HOBOKEN, N.J. — Sean Iaquinto extends his hands high in the air, signaling an Eagles touchdown. Then, like a conductor leading an orchestra, the 6-foot-4, 240-pound man with short gray hair and a slightly less-gray goatee slams his fists on the bar top of Mulligan’s Pub in Hoboken, N.J., signaling the commencement of the fight song.
The crowd begins: “Fly, Eagles, fly, on the road to victory …”
Iaquinto sets the tempo for the bellowing fans, clapping his hands to each word.
“Waves of emotion are sort of the norm for Eagles fans,” Iaquinto says.
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Iaquinto, 49, was born in Bucks County. He attended La Salle College High School — he moved to Gwyneth Valley at 13 years old — and then Villanova University. After college, Iaquinto moved to New York City in 1994, taking a job as a network engineer at a large financial institution, where he still works today. After living in Brooklyn for a year, he moved to Hoboken in 1995.
“[Hoboken] reminds me much more of Philadelphia,” Iaquinto said, comparing it to Manayunk. “You can get to know your local shopkeepers and see neighbors walking down the street.”
He founded the Philadelphia Eagles Club of Hoboken in 2004.
“When I moved to Hoboken, I didn’t know anyone here,” Iaquinto said. “I wanted to watch the Eagles because it was my favorite thing to do growing up with my grandfather and father.”
Iaquinto met with Mulligan’s owner Paul Dawson and presented his plan to host Eagles fans who lives in that area. He wanted to reserve Dawson’s back bar, which was unused on Sundays due to a lack of patrons. The club would occupy one side of the bar, while the adjacent side would broadcast European soccer. Iaquinto predicted at least 80 to 100 fans would be there every Sunday, buying drinks and food while watching the game.
Dawson loved the idea and agreed. And as a bonus, Dawson would even pay for soft pretzels to be brought in from Philadelphia every Sunday. Today, Iaquinto entertains anywhere from 80 to 300 Eagles die-hards, the size of the crowd typically corresponding to the success of the team.
“We have our own private oasis in the shadow of the Meadowlands,” Iaquinto said.
The club has grown in popularity and stature. Word-of-mouth advertising brings in the most fans, but Iaquinto still greets strangers on the street if they have any visible Eagles memorabilia to tell them about his group.
“It’s kind of like the Eagles are a religion or a political party or that kind of thing,” Iaquinto said. “We are trying to convert others!”
Members of the Green Legion, a popular Eagles fan group, occasionally stop by Mulligan’s while in town for Giants and Jets games. Iaquinto even calls his club the “unofficial embassy of Philadelphia,” citing the club’s welcoming and safe atmosphere.
Exaggerated or not, the reality for Iaquinto and his Eagles contingent is life within opponent territory. Unlike the friendly confines of Lincoln Financial Field, home to a crowd full of mostly Eagles fans, Hoboken is considered Giants and Jets territory.
“When we are playing an opposing team, for whatever reason, someone always tries to show up and watch the game with Eagles fans because they just want to rub it in our face if they win,” Iaquinto said. “In my section of the bar, if you are obnoxious, I will simply ask you to go to the other side and watch the game.”
Yet there is still one thing that unites both Giants and Eagles fans: a loathing of the Dallas Cowboys. And Iaquinto hates (hates might not be a strong enough word) the Cowboys.
“The Dallas fans are delusional,” Iaquinto said. “[The fans] have no concept of reality and [the Cowboys] haven’t been relevant for years.”
He didn’t stop there.
“They think they are the gold standard, but they are just a perennial terrible club,” Iaquinto added.
Iaquinto’s dislike of the Cowboys is just one of many qualities born out of his Philly roots. He believes that the Philly sports teams, and the athletes who represent them, have a monumental impact on the culture of the city.
“We want our sports stars, who are being very generously paid, to go to work every day, do the best job that they can,” Iaquinto said. “We notice when people go to work and slack off.”
The Eagles’ reputation, both good or bad, is simply an extension of the Philly “way,” he believes. The blue-collar mentality, emphasizing consistency and often thankless work, according to Iaquinto, is ingrained in the city.
“We are tough on the outside, but soft on the inside, and we will give you the skin off of our back,” Iaquinto said. “We will always be ready to help someone.”
But there is a caveat to the generosity.
“You better not turn around and say anything bad about our Eagles,” Iaquinto said. “We will stand up for them right away.”
In the years to come, Iaquinto will continue to try to help the club grow. He knows Eagles fans, even just a handful, will always be there on Sundays.
“That’s what real Philly fans do,” Iaquinto said. “The fair-weather fans can stay home.”