Walk into the depths of South Philadelphia, past Eagles flags waving from stoops, past old men chain smoking in well-worn Eagles sweatshirts and neighborhood boys puffing out their chests in green jerseys to find the bar on 11th and McKean streets dedicated to the Kansas City Chiefs.
The bar is Big Charlie’s Saloon, owned by Philadelphian Paul Staico. He said his love for the Chiefs began at an early age, when his father, Big Charlie, won a Super Bowl bet on the Chiefs and used the money to buy his young son the bike he had been wishing for all winter.
“I was converted after that,” Staico said. “I’ll always remember that. I became a fan forever.”
Since then, Staico has been recruiting friends to his team. Gathering attention for its uniqueness, the corner bar relies on neighborhood support and Staico’s enthusiasm.
“We haven’t had a fight in 40 years,” Staico said. “You would think there might be some confrontation [between Eagles and Chiefs fans], but this is our neighborhood and we’re all friends around here.”
Staico said that may lie in the fact that the Eagles and the Chiefs don’t play in the same division.
“Eagles and Chiefs aren’t big rivals,” Staico said. “It’s not like this is a Dallas bar or something.”
A Chiefs bar in Philly might not be confrontational, but it’s uncommon.
Staico took over the bar in 1983 after his father passed away, and turned it into a haven for Chiefs fans.
“We moved from watching the games in my mother’s house to watching them [in Big Charlie’s Saloon],” Staico said. “Friends who supported the team with me would come and it just grew from that. Every year more people came aboard. Friends who weren’t Eagles fans were looking for a team.”
As Staico’s friends came, the Chiefs’ fan base in Philadelphia grew.
“There’s maybe 100 of us now,” Staico said. “There’s a picture of all of us, a couple years back, standing outside. We fill the whole street, and there’s maybe 20 or 30 more people inside.”
The bar is filled with Chiefs gifts from friends, fans and family. All of the walls are covered in pictures and red memorabilia. Red mugs hang from nails behind the bar.
At the back bar, where Chiefs games are watched on big screen TVs, autographed helmets and collectables line the walls.
“I’m really familiar with [Big Charlie’s Saloon],” Greg Pinto, a senior at Temple, said. “From 10th Street to 12th Street is all people who have been there forever. That’s my neighborhood. My dad is a Chiefs fan and watches the games in that bar. He grew up with [Stacio]. I’m an Eagles fan, though.”
Those who grew up with Stacio said he is the reason there is a big fan base in South Philly for the Chiefs. Without him, regulars said, the bar would not exist.
The unique story captured the attention of NFL Films in 2004, who produced a film based on the bar, and nabbed an Emmy for the production.
The Emmy sits at Big Charlie’s Saloon behind the front bar.
Players from Kansas City Chiefs have made their way to the bar to check out Philly fans’ love for their team.
The late Derrick Thomas, a former linebacker for the Chiefs, has stopped in, as well as the team’s former general manager Scott Pioli, who sent flowers when Staico’s mother passed away.
“It meant a lot,” Staico said about the gesture.
In a twist of fate, Andy Reid is the new head coach for the Chiefs but “has been welcomed with open arms,” Staico said. “I think [fans] were worried at first because [Reid] seemed burnt out when he was with the Eagles, but I think it’s looking good so far.”
Staico cheers on other Philly sports teams, putting the games on at the front bar for all to watch.
“It’s just, when it comes to football, we’re Chiefs fans here,” Staico said.
Sinead Cummings can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.