A long journey into the heart of Philadelphia sports fandom was ending where it began about 10 hours earlier -- at the Wells Fargo Center -- and my dad had a sudden realization that he was the mush, a bad luck charm.

“I don’t think I’ve ever been to a Flyers game where they won,” Bob Nark said in the third period.

We were 3-0 at that point, having watched the Sixers beat the Indiana Pacers at 1 p.m., the Phillies get off to a great start around 4 p.m., and the Union hold on to a 1-0 victory after a goalkeeper fumbled a kick minutes after the 6 p.m. kickoff. Now, at this moment, the Flyers were tied, 3-3, but the goalie must have heard my dad.

Let me be clear, we didn’t just watch these games. We attended each one, two tickets apiece, at the behest of The Inquirer. All week long, fans and sports radio stations called it a “triple threat,” with the Sixers, Flyers, and Phillies all playing home games in South Philly. That’s happened before. But the Union had a game against the Columbus Crew at Subaru Park -- at home in Chester -- and Inquirer sports night editor Andrea Canales fought to add soccer to the list.

That’s how the Saturday Superquad, the Philly Phoursome was born. Reactions ranged from “You’re nuts” to “That’s awesome” and both were right.

“So you’re getting paid to be here?” my dad asked me at the Phillies game.

Come on, man.

Round 1: 11:30 a.m.

When I pulled up to my parents’ house in South Jersey, my dad wasn’t ready, so I had a moment to get real with my mother about what laid ahead. Dad was sick days earlier. He’s 73 and while fairly healthy, he’s still paying for the decades he spent with cigarettes dangling from his mouth. In fact, I’d asked some friends and my sons to go first, assuming he’d say “no.”

“Does he know how long of a day this will be?” I asked my mom.

To be fair, I’m 44 and when I put on my Philadelphia Union hoodie -- ”did this thing shrink” -- I was reminded that I’m 25 pounds heavier than I should be. I had a Phillies tie-dye on, too, along with a Sixers ballcap, and I stuffed a Flyers ski cap in my pocket. I wore my Eagles socks, too, out of principle. Bob didn’t have any Union gear, but we’ll get to that later. For the purposes of this story, it’s best to think of my dad, a retired high school chemistry teacher, as a mixture of President Biden, Larry David, and Frank Costanza from Seinfeld.

“You’re a terrible driver,” he said as we parked at the Wells Fargo Center for the 1 p.m. Sixers game

“Oh yeah, I don’t get a lot of speeding tickets or anything like that,” I said.

“Well, you should.”

Bob and I root for every Philadelphia home team, to a degree. He’s probably a better fan than I am. At least once a week, he makes a “well, it happened again” Facebook post about a Flyers game I didn’t watch. In my house, and in millions of houses in Pennsylvania, Jersey, and the upper reaches of Delaware, being a fan doesn’t mean going to games. We never had season tickets for any franchise. Tickets were often given to us and, in my opinion, the dozens of games we’ve gone to, instead of hundreds, have made them more memorable.

In December of 1990, Dad and I were among the 65,627 in Veterans Stadium who saw Eagles quarterback Randall Cunningham leap from the 4-yard-line and land in the end zone against the Packers. When I replay the moment, in my mind, it’s just my dad and I in an empty stadium, and Randall’s floating through the air like a satellite. Those are the moments I look for.

It was said best in Visionquest, an ‘80s teen flick about wrestling I’ve seen 25 times because I was a wrestler. The protagonist’s colleague, an older man, tries to explain why games aren’t just games, how sports can be the tide that lifts us all in rare moments. That’s cheesy, but true.

Just watch it.

The Sixers are definitely the franchise I’m most excited about in 2022, and yet that also fills me with dread every time I see center Joel Embiid land awkwardly or wince. He is a basketball god, for sure, a beloved giant the city has rallied around. We live and die by him.

