Parallel Phillies and Eagles games compel Philadelphia sports fans to share their attention

Kelsey Frankowski sat staring at the huge television that hung high above the bar in the 3rd & Spruce Draft house.

With the World Series on the big screen, the Philadelphia Phillies fan didn’t want to miss a single game on Thursday as their team took on the Houston Astros in Game 5 at Citizens Bank Park in Philadelphia.

It was the end of the third inning and the bases were being loaded.

The crowd at the popular West Reading pub fell silent, but before the next Phillies bat hit the plate, cheers and applause erupted from behind Frankowski’s seat.

She turned her head just in time to catch the Philadelphia Eagles’ Kenneth Gainwell, who scored the team’s second touchdown. Gainwell’s goal put the Eagles ahead in the first half of Thursday night’s game against the Houston Texans at NRG Stadium in Houston.

“I feel like my head is floating around,” she said. “I could get whiplash if I walk back and forth.”

Kelsey Frankowski of Wyomissing and friends Nicole Plank, also of Wyomissing, and Jori Simock of Cumru Township watch Game 5 of the World Series and Thursday Night Football at the 3rd & Spruce Draft House, West Reading.  The Phillies and the Eagles both played against Houston teams.  MICHELLE LYNCH-READING EAGLE
Kelsey Frankowski of Wyomissing and friends Nicole Plank, also of Wyomissing, and Jori Simock of Cumru Township watch Game 5 of the World Series and Thursday Night Football at the 3rd & Spruce Draft House, West Reading. The Phillies and the Eagles both played teams from Houston. (MICHELLE LYNCH – READING EAGLE)

Both the baseball and football games were shown on smaller screens surrounding the bar, but Frankowski turned his attention back to the big screen, hoping for some excitement from the Phillies.

Moments later, a collective “Ow” went through the crowd. The inning had ended without an additional result for the team.

Frankowski, 34, of Wyomissing, and fellow fans of the sport in Philadelphia faced a difficult decision Thursday night.

In parallel games starting just three minutes apart, the National League pennant-winning Phillies and undefeated Eagles faced Houston teams.

What should a fan do when the World Series is streaming on Fox and Thursday Night Football is streaming on Prime?

“Part of my dilemma was watching the Phillies and the Eagles at the same time,” Frankowski said.

For some fans, watching both games at home meant picking up a TV remote and potentially missing out on an exciting game while they switched services. Alternatively, there was the less-than-optimal viewing experience of streaming one game on a handheld device while the other game was being played on a larger screen.

Frankowski and other fans across Berks County solved the problem by going to their local sports bars to watch both games on big screens.

“It’s a sports bar owner’s dream,” Jim Giuffrida said, “because you can’t stay home to watch both games.”

Giuffrida and his wife April are the owners of Jimmy G’s Railroad House Sports Bar, Sinking Spring and Beverly Hills Tavern, Spring Township.

“This is a great time of year for the sport,” he said, “but when you have two hot Philadelphia teams, it’s at its best.”

And as one Railroad House patron put it, “On Thursday night, the stars were aligned.”

The coincidence of both the Phillies and Eagles playing Houston teams was a result of Monday’s postponement of Game 3 of the World Series due to rain.

That postponed game 5 from Wednesday to Thursday, traditionally football night.

While it’s rare to see two Philadelphia teams in this situation, Gary Wert said it’s not unprecedented.

From a barstool in the Railroad House, Wert, 29, from Cumru Township, recalled the 2009 World Series in Philadelphia, where the Phillies lost to the New York Yankees while the Eagles defeated the New York Giants.

But Wert said he was surprised to learn from another bar patron that the coincidence had happened six other times in World Series history on Thursday.

According to an article by John Breech on CBSsports.com, Wert’s whistleblower was right.

It was the seventh time that opposing NFL and MLB teams from the same cities had played each other on the same night, confirming Breech’s story, listing dates, teams and results.

