Kate vs Zach: A Brief Sports History
In May of 2012, the Philadelphia 76ers played the Boston Celtics in the playoffs. The Sixers took them to Game 7, but unfortunately Boston was victorious. Zach and I had only been dating for about six months at that point. Our teams had not played each other in a serious game before that. During the series, a side of me came out that I didn’t know I had. I became defensive of my team and my city.
I’ve always been a sports fan. I typically have a cynical attitude towards my teams and can often be found calling them a bunch of bums when they’re not playing well, which has been often in my sports history. Growing up, I was primarily around people from Philadelphia and the surrounding areas. Even in college, a lot of the kids were from nearby, or just a few hours away at the most. A lot of my close friends weren’t very big sports fans, so I rarely found myself in a position where I had to defend my teams or my city.
And then I met Zachary Ells.
Zachary Ells, this strange creature from Massachusetts. Zachary Ells, a Boston sports fan. I had been to the the city of Boston once in my life. I never knew anyone close to me from there or anyone who rooted for Boston teams. I went from not knowing anyone who rooted for Boston to meeting and falling in love with a minorly obsessive Boston sports fan. What a life altering change.
I was thrown into Zach’s dedication to his teams, particularly the Patriots, early on. We met in November, and the Patriots played in the super bowl agains the New York Giants in February. Since the Eagles rarely made it to the Super Bowl when I was growing up (just once in 2004 against the damn Patriots), I thought of the Super Bowl as a social event. I watched for the commercials and enjoyed the Super Bowl cuisine my mom would provide.
I watched the Super Bowl of 2012 with Zach at his apartment. I quickly learned it was a serious event. It was me, Zach, and a few of my girl friends. None of his guy friends could make it. Poor Zach. His beloved Brady bunch failed to conquer the New York Giants. They lost 21-17. I remember staying quiet through most of the game as Zach sat on the edge of his seat. He didn’t eat much and I couldn’t stop eating all the snacks. I had heard from others that Boston fans were known for being loud, obnoxious, and foul mouthed. I had concerns going in to the game, but as we watched, I was happy to see Zach wasn’t any of that. He was mostly pensive and quiet. A few days after the game we didn’t see one another and hardly spoke. I remember him texting me saying he appreciated that I left him alone because he was upset over the loss. I passed my first test dating an avid Boston sports fan.
Fast forward a few years. Phillies and Red Sox had played each other a few times, Celtics and Sixers were once again matched up in regular season games. Years of smack talk from me trashing Zach’s teams, only to have my teams lose to his. A lot of me yelling saying they’re cheaters and it’s not fair. I was embracing my true Philadelphia attitude that there was no reason to reveal before knowing him. Who knew dating a boy from Boston would strengthen my ties with my own city.
When we began planning our wedding in 2015, I looked up the Patriots schedule to see who they would be playing the Sunday after our Friday wedding. I had learned early on to begin checking sports teams’ schedules ahead of time so I could plan events accordingly. I remember thinking, it’d be so funny if they played the Eagles.
Omg, they were playing the Eagles. I can remember Zach acting confident insisting that the Pats would win because the Eagles weren’t a very good team that year. I laughed along with him saying he was probably right. We watched the game at our apartment with two of his friends from Boston. The Eagles beat the Patriots 35-28. I laughed through the whole game, not believing that my team was beating my new husband’s team the weekend of our wedding. That is hilarious. The last time they had played each other in a regular season game was November 27th 2011. That was only a couple weeks after I met Zach and the Pats beat the Eagles. I honestly only just learned that because I googled Eagles vs Pats history. I had no idea they have played each other 14 times since 1973 (including this year’s Super Bowl). Eagles are in the lead with 8 wins. That win in 2015 was the first win against the Patriots since 1999.
We all know what I am leading up to, right?
Sunday, January 28th, Zach and I watched the Patriots just barely beat the Jaguars 20-24. After that game, we witnessed the Eagles destroy the Minnesota Vikings 38-7. For the first time in 13 years, the Philadelphia Eagles were going to the Super Bowl and they were going to play the New England Patriots! We were getting our revenge game and this time I was married to the enemy.
