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Forget red vs. blue: Harrisburg bipartisan green for Eagles

In a divided city, one Harrisburg sports bar bleeds green
In a divided city, one Harrisburg sports bar bleeds green 02:13

HARRISBURG, Pa. (CBS) -- Junior lawmakers typically defer to their senior leaders on important decisions. But drafting a memo for legislation about the cost of tickets to sporting events, newly-inaugurated state Sen. Frank Farry (R-Bucks) couldn't help himself.

"We were literally going to throw in there that we understand my colleagues from the western part of the state may not be facing the same challenges as those on the eastern part of the state right now," Farry said.

A joke, of course, although three months after a Phillies World Series appearance and two weeks before an Eagles trip to the Super Bowl – check how the Pirates and Steelers did this year, if you need to verify this – Farry's not wrong.

Majority Leader Joe Pittman (R-Western Pa.) "kind of gave me a look that kind of showed it probably wasn't a good idea for the freshman senator to do that," Farry said. "But it was all done in jest."

And for what it's worth, Farry noted, it's easier for fans of the Eagles and Steelers – in different conferences – to root halfheartedly for each other's teams than it is for hockey fans of the Flyers and Penguins, a rivalry dominated in recent years by – well, never mind that. Back to the Eagles.

State Sen. Nikil Saval (D-Philadelphia) might find himself on different sides of policy debates from Farry but is firmly aligned with him on football. One piece of evidence: His son, riding in the back seat of Saval's car, suddenly started singing the "Fly Eagles Fly."

Sure, so do lots of kids. But this kid is only a year and a half old.

"He only has a few words, but three of them are 'Fly Eagles Fly,'" Saval said.

"There's a real level of – and I mean this in the best way – indoctrination that happens, I think, at every educational level in Pennsylvania," Saval reflected.

His four-year-old son has lots of words, lots of Eagles garb and lots of enthusiasm. But is it fair that he, like so many young fans, will never know the decades of suffering that preceded the 2017 team's championship – and, for that matter, so many other heartbreaking seasons for the city's other professional sports teams?

"They are growing up in a slightly misleading era in which we always win," Saval joked.

Farry said Eagles mania has permeated even completely unrelated events, such as a check presentation ceremony at St. Ephrem Catholic School in Bensalem. The pastor wore an Eagles jersey, and the event concluded with children and adults singing "Fly Eagles Fly."

Farry and Saval both spoke from their district offices.

Back in Harrisburg – where NFL loyalties are split among the Eagles, Steelers and even Ravens (Baltimore is closer to Harrisburg than Philadelphia or Pittsburgh) – Mr. G's, a sports bar, is unabashedly an "Eagles nest," as a sign outside announces.

These are good times for the team and the bar, which is taking reservations for the Super Bowl – the phone at the bar rang several times with inquiries about that while CBS News visited. There'll be 75-inch TV screens inside and out – yes, outside too, in Harrisburg, in February.

Michael Gustin, a Mr. G's cook grilling cheesesteaks – provolone with onion – remembers the Eagles' challenges during his years facing other kinds of challenges. Gustin is retired from the Army.

"Being deployed over in Iraq and Afghanistan, you know, we had those heartbreaking years, especially 2004," Gustin said.

But that made the 2017 team's accomplishments that much sweeter, he said.

Farry said the 2022 team is particularly fun to support, even aside from the fact that they're the local team.

For example?

"The Jalen Hurts story is a great story because he was drafted in the second round. He wasn't drafted to be their top guy," Farry said. "And he's worked and earned it."

Offensive tackle "Lane Johnson has a pretty significant injury that he's playing through in a really tough position to play, a very physical position," Farry said. "Coach [Nick] Sirianni is doing a great job and is earning his place in history now too."

This time, expectations are higher than they were for the 2017 team, which stunned the heavily-favored New England Patriots.

"If you were to tell me Nick Foles is going to go one-for-one with Tom Brady, I'd be like, 'You're nuts,'" Gustin said.

This year's Eagles are favored over the Kansas City Chiefs. Could the mood among Eagles fans right now be another kind of victory too?

"Things are so divided politically and for other reasons. So if there's something we can unite about, it's a good thing," Farry said.

"Philly is a great city that has so many points where people can come together," Saval said. "That's also an expression of the collective spirit in the city."

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