Allen Iverson is my favorite Philadelphia athlete, too, and one of the rare players, in my opinion, who understood the fanbase. Some of the reasons for Allen’s greatness are obvious -- the fearlessness, the quickness -- but I also love how unpolished, how utterly himself the 6-foot guard from Georgetown was. Every now and then I watch the “practice” video or his heart spilling out in his Hall of Fame induction speech. Pass the Kleenex, Bubba Chuck. The things people didn’t like about Iverson are the same things that made him great. They couldn’t be separated. Every team should hire him to consult with rookies.

Bob and I sat in Section 205 and he was pleasantly surprised at how well you could see the court from the mezzanine. A father and his young daughter, Maya, sat in front of us, her teeth blue from cotton candy. It was her first game.

“It’s all for her,” Donnie Almodovar told me. “She’s been to an Eagles game. "

My dad and I talked about my 9-month-old daughter, Penelope, as much as we talked about James Harden missing three-pointers. We talked about 401Ks, about how neither of us understood crypto, as well. The Sixers dominated, then faltered a bit, then sealed the game. It would be the only full game we saw all day.

In the atrium, I saw a woman wearing a Ryan Howard jersey over a Sixers hoodie and approached her, asking for an interview. This is always as awkward as it sounds.

“Uh, yeah, as long as it doesn’t take long,” said Rebecca DiValerio, of Aston.

DiValerio was going to see the Phillies after the Sixers game, like me.

“The Flyers will be a game-time decision at the Phillies game,” she told me.

She messaged me Sunday morning, to let me know she made it to the Flyers game.

Round 2: 3:45 p.m.

My dad walks slow, on account of some circulation issues, so I thought he was joking when he asked if we could use the media entrance to Lincoln Financial Field. I laughed it off. But he tapped me on the shoulder, again, asking why we weren’t going in.

“Dad, that’s where the Eagles play,” I said. “The Phillies stadium is up there.”

He looked down S. 11th Street with despair.

“Damnit, that’s like a mile away,” he said.

Once in our seats, along the first-base line, my dad said he was going to go for a foul ball. I told him I’d duck behind him.

While not the biggest baseball fan, I appreciate a ballpark and the history of the game. I will never not watch The Natural, and a packed ballpark on a hot summer night is about as good as it gets. When the Phillies won the World Series in 2008, I gave up a ticket so my son could go to the game with his uncle, grandfather, and great-grandfather. He needed that memory more than I did.

That being said, my dad and I couldn’t stay long and left after MVP Bryce Harper struck out in the bottom of third inning to get to the Union game. The man sitting next to me, though, made a call when newcomer Nick Castellanos came to the plate in the bottom of the first. I was there to write it down and the sudden Phillies buzz feels real.

That’s the beauty of early-season sports. There’s still hope.

“Castellanos going yard right here,” Ben Riegel, of Doylestown, said before the home run.

Round 3: 5:45

Soccer is the most beautiful game. I’m talking to you, Dad. It seems simple, at first, perhaps even boring. You run and kick the ball at the net. Few balls go in. But when you learn to find the value in the literal hundreds of passes, the attacking formations and acrobatics of the goalkeepers, it opens up for you, like jazz. I’m definitely still learning, myself. I’ve watched hundreds of youth and high school games in person and I’m wrong about off-sides calls 75% of the time.

Seconds into the game, a Union player was writhing on the ground after a collision.

“Oh, here we go,” Bob said.

Soccer did not exist for either of us as children in our corners of Camden County. I fell in love with the game on a college trip to Kilkenny, Ireland, when our visit to some castle or church was canceled due to the 1999 UEFA Champions League Final, between Manchester United and Bayern Munich. United won, 2-1, one of the greatest soccer games ever played, apparently. Thousands of people filled the pubs and streets and my uncle and I joined them, spilling our Guinness as people danced on the bar tops. I ordered a Roy Keane jersey when I got home.

While going to the Union’s stadium along the Delaware River doesn’t give me the same buzz as a home Eagles game, it’s a raucous crowd, guided by the Sons of Ben, perhaps the most devoted fan base in the city. I love it. Here’s my dad’s thoughts, in no particular order.

“Could they have built the stadium any closer to the water?”

“Are they going to play those drums the entire game?”

