We Fly with Our Eagles!

Retired Reporter Les Bowen Discusses the Phenomenon of Eagles Fans on the Road

By Les Bowen

Covering the Philadelphia Eagles, a reporter grows accustomed to a certain phenomenon that isn’t common among all NFL fan bases.

The Los Angeles Chargers were playing at home on Sunday, Oct. 1, 2017. The StubHub Center in Carson, California, was a temporary home for the team’s first season after leaving San Diego, but it was their home, and the visiting Eagles were traveling in from more than 2,700 miles away.

There, the Eagles extended the Chargers’ winless streak with a final score of 26-24. Afterward, the national coverage of the game did not focus on the Chargers’ defeat but rather on the way the home team’s fans had seemed outnumbered. The Eagles’ midnight green was much more prevalent in the stands than the Chargers’ blue, and the Eagles’ fans were much louder, players from both teams agreed.

At one point, a boisterous “Cowboys Suck!” chant broke out, aimed at the Eagles’ most hated divisional rivals. Chargers players looked around them, confused.

The thousands of Eagles loyalists who took over the StubHub Center that day included not only transplants from Philadelphia living on the West Coast but also a large contingent who lived in the Philly area and decided to fly out for the game.

Although it’s usually not as dramatic as that game, this is the case wherever the Eagles travel. Coaches and players regularly remark on the always loud, impossible-to-ignore representatives from what Philadelphians consider the NFL’s most passionate fan base.

I covered the team for nineteen years, for the Philadelphia Daily News and the Philadelphia Inquirer. On away-game weekends, I slowly grew accustomed to being recognized in restaurants or on the streets of Kansas City, Seattle, or Chicago.

After the Eagles played the Jacksonville Jaguars at Wembley Stadium in London in 2018, I was standing in a London Underground station trying to figure out which train would take me to Heathrow Airport when an Eagles fan recognized me, introduced himself, and sorted out my dilemma.

Some fans make an away game their fall vacation for the year, picking one city they’d like to see or a matchup that they especially want to witness. Others go to several away games each season. Luckily, Eagles fans can drive to see their team at the annual NFC East matchups with the New York Giants (between an hour-and-a-half and two hours, depending on traffic) and at the Washington Football Team (more like three hours, quicker on the way home if it’s late and I-95 is uncrowded).

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Robert Fink is a 29-year-old Eagles fan who lives in the city’s Fairmount section. Fink recently explained that he picks an away game each year at a “cool location.” This year Fink is looking forward to the Eagles’ Oct. 24 first-ever visit to the Las Vegas Raiders, who have relocated from Oakland. The game will be played on Fink’s 30th birthday, and he thinks Las Vegas just might be the sort of place where one might celebrate such an occasion.

“It’s just going to be full of midnight green,” Fink predicted. “You know you’re going to go to a cool location with like-minded people, who are all there for the same reason.”

Las Vegas is a popular destination, so fans should definitely make airline reservations well before all the flights are full. Really, the best time to plan a trip is right after the league schedule is announced in the Spring. It’s easier to get the flight you want, and if you’re lucky, the hotels in the road city haven’t hiked their prices to game-weekend levels, which can be double or triple the usual price.

As training camps were gearing up this summer, tickets available online to the Eagles-Raiders were listing at more than $400 each. Though Fink said he was willing to bite the bullet, other fans prefer to travel to away games with a fallback plan. If ticket prices turn out to be outrageous, many cities have “Eagles bars” where you can watch the game. There are Philly expats everywhere, and they fill the bars like they fill the stands. They are easy enough to find. Look for the sea of midnight green at places like the Larimer Beer Hall in Denver, The River Kitchen and Bar in Chicago, or Marina 84 in Fort Lauderdale.

Fink said the game ticket usually ends up being the most expensive component of his trip.

“I stay with friends, couch-surfing. I’m usually not paying for a hotel,” he said. “I’m usually paying for the flight with my credit card miles.”

The cheapest away ticket he ever scored was less than $100, Fink said, for that storied Eagles-Chargers game in 2017.

“That was such an incredible experience, one of the coolest experiences of my life,” Fink reminisced.

Another fan, Nick DeFeo of Richboro, Pennsylvania, said he has a group of 8-to-12 friends that picks one game to attend every year. This year they are heading for the Eagles at Denver on Nov. 14.

“As for price, we just wing it. We rarely splurge on great seats,” DeFeo said. “And we just Airbnb it close to the bar scene in town and pack into the house like sardines. Probably too old to do it this way, now that we’re all in our 30s, but tradition is tradition.”

There are large-group trips that you can arrange through the team website or with travel agencies. Those might appeal if you’re headed to an unfamiliar city, and you want to have the details of lodging and transportation handled for you.

Some fans try to stay in the same hotel the team is using, though this information isn’t always easily obtained, given security concerns. I’ve ended up at the Eagles’ hotel by accident several times over the years. Most of the time, it winds up being a hassle with many of the elevators cordoned off for team use, lots of ropes and barriers, lobbies, and bars crowded with autograph-seekers. Players might pause to sign a few autographs as they board buses, but otherwise, they are not eating, drinking, or working out in the same areas as fans.

Eagles fan J.D. Tucker lives in Scottsdale, Arizona, so he has to travel to any Eagles games unless the Philly team happens to be visiting the Cardinals. Tucker usually travels to games with his wife and sets an unofficial $300 per ticket ceiling—something he researches before planning the trip. His advice is to know in advance how you are getting to and from the game.

“Some stadiums are remote to the city,” he said, and it isn’t wise to just assume an Uber, Lyft, or cab is going to be cheap and readily available. You might want to rent a car or look into public transportation.

While Eagles fans have a reputation—perhaps overblown—for being unfriendly to supporters of opposing teams at Eagles home games, Eagles fans who travel say they rarely encounter problems, as long as they don’t goad the home crowd.

Fink recalled the Eagles game at Dallas on Thanksgiving Day, 2014.

“I’m wearing a ‘onesie’—a giant, Eagles green pajama,” he said. “Cowboys fans were like, ‘I can’t even [make a familiar gesture of disrespect] right now. I want to give you a hug. You just look adorable.’”

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