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Fans in Philadelphia and Kansas City are gearing up for Super Bowl Sunday

AYESHA RASCOE, HOST:

We're just hours away from the moment the Philadelphia Eagles and the Kansas City Chiefs hit the gridiron, and the anticipation is high. For the first time in a Super Bowl, two Black quarterbacks will face off against each other. We've also got two brothers playing on opposing teams and a head coach who's looking to beat the team he once led. For most fans in Philadelphia and Kansas City, though, it's all about the excitement of a possible win. So here are two reports from two cities where victory is already in the air.

LAURA BENSHOFF, BYLINE: I'm Laura Benshoff in Philadelphia, where there's a line out the door at Mr. Tee's Screen Printing and Embroidery Shop.

BOB SCALIA: Alright, my friends. Thanks again.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #1: Thank you so much.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #2: Have a good weekend. Go Birds.

BENSHOFF: Bob Scalia's (ph) family business has been so slammed by Eagles fans, he hasn't been able to take a day off in weeks.

SCALIA: I retired on January 1, and I've been here ever since (laughter).

BENSHOFF: The small storefront is jammed with green and black T-shirts and hoodies, the city's unofficial uniform since the Eagles won the NFC championship. Scalia says as a Philadelphian, an Eagles fan and a business owner, it's been great.

SCALIA: Everybody's making money. Everybody's - you know, everybody's happy. It changed everybody's mood sort of, you know? Everybody's excited.

BENSHOFF: Customers are buying up T-shirts that say, it's a Philly thing or, Hurts so good, in honor of the Eagles quarterback Jalen Hurts. Patricia Brown (ph) of West Philly says she's bought about 10 so far.

PATRICIA BROWN: Three for my son and his family. I got two for my daughter and her husband. I got one for my boyfriend, one for me, and now - and I'm getting four for my girlfriends.

BENSHOFF: She sent these pieces of hometown pride to family in Florida and California. Brown says she's doing this despite the fact that she might not be able to watch much of the game herself.

BROWN: Well, actually, I'm working (laughter). I'm working, but, you know, I'll sneak out. We'll - I'll be in the lobby. I work at the hotel, one of the hotels.

BENSHOFF: But she's still going to wear the shirt she bought with a glittery eagle on the front. Eagles fever hasn't just taken over wardrobes. It's also taken over the airwaves. It's nearly impossible to escape the Eagles fight song, "Fly, Eagles Fly." It's getting covered in pre-K classrooms...

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

UNIDENTIFIED CHILDREN: (Singing) Fly, eagles fly, on the road to victory...

BENSHOFF: ...By a local Ukrainian men's choir...

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

UNIDENTIFIED CHOIR: (Singing in Ukrainian).

BENSHOFF: ...And by seniors playing the kazoo.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

UNIDENTIFIED PEOPLE: (Playing kazoo).

BENSHOFF: The city's also preparing for possible victory celebrations. Tow trucks are enforcing a large no-parking zone around city hall. That's where fans converge and cause mayhem after a win. And everything is green, from the lights of the skyscrapers in Center City to the cakes in the grocery store. Outside Geno's Steaks in South Philly, John Mangle (ph) and his son Gavin (ph) are feeling confident about the Eagles' chances.

JOHN MANGLE: They're calling it a close game, but from what - talking to everybody and friends, they think it's going to be an Eagles blowout.

BENSHOFF: The Eagles won the Super Bowl for the first time ever pretty recently back in 2018. That year, they defeated the New England Patriots. Gavin, who's 14, was just 9 years old at the time, but he says he still remembers the Eagles' pivotal trick play known as the Philly Special or Philly Philly.

GAVIN MANGLE: And I just felt that, like, excitement, that rush, you know, when you saw the win and how they pulled out (ph) the Philly Philly and everything. You know, it was just a magical moment.

BENSHOFF: If the Eagles win the Super Bowl twice in five years, Mangle says this city of underdogs is going to be over the moon. Laura Benshoff, NPR News, Philadelphia.

SAVANNAH HAWLEY-BATES, BYLINE: I'm Savannah Hawley-Bates in Kansas City, Mo. Here at Union Station, there's lots of excitement for the game. The Chiefs flag hangs in the grand hall, the designated Chiefs fan zone, where people like 3-year-old Jackson Spencer (ph) get to shout their pride.

JACKSON SPENCER: Go team.

HAWLEY-BATES: Jackson's father, Brandon Spencer (ph), is lining up his children to take a photo next to the big, 3D Roman numeral 57 display celebrating the Chiefs appearance in Super Bowl 57.

BRANDON SPENCER: I have the pictures of me as a child, with my mom and dad. And so now to be able to come back and get those pictures of them at that same age. But the icing on the cake is that it's for the Super Bowl.

HAWLEY-BATES: And little Jackson says he knows the Chiefs will beat the Eagles.

JACKSON: So they going to be the greatest champion.

HAWLEY-BATES: That's exactly what Ashley McBride (ph) thinks is going to happen, too. She lives in Texas now and says the Chiefs helped put Kansas City on the map. She came back in town to visit family just in time for the Super Bowl.

ASHLEY MCBRIDE: I just love how we celebrate out here, you know? Really love our team, and we go hard.

HAWLEY-BATES: Over at Gates Bar-B-Q, one of the spots that made the city's spicy and sweet delicacy famous, owner George Gates says his food may have something to do with the Chiefs' success.

GEORGE GATES: A lot of the Chiefs come to Gates. And so you know that's what makes them win, in addition to hard work, practice, and a good coach and a good team.

HAWLEY-BATES: He's not the only one boasting. So is Kansas City Mayor Quinton Lucas, who says he dreamed of moments like this.

QUINTON LUCAS: As a kid who grew up in Kansas City, nothing could be better. And when you talk about this sustained run with Chiefs football, I mean, my God, it's a great time to be mayor.

HAWLEY-BATES: And a great time to make a wager with Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney over who the winner will be. Gates Bar-B-Q, of course, and other local goods go to Philly if the Chiefs lose. But Lucas says he's certain he'll get the large pizza and six pack of Philly beer that Kenney promised. And he has a bit of trash talk for the Eagles, too.

LUCAS: We know we're the best and not in a cocky way but in a nice, humble Midwestern way, which is, we got a darn good team, and we're excited to be able to watch them with all of America this Sunday.

HAWLEY-BATES: And excited to indulge in a little of that Philadelphia food he's sure is coming his way soon after the game. For NPR News, I'm Savanna Hawley-Bates in Kansas City.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Laura Benshoff
Laura Benshoff is a reporter covering energy and climate for NPR's National desk. Prior to this assignment, she spent eight years at WHYY, Philadelphia's NPR Member station. There, she most recently focused on the economy and immigration. She has reported on the causes of the Great Resignation, Afghans left behind after the U.S. troop withdrawal and how a government-backed rent-to-own housing program failed its tenants. Other highlights from her time at WHYY include exploring the dynamics of the 2020 presidential election cycle through changing communities in central Pennsylvania and covering comedian Bill Cosby's criminal trials.
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