PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — It’s Feb. 4, 2018, and Philadelphia sports superfans Amin Khalifa and Joe “Dude” Campbell are in a dilemma. The longtime friends are at the biggest Philly sporting event of their lives, but Khalifa isn’t allowed to do something he’s been doing for more than 15 years: bring his original signs into the game.
Signs were not permitted at Super Bowl LII in Minneapolis’ U.S. Bank Stadium. So, the pair did what any other fan would do: “stripping down in the parking garage, wrapping the banners around our midsections so that we can put our clothes over it, and hopefully get through the security,” Campbell said.
Campbell and Khalifa decided to go through separate gates, fearing if they went through the same one and someone got caught, both would be in trouble. Their plan worked, “and the rest was history,” Campbell said.
When all was said and done — a 41-33 Eagles win — Khalifa, wearing a Reggie White No. 92 jersey with a kelly green hat, held up a crinkled sign that read, “YO ADRIAN, WE FINALLY DID IT.”
The Eagles had finally won the Super Bowl, and Khalifa was able to mark the moment with one of the hundreds of signs he has made over nearly 20 years.
Khalifa, 59, was born in Lebanon and fled the civil war with his family in 1975. He went to high school on four different continents — freshman year in Greece, sophomore in Lebanon, junior in Liberia, and senior at Bishop Eustace Preparatory School in South Jersey.
His family made their way to the Delaware Valley in ’79, right before one of the most successful years in Philly sports: The Eagles, Sixers, Flyers and Phillies each made it to their respective championship rounds, and the Phils went on to win the 1980 World Series.
“For someone like me, an outsider coming in and getting exposed to the pinnacle, so to speak, to the height of all four teams doing great, where else could you go?” Khalifa said.
Since then, the city has only celebrated three championship victories, but that hasn’t stopped Khalifa’s devoted fandom.
“When we’re so rooted in this area and you feel like, depending on the season, you either have green blood, red blood, blue blood, orange blood — you’re so tied into this,” he said.
Khalifa is a longtime four-sport season ticketholder. His wife, Teresa, and his three children — Rosemary, 30, Samir, 29, and Jake, 23 — are diehard Philly fans, too.
The Khalifa method
Khalifa has been bringing signs to games since 2004. He’s far from the first to do so. Dave Leonardi’s signs have been at Flyers games for generations. “Signman John” is famous for his long signs propped up during Eagles games at former Veterans Stadium.
But Khalifa’s signs are just as recognizable, if not solely for their locations. His season seats are near the Eagles tunnel, behind the Sixers bench area and along the first baseline at Citizens Bank Park. He brings multiple signs to every game, though not all are always used. It depends on the moment, he said.
He started making signs initially for his seven car wash businesses, Auto Shine Car Wash, in New Jersey.
“I’m like, wait a second,” Khalifa said. “You mean for a guy like me who can’t even draw a straight line, I can sit in front of a computer and be a creative artist?”
He trained himself to make signs with corrugated plastic and then turned an additional room at his Mount Ephraim store into a sign shop.
The signs represent Khalifa’s outgoing personality. His tailgates, for instance, with his big-step van-type truck, have been feeding frenzies for local news stations to televise before big Eagles games or Opening Day for the Phillies.
“A lot of my customers come in and say, ‘Hey, you’re the guy on TV!’ ” he said. “Or I’ll be on the street and someone says, ‘Hey Signman!’ ”
Khalifa always tries to exude positivity in his signs. Even after an Eagles playoff loss, for example, he held up a sign that read, “28 Days for Pitchers and Catchers,” highlighting the next moment to look forward to.
“The way my brain works is I always look forward to, ‘All right, this bad thing did happen to me. Where do I go from here? How do I make it better?’ ”
Philly sports in his blood
Khalifa and longtime friend Campbell have a bond that started way before Super Bowl LII. That was actually their 15th Super Bowl in a row together. Their record is 19 straight, to date. Even if the Eagles aren’t in it, they are.
Campbell said sports are Khalifa’s escape.
“He works a lot,” he explained, but always makes time for his teams. “He’s told his wife and his family, ‘If you want me at a party, don’t schedule it on an Eagles home game.’ ”
“Whether it’s for business or whether it’s for pleasure,” Khalifa added, “we visited many parts of the country … and the question always comes up: ‘Man, this is a nice area to move to.’ And the first thing I think of is family, and the second thing I think of is sports teams. I said, ‘You mean I’m gonna live somewhere where I can’t go to an Eagles game! Are you kidding me?’ That’s never gonna happen.”