Split allegiances

Tyrone coaches cheering opposite teams in Super Bowl

01/25/18 By Gary M. Baranec Coaches Steve Ramsey, Luke Rhoades.

Tyrone Area High School girls basketball coach Luke Rhoades knows how it feels to catch flak for his pro football allegiances.

Especially when he shows it off in his team’s colors.

“It’s terrible,” Rhoades chuckled. “My brother got me a No. 40 jersey with my name sewn on it for my 40th birthday.

“I wore it to school. The kids really got all over me.”

That’s the price to being a New England Patriots fan in the heart of Steeler country. And, on Sunday, it might get worse if Rhoades’ Pats win another Lombardi Trophy.

But while Rhoades will have his usual host of Patriots-haters pulling against him, he’ll also have someone usually in his corner against the Steeler fans this time around.

Steve Ramsey — Rhoades’ assistant coach with the Lady Golden Eagles — is a diehard fan of the Philadelphia Eagles, the Patriots’ opponent in the 2018 Super Bowl.

In fact, Ramsey might be more rabid in his support of the Eagles than Rhoades is in rooting for his Patriots.

“Steve likes to watch the games at home by himself,” Rhoades said. “I think he really gets into it and doesn’t like to have other people around to see it.”

“I never watch an Eagles game in public. It’s not a good recipe for (socializing),” Ramsey joked. “We usually hold a Super Bowl party. We agreed it was best not to have one this year.

“My wife and I started dating in 1997. One of the years early in our relationship, the Eagles made it to the NFC championship game and lost,” Ramsey said. “She came around and looked at me and remarked, ‘You look like your friend just died.'”

Ramsey’s devotion to Pennsylvania’s “other” NFL team — which will be seeking its first-ever Super Bowl win on Sunday — goes way back.

“I knew Steve has liked the Eagles for a long time,” Rhoades said. “Steve and my brother were friends in high school, and I remember him liking the Eagles. He’s been an Eagles fan forever.”

Rooting for the Eagles is a family legacy for Ramsey.

“My dad was an Eagles fan because of my uncle. My uncle just wanted to root for someone other than the Steelers,” Ramsey said.

A lot of Steeler fans — indeed a lot of fans of other teams, in general — think Patriots fans all jumped on the bandwagon when New England got onto its current run of five titles since 2002. Rhoades, though, began to follow the team before they became ultra-successful.

“I liked when Drew Bledsoe was the quarterback. I liked when (Bill) Parcells was the coach,” Rhoades said, tracing his fandom back into the early 1990s. “I really like (current Patriots coach Bill) Belichick.”

Why wouldn’t he? Belichick has taken the Patriots to unprecedented heights, now adding to their record with their 10th Super Bowl appearance. If the Patriots beat the Eagles in Sunday’s rematch of the 24-21 victory in 2005, they’ll match Pittsburgh for the most Lombardi Trophy wins.

“I think he’s pretty confident,” Ramsey said.

Ramsey said Rhoades called him during the third quarter of the Eagles’ NFC Championship win over Minnesota two weeks ago to get the back-and-forth started about their teams facing each other for all the marbles.

“There probably will be a (trash talk or a bet) of some kind,” Ramsey said.

There was a little bit of banter between the two in the week after the teams punched their tickets to the big game. Now, with just a few days before they actually meet, Rhoades predicted the posturing would increase.

“It’s going to be interesting,” Rhoades said.

Rhoades said he’ll probably watch the game with some friends, including another friend who likes the Eagles. Ramsey savored the fact that, win or lose, there was one thing the coaching cohorts could agree on.

“This is probably a nightmare matchup,” Ramsey said, “for Steeler fans.”