Whenever you are watching a Philadelphia sporting event, either at the stadium or on television, you will see a man with a deranged mohawk and wild face paint.
Everyone knows this is The Philly Sports Guy. But out of character, it is Jamie Pagliei.
Pagliei is a 50-year-old man from Ridley Township, Delaware County, Pennsylvania and he is one of, if not the, biggest Philadelphia sports fans you may ever see.
Pagliei was born into Philadelphia sports.
“The first team I became a fan of was the Flyers,” Pagliei said, “I taught myself how to read and do math by reading the box scores on a daily bases because I could only watch a little bit of the game until I had to go to bed because I was young then. So I would wake up in the morning and get the sports page, and I would sit down in the den and read all the numbers and everything.”
It took Pagliei, however, some time to begin painting his face.
He began painting his face close to 25 years ago, but he would only do it for Eagles away games. This was due to another fan who painted his face at Veterans Stadium.
He never got recognized for his efforts, though. That all changed in 2019 when the Eagles faced the Saints in New Orleans in the playoffs when John Clark from NBC10 recorded a video of Pagliei and posted it on social media.
“I did an Eagles chant for him,” Pagliei said, “he was like ‘come on, more, more and I started to do more, and I got recognized. Barstool Sports called me ‘the most sophisticated man in Philadelphia’. Then Bleacher Report also reposted it. That video would end up getting tens of millions of views. So people went up to me after that game and told me ‘you went viral.’ And I had no clue what that meant. That was the first time I went viral.”
“Since then I ended up going to a production company, and I wanted to do a commercial for a charity called ‘Mascots for a Cure’. As I was there, they were telling me that my energy was amazing, and you’re like ‘The Philly Sports Guy’, you should see if that name is available. And it was.”
Pagliei owned a chimney sweep and masonry business, but was willing to drop it to become who he is today, ‘The Philly Sports Guy’.
“It was becoming more-and-more taxing on me,” Pagliei said on his business, “I wasn’t able to find good help. I was great at doing the work, I was just not great at running the business, which is what it came down to. And I was like, you know what, I’m willing to give [The Philly Sports Guy] a shot.”
Pagliei was taught everything behind social media, how to run it, how to preserve it, and ultimately got much better at it.
“Everybody saw me at Eagles games, but people were like ‘when are you going to go to a hockey game or a basketball game? And the first game I ever went to outside of the Eagles wound up being the very first basketball game that I went to as a fan on the court. I had worked at the Spectrum back in the day, but I had never been to a Sixers game where I bought a ticket. I got all painted up, took some pictures, they showed me on ESPN, and it was a fun time.”
Pagliei then went on to attend Flyers games, where he said he looked like Nemo, and eventually Phillies games after the coronavirus pandemic.
“The first time I went to a Phillies game, everyone had already seen all of the other guys. But when people started to see me there, it ended up being a really big hit.”
Pagliei has gone to accept that he is “this guy” with or without the face paint.
“I am loud when I go to games, I am passionate when I go to games, when I see something I think is wrong I yell about it. The face paint makes me more tolerable,” Pagliei said.
“I don’t curse, I’m never going to go below the belt, I’ll try to say things out there that are funny. So when I’m trying to joke with these players, I’m just trying to get them off their game for a minute. If I can do that, I’ve done my job. Some guys can do that and feed off of it the opposite way, Giannis [Antetokounmpo] fed off it one day and had a great game, so much so that he sat down on center court with the ball after the game. And I felt like I had something to do with that.”
Pagliei is not doing this for the money, he is doing it because he loves it.
“This is just the way that I watch the games in general. But now, [the facepaint] allows me to have a louder microphone on other things.”
Pagliei has been called a clown for painting his face, and people tell him all he wants is attention.
“I think about it,” Pagliei said, “and I don’t want the attention. I enjoy the fact that I make other people happy. And that [Philly sports fans] can see [me] and say that ‘that’s ours’… I’m always respectful, I’m never going to embarrass myself, my city, or my teams ever, across the board. And when I’m [yelling at my team] I keep it positive. There’s enough negativity all over the place. I don’t need to yell negative things when there are a thousand to a million fans behind me yelling negative. If I’m going to be a little bit of a face, I’m going to make sure that this face shows that [Philly sports fans are] passionate and that we care, but that [the players are] also real human beings and I work just as hard as everybody behind me works, and we care and we’re part of this together as one. And that’s what kind of drives me.”
Pagliei does not just put the face paint on for his teams, he also does it for autism awareness.
Pagliei is a big partner with the Eagles Autism Foundation, and for the last two years, he has painted his face for all 30 days of April for Autism Awareness Month, leading up to the Eagles Autism Challenge in May. On Autism Awareness Day, he paints actual puzzle pieces onto his face, with each piece representing each team.
When you see Pagliei at a game, he is either yelling at the players or taking pictures with fans. Sometimes, he does not even know who he is taking the picture with. He has taken photos with 6ABC’s Jamie Apody a few times and does not even notice until he sees the photo on social media.
Pagliei says on a typical month with all the sports going on without playoffs, he will take about 10,000 pictures a month. However, from October to mid-November during the Phillies’ World Series run and the Eagles, 76ers, and Flyers playing well, he estimated he took about 25,000 pictures.
A typical Eagles game day routine begins five-six hours before game time.
It takes Pagliei a half-an-hour to paint his face, then another half hour to do his hair. After getting in full uniform with the Eagles’ on-field pants, shoulder pads, and jersey, it is time to hit the road after nearly two hours of preparation.
Pagliei sets up a tailgate at the Navy Yard when he first arrives at the stadium complex. He greets people, checks people in, makes small videos, and sometimes purchases a ticket to the actual game about an hour before.
Pagliei purchases tickets to each game he attends. He says people like to think he is a season ticket holder at each stadium and is rich. However, that is not the case.
On his way into Lincoln Financial Field, Pagliei will take 20-100 pictures, depending on how many people see him. When he gets into the stadium, he takes more photos, makes a short video for social media from his seat getting people excited, and then it is game time.
Pagliei is given “allowances” by stadium employees since they are aware that all he is trying to do is get the crowd into the game. Usually, he will get the cheapest ticket available, usually located at the top of the venue, but moves downstairs for a better view, and a better chance at getting in the heads of the opponent.
For example, Pagliei was assisted by the Phillies organization to get standing-room-only tickets to the postseason games, where he walked around, found vacant seats, and fired up the crowd.
“I’m just a fan,” Pagliei said, “that’s all it is. I’m no different than anybody else. I pay for the tickets like [other fans] do. If I get them for free, I work for [the tickets]. [The team] gets something back in return. It’s not like ‘hey I get to go to all these games because I paint my face’. No, I work for them. That’s part of the agreement I like to have with these teams. They’re not just giving me a ticket, they are enhancing the experience of being at the game.”
When Pagliei first started, he never in a million years would have thought it would get to this point. But he is now painting his face and going to games as a full-time job. He invested a lot of money and a lot of time into it but owes to consistency.
“The one thing that was engraved in me when I was taught how to do social media is that the moment you disappear for a minute you’re forgotten. The good thing about sports in Philadelphia is they never stop. There are five days in the whole year where there aren’t sports happening.”
Pagliei, however, is not a robot. He stresses how he needs to separate time for his life and his family.
“It doesn’t matter whether my team wins or loses, it’s more about how that food is getting on the table. It is very difficult, sometimes, to manage.”
Pagliei states that he is now lucky enough to have sponsorships, where he has a little more “financial freedom”.