For the first time in years, there’s an occupant in the White House who has hometown bragging rights on the line in next week’s Super Bowl between the Kansas City Chiefs and the Philadelphia Eagles.
And it’s not President Biden.
First lady Jill Biden is a die-hard Eagles fan, which means she’s unabashed and insufferable (an understatement some might say) about her team and their 16-3 season. Their win over the San Francisco 49ers during the NFC Championship game last week led them to the Super Bowl, their second visit in five years.
Now, just like her team, she too is heading back to the Super Bowl, something the president let slip during a fundraiser – in where else? – Philadelphia on Friday. He said security and logistical issues would make it too difficult for him to travel to Arizona alongside the first lady.
At a stop in the city earlier that day, President Biden announced, “I’m Jill Biden’s husband, she’s a Philly girl so the first thing I’m going to say is Go Eagles, Fly Eagles Fly.”
“Now the good news is, I happen to mean it. But even if I didn’t, I’d say it. You know why? Otherwise, I’d be sleeping alone,” Biden continued to laughter.
On the way to the Keystone State Friday, White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre also quipped, “As you know we are en route to the home of the future Super Bowl Champions, Philadelphia Eagles. As the first lady would say, ‘Go Birds.'”
The first lady’s love for her ‘birds’ has been on full display in recent days.
Last weekend, after arriving at the Delaware Air National Guard base from Camp David, she was spotted on the tarmac sporting an Eagles shirt. Hours later, sitting inside a suite at Lincoln Financial Field alongside NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, she reveled in another Eagles win.
Both the president and first lady grew up in Eagles territory: he in Scranton, Pa., and later in Wilmington, Del., and she in Willow Grove, Pa., a suburb of Philadelphia.
President Biden has supported the Philly teams for years, but it seems to pale in comparison to his wife’s unbridled passion for all teams-Brotherly Love.
Those who know the first couple say it’s Jill Biden who can claim the ‘First Fan’ title.
It is she, after all, who is the Eagles, Phillies, Flyers and 76ers fanatic in the family, they say. She also roots for Villanova, where she got one of her master’s degrees.
“The First Lady is a proud Philly girl and devoted sports fan, and is excited to cheer on her hometown team for the Super Bowl,” Vanessa Valdivia, her press secretary said.
In the fall, amid a dizzying schedule on the campaign trail for the midterms, the first lady took to Twitter to cheer on her favorite baseball team. She posted a photo of herself watching the game on a flight.
“You got this @Phillies. I’m watching the game on my way to Orlando,” she wrote on the social media platform, adding the hashtag #ringthebell, a recent tradition started by right fielder Bryce Harper to mark home runs with his teammates.
And then there she was at Game 4 of the World Series, rooting for the Phillies at Citizens Bank Park. The next night, donning an Eagles shirt and a blazer, she appeared on the field for the coin toss at “The Linc” and then sang “Fly Eagles Fly” the Philadelphia fight song, along with a group of cancer survivors.
The Bidens both attended Super Bowl LII in 2018, when the Eagles defeated the New England Patriots 41-33. But it was Jill Biden who was seen jumping up and down with her hands in the air, clapping and screaming “we won!” at the top of her lungs.
Biden later posted the moment on Twitter, writing “Video speaks for itself.”
President Biden’s approval rating has hovered around 41 percent in recent months and the nation remains more divided than ever on cultural and economic issues.
Sports can be a unifier, said Anita McBride, who served as chief of staff to former first lady Laura Bush and wrote the upcoming book “U.S. First Ladies: Making History and Leaving Legacies.”
“At the end of the day, Americans love sports,” McBride said. “It always helps when we have a distraction from the rough and tumble of politics and the excitement around a championship game.”
It also humanizes the first couple who have made great strides to keep their lives normal even inside the bubble of the White House.
“Having a sports fan in the White House, whether it’s the president or the spouse, does make members of the first family relatable to the average American,” said Katherine Jellison, “It does makes them seem like the average Joe or Jane.”
From time to time, as he did at the event in Philadelphia on Friday, President Biden has ribbed his wife about her rabid Philly fandom.
“She is one self-assured Philly fan,” Biden said, while delivering remarks at an area water treatment plant. “We went to a Flyers game a couple of years ago…and…a fight breaks out. And my wife, who hates violence, goes ‘Hit him! Hit him!’ Jumping up.”
In 2021, Biden also needled his wife and fans like her when he stopped by a Washington restaurant for lunch.
“Philadelphia fans are the most informed, most obnoxious fans in the world. They know everything, you know what I mean?” Biden said while speaking to one of the restaurant’s workers who hails from the area.
When a Philadelphia reporter asked the first lady’s then-press secretary Michael LaRosa if she had a response to her husband’s comments, he posted her response on Twitter: “He knows me well.”
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This story was originally published February 6, 2023 6:00 AM.