“I know your son’s soccer team schedules games on Sundays just to interfere with the Eagles games.”

If anyone’s going to change his mind, it’s my son, Zenon. He’s 15 and gets more yellow cards than goals these days. He loves arguing with referees, too, and my dad loves that.

“All these guys out here argue with the referees,” my dad pointed out at the Union game.

I ran into the dad of one my son’s teammate’s there, along with longtime Philly journalist Brian Hickey, a Union season ticket holder whose love of soccer is unrivaled. I’ve watched his son Louden snipe what seems to be hundreds of goals on Brian’s “proud dad” social media posts. I asked Brian where soccer fits in the world of Philly sports fandom.

“I’m not going to sit here and say ‘I need everyone to love soccer.’ It’s not for everyone,” Hickey said. “It’s already established. They’re a very good team in town. I’m done trying to convince people because, at this point, they’re just missing out.”

The Union scored their lone goal, sort of, when Columbus Crew goalie Eloy Room fumbled a crossing kick to the net. Room was credited for the own goal. I don’t make the rules!

Final round: 7:45 p.m.

In our Uber back to the Wells Fargo for the Flyers game, I spoke at length with our driver, Tianna. She’s a hairdresser, making money on the side. She said her best day, as a driver, was when the Eagles won the Super Bowl.

“I mean best, not just the money, but just the best. Everyone was partying,” she said. “I eventually just turned off and started partying with everyone else.”

That Super Bowl victory is the highlight of my fandom and the way it unfolded, with backup Nick Foles leading the team, was better than anything Roy Hobbs or Rocky Balboa did. I was asked to work that day, to go out and cover the crowd at bars. Other colleagues went to Minnesota. I didn’t want any part of either assignment and I explained that in a heartfelt email to my boss. I had to be home with my family and the shirtless stranger who barged into my house waving an Eagles flag.

In the aftermath of that victory, I wrote about the end of the Eagles’ struggle, the Buddy Ryan and Ray Rhodes years, all the anguish of Andy Reid’s tenure. Some part of me would miss it. Most readers didn’t get past the headline and berated me. Mike Missanelli at 97.5 The Fanatic called me Eeyore.

Flyers fans know what I’m talking about. The orange-and-black have had so many playoff runs since winning those Stanley Cups decades ago, an alphabet-soup of this-is-the-one goalies sure to bring home the hardware. The fans are so loyal, and as one friend pointed out Saturday night, ice hockey is a thrill to watch live.

After Tianna dropped us off, I had my first ticket snafu of the day and the Flyers goal horn blasted while I fumbled around in the lobby on StubHub. Luckily, Flyers communications vice president Sean Coit fought harder than Dave Schultz to fix the problem. He told me it takes 2.5 hours to switch over from Sixers to Flyers at the center, with 1,000 people working any given event. Coit also helped get me up to the club box where most of my longtime friends were watching the game.

“Mr. Nark!” they all said to my dad.

I had to explain to my friends what “off the record” meant, but as we sat there and busted each other’s chops, I was reminded that sports gives us all common ground. I played football and street hockey with these guys as a kid and for me, at least, I’m more eager to talk and catch up at the games than to watch them.

My dad, a devoted Flyers fan, went down and sat in a seat to watch and one-by-one, my friends went to talk to him, paying their respects if you will. I finished the game beside him and my longtime friend, Tim Kerr (not the Flyer), and as time dwindled and the Anaheim Ducks broke the tie, my dad muttered a resigned, “Of course. Every game.”

On the way home, Dad wanted to stop at a diner. I was more tired than he was. Sadly, the longtime 24-hour diners we knew all closed at 11 p.m.

“Ah, this was still a great day,’ he said.

He walked up the front porch and I thanked him for going and yawned.

“Hey, are you going to the game tomorrow?” I said in reference to my son’s soccer game.

He’s always there, yelling at the refs for yelling at my son. Sometimes he wears headphones, screaming out “Eagles touchdown” seconds after Merrill Reese does.

‘Of course I’ll be there,” he said.

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