously. But, to their credit, they love their team. Some do to such a great extent that they would mortgage their house for playoff tickets. At least that’s what superfan Kevin O’Donoghue explained to his infinitely patient wife in 2005 when the Eagles made their first Superbowl appearance in 24 years.
Mr. O’Donoghue, 36, took out a home-equity loan to raise the $4,000 that the trip and the tickets cost him. And he’s not the only one. “Up and down Eastern Pennsylvania and New Jersey, bankers spent the week fielding calls from Eagles diehards looking to refinance mortgages or dip into savings,” (Cosh, 2005). The high eBay bid on one pair of upper-deck Super Bowl tickets that year was $4,250, and a front-row pair on the 40-yard line cost at least $8,975.
Not many can, but I sympathize with O’Donoghue’s situation. If the Cubs finally made it to the end of October you bet your ass I would be grinding for tickets no matter what the cost. But if you asked me why I psychotically stalked vendors for tickets, I probably wouldn’t be able to muster up a logical response outside of the misplaced and drunken home-town pride you would expect from those Philly fans. But Supertheorist Colby Cosh offers up a pretty good rationale:
I think there’s something else going on here besides ordinary fandom. Mass media have a tendency to bring distant events ever closer to us, in increasingly high-definition, convenient forms. The news has its own 24-hour channels, the whole NFL season is available on satellite for a pittance and you can watch the deliberations of the U.S. Congress live on your computer. We don’t even have to leave our chairs to enter the global village. But now that this moment has arrived, it looks like a huge counter intuitive premium has been placed on the act of leaving one’s chair. What’s special now, in an age where every visual spectacle is recorded and digitized, is the irreproducible in-person experience — the chance to say “I was there.”
In an age where you can watch every minute of every game from the best seats in the house (the one in your kitchen near the fridge), the status we confer on the game itself has increased! I think the fact that millions of people can sit on their ass and watch the game makes the real-life experience so much more rewarding.
I remember last year I went to see the Bears play New Orleans at Soldier’s Field. It was February. And even though I couldn’t feel my feet and other unmentionable extremities, the enduring appeal of being there carried me through.
Once again, I’ll tip my hat to Cosh. He explains this sentiment much better than I can:
As more and more people watch the Super Bowl, the charmed circle of actual spectators gets ever tighter psychologically. You can stay home and be comfortable, and be one amongst 800 million. Or you can take out a second mortgage, go to Alltel Stadium, and be one amongst just 78,000. The math seems vaguely silly, but in a mass age, the power of authentic presence seems destined to get even greater.