ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:
Philadelphians are so famously pessimistic there's even a term for it - negadelphia (ph). Philadelphia Eagles fans have good reason for fatalism. The last time their team won the NFL championship it wasn't even called the Super Bowl yet. But as Avi Wolfman-Arent from member station WHYY found out, locals are feeling uncommonly cheerful about this year's team and their chances in the Super Bowl on Sunday.
AVI WOLFMAN-ARENT, BYLINE: The year was 1960. Dan Harrell had just turned 17. And for the Irish Catholic kid from West Philly, things were going well.
DAN HARRELL: Kennedy just became president. The Eagles wore green. You know, the Irish were on a roll. (Laughter) You know what I'm saying?
WOLFMAN-ARENT: The day after Christmas, Philadelphia beat Green Bay at historic Franklin Field for the NFL championship.
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UNIDENTIFIED SPORTSCASTER: And now the Eagles jumping up and down, a happy bunch.
WOLFMAN-ARENT: Harrell was there.
HARRELL: My seats were the upper level, right at about the middle.
WOLFMAN-ARENT: Harrell went on to become a maintenance worker at Franklin Field, which was built in 1895 and still stands today.
HARRELL: This is like a house of worship to a lot of people. I don't care if you're Jewish, Muslim, Catholic.
WOLFMAN-ARENT: But if this is the cathedral of Philadelphia football, its gods haven't been very kind. The Eagles have been good, but never quite good enough to win it all. Fans have grown predictably bitter. And you'd expect the same this year, but you'd be wrong.
HARRELL: My gut feeling is we're going to get a lead in this. Why not just give them the ball, let them (laughter) kick some ass?
WOLFMAN-ARENT: Something strange is in the water, or wuhter (ph), as the locals call it. Philadelphians are feeling optimistic.
UNIDENTIFIED CROWD: E-A-G-L-E-S, Eagles.
DARRELL CLARKE: I hate to use the term destiny because it's overused. But it's simple reality if you can't explain to me why we're not destined to win this game.
WOLFMAN-ARENT: Darrell Clarke is Philadelphia's City Council president and hosted a pep rally for the team Wednesday at the city's famous Reading Terminal Market. Clarke says past Eagles teams came into the year with big expectations only to flop. This year's Eagles weren't supposed to be great, but they've been the ultimate overachievers. Philadelphians like James Price just seem more comfortable with that role.
JAMES PRICE: Win, draw, lose - I don't care. I am happy right now. But I think they're going to come away with a win.
WOLFMAN-ARENT: Vegas oddsmakers disagree, but Philadelphians wouldn't have it any other way. For NPR News, I'm Avi Wolfman-Arent in Philadelphia.
(SOUNDBITE OF NOBODY'S "WAKE UP AND SMELL THE MILLENNIUM") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.