When Eagles’ quarterback Sam Bradford took a hit to his knee in a preseason game against the Baltimore Ravens, most Philadelphia Eagles fans got angry. Senior accounting and finance major Pratik Patel, however, got to work.
Three weeks ago, Patel took to change.org to start a petition unlike any other. His goal: to persuade Pope Francis, who is visiting Philadelphia next month, to bless Bradford’s knees.
Bradford has sustained two previous ACL injuries. With these complications in mind, Patel, a lifelong Eagles fan, wanted to do whatever possible to ensure his quarterback’s health for the season.
“Nothing is ever too easy for Philadelphia sports fans,” Patel said. “We have the most pessimistic attitude in the world. We need to know for a fact what’s going on with our team.”
Thanks to social media activity and word-of-mouth marketing, more than 6,400 people signed the petition, as of yesterday. It was the subject of more than 1,000 news articles—including The Washington Post and ESPN—and caused the hashtag #BradfordPope to trend nationwide on Twitter. Even Bradford heard the buzz and responded.
“If I got to meet the Pope, I think that would be pretty cool,” he told Philadelphiaeagles.com. “If he wanted to bless my knees, I’m all for it.”
Despite the quarterback’s support, Patel was informed by Eagles officials over the phone Thursday that the team would not endorse the campaign, one of the reasons being religious affiliation.
“They also do not want to single out Sam Bradford’s health and make it seem like they don’t have faith in their quarterback,” Patel said.
Though he said the news felt like “a big punch in the gut,” Patel is still proud of his efforts and the enthusiasm he has stirred up among fellow fans.
“It’s definitely a feel-good story for Philadelphia to ride on before the season starts,” he said. “During the time that I made it, there was not much going on in Philadelphia sports, and I was trying to spice it up a little bit.”
Sophomore biology and therapeutic recreation double major Valerie Colantuono, who co-managed the BradfordPope215 Twitter account, is one of many who can agree that Patel succeeded in this goal.
“I am a huge Philly sports fan, and have been my whole life,” Colantuono said. “Helping Pratik [Patel] out with this has gotten me even more excited about the upcoming season.”
The emergence of Pope Bot, a Vatican-themed robot making its journey around Philadelphia in order to make amends for the vandalism of the famous hitchBOT, has inspired Patel to possibly seek a substitute for his original goal.
Pope Bot was originally created by Philadelphia radio station 93.3 WMMR.
“If we could set something up and get the Pope Bot to bless a Sam Bradford jersey or something, that would be pretty cool,” Patel said. “Maybe not as historic, but we could say that we tried a different alternative to get it done.”
“I think it gave Philadelphians a more positive light,” he added. “We’re always in the news for booing Santa Claus or throwing batteries at players or throwing up on a girl. This is a good way for people to see us and say, ‘Hey, Philadelphians are the most die-hard fans in the world,’ and that we really care about our teams.”
Brianna Nicole Baker can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.