As the sports talk continued at Railroad House, Reading’s Richard Polityka commented that the Phillies would not have made it to the World Series this year had it not been for a new MLB-MLBPA contract.

The agreement resulted in several rule changes, including an expansion of the playoff system to 12 teams (six from each league) instead of 10 as in previous years.

“The Phillies were the sixth team, so they wouldn’t have qualified last year,” he said.

While Railroad House general manager Adam Bucher said the intention was to show the football and baseball games with sound on big-screen TVs in various areas of the sports bar-restaurant, Giuffrida said plans had changed.

After polling guests about their preferences, he decided to show the Phillies with sound on the two largest screens while playing both games silently on several smaller screens.

“Usually baseball doesn’t trump football,” he said. “But this is the World Series. That’s what most customers wanted.”

About halfway through the baseball game, the crowd at the Railroad House began to thin out. In the final innings, only about 15 die-hard fans stayed in front of the big screen in the older part of the venue, and only two or three latecomers stayed in the cabana area, drinking beers and waiting for the bitter end of the game for Phillies fans.

Husband and wife Phillies fans Sue and Fred Sanders from Reading watch Game 5 of the World Series and Thursday Night Football at the 3rd & Spruce Draft House, West Reading.  The Phillies and the Eagles both played against Houston teams.  MICHELLE LYNCH-READING EAGLE
Husband and wife Phillies fans Sue and Fred Sanders from Reading said they wanted to watch Game 5 of the World Series and Thursday Night Football so they headed to the Pike Cafe. (MICHELLE LYNCH – READING EAGLE)

The small group was in stark contrast to the large crowds found there at the Spruce and Pike Cafe in Reading earlier in the evening.

The Pike was packed with fans grabbing a late meal in time for the 8:00 p.m. kick-off and 8:03 p.m. first pitch.

Many lingered long after their baskets of hot wings and fries were empty, groaning with the crowd as the Phillies slammed Rhys Hoskins 46 minutes into the game and cheering 20 minutes later when Kenneth Gainwell scored the Eagles’ first touchdown.

Fred and Sue Sanders sat at the bar with their boyfriend Michael Nally. All three Reading residents are avid football and baseball fans.

Sue, 64, said she and her husband, 68, wanted to be able to watch the Phillies and Eagles at the same time.

Though they typically tune in weekly for Thursday Night Football from home, they prefer to watch the Phillies in person or at a sports bar with what Sue calls her hometown crowd.

“It’s a great environment,” Fred said of the Pike. “Everyone is cheering for the same team. That makes it an event and not just a game.”

Eagles fans Ronda Morrison, Heather Boyer and Alicia Cooper had similar feelings. The women, who all work for the Reading Recreation Commission, find it more fun and exciting to cheer for their team together. They also rely on Morrison’s superior knowledge of the team and the sport to interpret complicated plays and referee signals.

Eagles fans and Reading Recreation Commission staff, from left, Heather Boyer, Alicia Cooper and Ronda Morrison watch Game 5 of the World Series and Thursday Night Football at the 3rd & Spruce Draft House, West Reading.  (MICHELLE LYNCH - READING EAGLE
Eagles fans and Reading Recreation Commission staff, from left, Heather Boyer, Alicia Cooper and Ronda Morrison watch Game 5 of the World Series and Thursday Night Football at the Pike Cafe. (MICHELLE LYNCH – READING EAGLE)

“Ronda knows more about football and the Eagles than average people,” Boyer said.

She and other Eagles fans ended the night on a high note as the team defeated the Texans 29-17 and improved their record to 8-0.

Not so for Phillies fans, who faced a dismal bedtime after the game ended past midnight.

After losing 3-2 to the Astros, the Phillies need to win two away games at Houston’s Minute Maid Park to win the World Series championship.

It’s a scary prospect, Polityka said, noting that the home team has an advantage in every sport.

But the feat is not impossible, he noted.

“Do you remember the 2019 World Series?” he asked. “It was the first time in major league sport that the visiting team won every game.”

Hope remains for Phillies fans everywhere.

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