Ryan Scepansky knows what will happen when he pulls the Carson Wentz jersey over his head. The jersey is a green invitation to many of his classmates at Thomas College to throw insults, snide remarks, sideways glances, and general garden variety derision in his direction. Especially over the last two weeks.

“It’s not terrible right now, but as soon as Sunday comes along, if people see me wearing the Wentz jersey, I’ll have to get crap for it,” Scepansky said. “At first it was a little bit hard to adjust. All the Pats fans just constantly giving me grief. Every time I wear my Wentz jersey, they’re “Ah, you’re gonna lose. You’re gonna lose.’ It got worse these last couple weeks. When they see an Eagles jersey, they jump quick.”

A freshman pitcher on the Thomas baseball team, Scepansky hails from Reading, Pennsylvania, a city about an hour’s drive from Philadelphia. He’s an Eagles fan born and bred, and that’s not going to change because he attends college deep in New England.

Peter Kirby knows how Scepansky feels. Kirby is originally from Bensalem, a Philadelphia suburb. Kirby moved to Skowhegan with his family when he was 7. He’s Scepansky’s pitching coach at Thomas, and confidant in all things Eagles. If Scepansky needs to talk about the Eagles defense, or Zach Ertz’s latest great catch, or debate the quality of cheesesteaks at Philly institutions Pat’s and Geno’s, Kirby is there.

“When Ryan came along, it’s almost like he’s my nephew now. Now we’ll take care of each other,” Kirby said. “I told Ryan if we win, we’re heading out. We’re going to the parade.”

In the last two weeks, since the New England Patriots won the AFC and the Philadelphia Eagles won the NFC to set up this Super Bowl LII match, Kirby and Scepansky have quietly taken the verbal abuse from the Patriots majority that surrounds them.

OK, so they haven’t taken it quietly. That goes against everything in their Philly DNA.

“When I first came to Maine, it was weird to me. At that time we had a lot of Cowboys and 49ers fans. Now all of a sudden, those same kids are Patriots fans,” Kirby, a 2001 graduate of Skowhegan Area High School, said. “It doesn’t bother me much. I give it right back to them, being a Philly fan. I don’t let it go. They give me some grief, I give it right back to them. I just dare people to wear their Patriots jersey down in Philly. You want to show your true colors, come on down to Philly and see what happens.”

We’ve all heard the stories of Eagles fans. They booed the unbooable Santa Claus. They pioneered the concept of jail cells at the stadium. They harass fans of opposing teams with vigor usually reserved for unwelcome in-laws. Yeah, Kirby said. What’s your point?

“I love it. It doesn’t bother me. It is what it is. You’ve got blue and white collar people who act just foolish. It’s like a release for some people. They go to these games, they lose their mind, and after the game they just go home and see their wife and everything’s fine… We want to see if you can handle it, and you’ll earn our respect if you can,” Kirby said.

Kirby went to an Eagles game at Gillette Stadium in 2007. He met other Eagles fans in the parking lot tailgating. Kirby made them cheesesteaks. He made steaks for Pats fans, too.

“I was wearing a (Randall) Cunningham jersey. I go to that game, and I see Philly fans, and they’re like my brothers. We start talking like we know each other,” Kirby said.

Boston and Philadelphia aren’t so different. The cities feature prominently in the founding of the United States, obviously. In terms of professional sports, both cities have crazy loyal fans, and their athletic histories are linked by rivalry. It was Boston Celtics fans who gave the world the “Beat LA!” chant, as the 76ers prepared to face the Lakers in the NBA finals in 1982. The Bruins and Flyers played some brutal, gritty playoff series over the years. And there’s that Super Bowl 13 years ago. New England 24, Philadelphia 21. Kirby was a student at Husson University.

“I remember that fourth quarter. All I remember is Donovan McNabb choking,” Kirby said.

Scepansky was 5. His memories of that game are less vivid.

“I remember my dad made burritos, and I remember they made me go to bed after halftime because I was so young. I remember waking up and hearing the bad news,” Scepansky said.

When starting quarterback Wentz was lost for the season with a knee injury in a December game against the Rams, Scepansky said he didn’t lose hope.

“Our shots took a hit, but I had no doubt in (Nick) Foles as the backup. I figured he could take us the way our defense has been playing solid all year. With the acquisition of (Jay) Ajayi, we helped our run game and took some of the pressure off Foles,” Scepansky said.

If Kirby watches the Super Bowl at home, he’ll probably invite Scepansky over, so his pitcher isn’t forced to watch the game in a dorm room full of Patriots fans. Kirby predicts a 34-27 Eagles win. Scepansky predicts 31-27 Eagles.

I predict I may wear Pats gear in Philly someday, but never a Santa suit.

Travis Lazarczyk — 861-9242

[email protected]

Twitter: @TLazarczykMTM

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