Zach and I had been dreaming of this game. We had joked about it because, for years, it was a joke. The Eagles had their ups and downs and the Patriots were, I hate to say it, really good. However, this Eagles season was miraculous. Carson Wentz and the whole squad were unreal. Zach had even admitted that the team looked really good and the Super Bowl talk around the city wasn’t that far fetched. Was Philadelphia actually developing a positive attitude towards their football team?
Then in a game against the Rams, our hero Wentz down. In typical fashion, I, along with the rest of the city, resorted to resentment and anger. This wasn’t fair! We were doing so well. Part of me gave up and I came to terms with the fact that this, once again, wasn’t our year. I resorted to yelling that the NFL was rigged against us and the Patriots were cheaters.
But then, an act of God happened. St. Nick stepped in and played the best games of his life. He guided the team on the remainder of their journey to Super Bowl 52. God bless St. Nick.
Sunday, February 4th, was a day that will not only go down in infamy for the city of Philadelphia, but also for my marriage. About an hour before the game started, I challenged Zach to a game of air hockey. I had said if I won, then the Eagles were going to win the Super Bowl. It was an intense back and forth game, an offensive shoot out. He fought hard, but I was victorious. I knew then, we were going to win the Super Bowl.
As soon as the game began, I tried to contain my excitement with each passing touchdown, knowing that my husband, his sister, and her husband were internally weeping on the sofa next to me each time the Eagles scored. It’s difficult to harness the emotions when you’re on the Eagles roller coaster. How does a woman act when she has such love for her husband and wants to support her husband’s interests but at the same time wants her team to crush the team he holds so dear? I tried to remain even keeled but it was impossible. The game was incredible. It was a good old fashioned offensive shoot out. It’s listed as the 2nd best Super Bowl in NFL history. Second to the Patriots/Falcons Super Bowl that went into over time.
I was excited, I was nervous, I was eating all the snacks. Zach on the other hand didn’t eat a thing until the game was over. Evidently, I am the one who eats their feelings in the relationship. I was yelling at the TV, every few plays I denounced them and said we were going to lose. I always wondered how I’d react to an Eagles/Pats Super Bowl while being married to a Pats fan. I should have figured I’d react like a crazy person. It was a lot of fun and while I do feel sorry for my husband and his family, I am overjoyed for my fellow Philadelphia fans. I never imagined sports could evoke so many conflicting emotions in my personal relationships. It was a great and much needed win. The Pats fans in attendance were gracious in their loss. Zach held up his end of our bet and sang part of the Eagles fight song while wearing an Eagles hat on video and I posted it online.
He watched some highlights with me and listened to me rehash all the amazing plays made by my team, particularly the Philly Special. After all the years of seeing his team win or at least make it to the Super Bowl, I finally got to see mine make it and win.
Amongst all this Super Bowl glory, I must take time to make a confession. I am not a perfect person. I wore a Patriots jersey during their championship game against the Jaguars. Yes, I did it. There was photographic proof on SnapChat but thankfully it disappeared. It’s also not the first time I did it and I apologize. It was a jersey Zach had given me for my 26th birthday. My nephew said to me, “What are you pretending you’re from Boston or something?” My niece looked at me with a puzzled face, “Why are you wearing that? It’s the wrong color.” Another nephew shouted at me, “WHAT ARE YOU DOING? YOU ARE FROM PHILADELPHIA!” I tried to explain to them, I felt like I had to support my husband. BUT, let the record show, when it mattered, I wore my Eagles jersey during their championship game AND I of course wore my Eagles jersey and extensive Eagles accessories during the Super Bowl. I felt in this season of Lent, I needed to come clean to get my discretion off my conscience. #TheThingsYouDoForLove
I attended the Eagles Parade on February 8th. The surge of excitement downtown was electric. There were people of all ages and backgrounds gathered together in support of a team that gave them something they were yearning for for decades. In a time when our country and politics are in a state of divisiveness and unrest, it’s good to see hundreds of thousands of people come together (relatively) peacefully in celebration.
Super Bowl 52 was a victory for the city of Philadelphia and a victory for mine and Zach’s marriage. Despite the fact that our teams faced off in the ultimate NFL game, we came out of it still married, with only a few ego bruises on Zach’s end. I look forward to what lies ahead in the coming years in the sports rivalry of our relationship. Perhaps a Phillies/RedSox World Series?