There’s one person for whom the Philadelphia Eagles’ surprise victory against the New England Patriots in last night’s Super Bowl final probably meant more than anyone else.
Ninety-nine-year-old Phil Basser, a Philadelphia native now better now as ‘Philadelphia Phil’, turns 100 in March and saw his team win their first ever Super Bowl last night.
He became known to Philadelphia fans after his 18-year-old grandson tweeted about him in response to the news that 99-year-old Vikings fan Millie was looking forward to the match-up between her team and the Eagles two Sundays ago
After the Eagles beat the Vikings in the playoffs to advance to the Super Bowl, the Eagles made sure that Philadelphia Phil got seats at the actual game to watch his team attempt to win their first Super Bowl title against last year’s champions, the New England Patriots.
To say that Philadelphia Phil has been waiting 10 decades to see his home team win their first Super Bowl, is technically correct. He was 15 years old when the team played their first game in 1933, and the first Super Bowl wasn’t held until 1967.
But there’s more to the near-centenarian’s story than just his age – Besser has had a real rags-to-riches story.
According to the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, he was born to a poor Jewish family in 1918.
His mother died when he was four and his sister died when he was eight, which meant he spent his weekdays in a local Jewish orphanage, the Jewish Foster Home and Orphan Asylum, only seeing his father on weekends.
His father died just as Basser was about to be deployed in World War II. Basser later also served in the Korean War.
Later in life, Basser founded a successful advertising agency in Philadelphia and has four children, 14 grandchildren and two great-grandchildren to his name.
Last year, his wife of 65 years, Pearl, died, and he moved to New York to live with his daughter.
“One could look at my life and see the hurdles and the tragedy,” he said in an interview with the Philly Voice. “These were all devastating, but I choose to wake up each and every day seeing the best that life has to offer.”
He can now add the Eagles’ Super Bowl victory to that list.