These 2018 super fans are, at a glance, polar opposites. One is a retired senior citizen. The other is an 18-year-old high school senior. One is from the east side, one from the west side. One is an Eagles fan and one a Patriots fan. But they have one thing in common — they love football and rooting for their teams.
Gary Patrick can trace the beginning of his Eagle fanaticism back to 1970, 30 years before Patriots fan Alex Gross was born.
Patrick said he became an Eagles fan after he met his wife of 44 years, Suzanne. Patrick was a football fan, but didn’t have a favorite team. His wife’s father, the late John Widdick, invited Patrick to watch Eagles games with him and Patrick caught the bug.
His friend, Louis Manganiello, has season tickets for the Eagles and Patrick went to a lot of games with him.
“We made a pact,” Patrick said, “we were going to go to a Super Bowl before we died.”
The opportunity came in 2005 when the Eagles made the Super Bowl against the Patriots in Jacksonville, Florida. Though the Eagles lost 24-21, Patrick said the trip was, “the greatest time ever.”
He’s got some other favorite Eagles memories. At a game with Manganiello in end zone seats, he caught a game ball. There was a hole in the net behind the goalpost.
“I caught a ball off Akers’ foot,” Patrick said. “We were in the 12th row; the ball hit about 30 rows up. It was bouncing around. I turned and it hit me in the face. I went down with it like a wide receiver.” David Akers was an Eagles place kicker. He later signed the ball at an Eagles meet and greet at King of Prussia Mall.
Other favorite memories were the fourth-and- 26 the Eagles picked up on a Donavan McNabb pass to Freddie Mitchell in a playoff game versus the Packers and a goal-line stand against the Cowboys when the Eagle defense stopped Emmitt Smith on third and fourth downs from inside the 1-yard-line. But his favorite memory was a Brian Dawkins hit on Michael Vick.
“We were playing Atlanta in the Vet. Vick was the Atlanta quarterback. Our hero was Brian Dawkins. He put a hit on Vick. We could hear the pop from our seats. Vick went out and didn’t come back,” Patrick recalled.
Patrick is going to watch the Super Bowl in his man cave in Exeter with his wife. He said his daughters, Nicole and Kristy, and granddaughters, Gia and Nina — Eagles fans all — may join him.
Meanwhile, Alex Gross will be watching the Super Bowl in his Patriots man cave in Hughestown with his father Bill, a Giants fan whose favorite player was Giants tight end Jeremy Shockey. Gross said everything would be as it was last year when the Patriots won the Super Bowl.
“The remote will be just so. The chair will be just so,” Gross said. “Don’t mess with it.”
Gross said the genesis of his Patriots fandom was “a shot in the wind.” He was 8 years old in 2007 when he happened to walk into the TV room where his father was watching a Patriots game.
“I saw Tom throwing up 25, 30 yard passes to Randy Moss and I’ve been a Patriots fan since,” he said.
Despite all the wins, being a Patriots and Brady fan isn’t always easy.
“I’ve been through every controversy — Spygate, Deflategate, the Cheatriots,” he said.
And he gets busted a lot at Pittston Area, where, though the school’s nickname is Patriots, New England Patriots fans are few.
“It’s mostly Eagles and Steelers,” he said.
He’s been to two Patriots games with his father. He saw them lose to the Jets in New York and beat the Rams at home in Gillette Stadium in Foxboro, Massachusetts.
His favorite memory is an easy one. Last year when the Patriots won after being behind 28-3. “Super Bowl 51. The glorious comeback. That was something.”
Gross said there is a downside to the Brady dynasty. He’s afraid the Patriots are mortgaging their future by sticking with Brady, who is 40 and wants to play until 45.
For example, Gross wears a Jimmy Garoppolo Patriots jersey, which he bought anticipating Brady would retire and Garoppolo would be the starting quarterback. But the Patriots traded the highly touted Garoppolo.
When Gross and Patrick met in Patrick’s man cave earlier this week to pose for photographs, Gross brought a souvenir Patriots ball with him to use as a photo prop. It was enclosed in a plastic case. He pulled it out squeezed it and said, “Hey, it doesn’t have any air in it. Big surprise.”