February 13, 2023
Eagles fans watched in disbelief Sunday night as the Birds lost Super Bowl LVII to the Kansas City Chiefs in the final minutes, having blown a 10-point halftime lead and been whistled for a fateful penalty.
Since then, Philadelphia has been filled with numb, sad or furious fans shuffling the streets, trying to get over the loss. Though this reaction might seem silly to some, it's a common response among sports fanatics, especially the "very loyal and passionate" Philly fans, according to Dr. Eric Zillmer, a licensed psychologist and professor of neuropsychology at Drexel University.
"Winning and losing matters to those individuals because their identity is wrapped up in it," he explained. "So losing confronts the Philadelphia fans with this painful reality."
Zillmer said fans coping with a tough team loss tend to move through a cycle similar to the five stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. It's the second stage where fans often linger for days or even weeks, months and years, believing they're "cursed" to lose again and again.
"It usually involves blaming someone, in this case the official who made that call in the last quarter," Zillmer said. "But it could be anything — coaches, players. You might blame the family dog."
In order to get past the anger and onto the next stages, which might involve swearing off the Eagles forever or promising to sell season tickets before dusting off the old jersey yet again, fans need to acknowledge their feelings and talk about them.
That doesn't mean they need to find therapists, Zillmer said. Just processing the loss with work colleagues or fans at their favorite bars can help speed up the process. Listening to sports radio and watching TV coverage is also helpful. The key is not to stew in feelings alone.
"Managing and chewing on it, you can get through quicker," Zillmer continued. "But it shouldn't, if you're asking me personally, last longer than a week."
Luckily, previous surveys have shown that most fans get over a team loss in three days, well within his recommended timeframe. Though fans might not emerge from that cycle with the same euphoria seen throughout the city over the past two weeks, in time, they might be able to see a silver lining in the loss.
"One ingredient we know is a big part of having a happy life is gratefulness," Zillmer said. "And that is being grateful that we were able to get to the Super Bowl.
"If you can get to this reorganization and acceptance, then you can really embrace the idea that this was a magical run and that it was worth it and that we're really grateful for having this amazing team."
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