How 1 Philly sports fan's passion spans from cats at the Vet to virtual D&D games

Annie Jay and Melannie Jay at a Phillies game.
Annie Jay and Melannie Jay at a Phillies game. Photo credit Annie Jay

PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — Philadelphia Flyers and Pittsburgh Penguins fans rarely see eye-to-eye. And thanks to a loyal and knowledgeable Philadelphia sports fan, that discord played out in an online game of Dungeons and Dragons.

Melannie Jay, 22 of South Philadelphia, is a professional dungeon master for virtual D&D games through a platform called Discord. Earlier this year, she was running a tabletop that featured a Penguins fan who, according to Melannie, was trying hard to keep her admiration for one of the Flyers' most fierce rivals out of the conversation — especially since Melannie loves Philadelphia sports.

But this Pittsburgh fan evidently couldn’t help herself.

“It was right after the [Penguins] got eliminated [from playoff contention] and she had the absolute audacity to cry about how they were not making the playoffs after a 16-year streak of making the playoffs,” Melannie explained. “Like, okay, you can go.”

And Melannie defended her hometown hockey team, despite the fact they’ve been brutally inconsistent for the past decade, including missing the playoffs the past three consecutive seasons – one of the worst stretches in franchise history.

“What makes me really angry is when there’s no reason for the team to be as bad as it is. And that is what has upset me so much about the Flyers recently – that I can point to a dozen different things that [former President of Hockey Operations and General Manager] Chuck Fletcher and the front office did wrong,” Melannie said during an interview with KYW on April 26.

“That’s why we’re bad. And we realistically shouldn’t be this bad. If anyone competent was in charge at any point in the last five years, we would not be this bad at hockey.”

Since that interview, the Flyers officially named Keith Jones the President of Hockey Operations and Danny Briere the General Manager. Melannie is taking what seems like a cautiously optimistic approach with Jones and Briere and says she won’t judge after one season.

After all, the Flyers are her team – just like the rest of the city’s franchises – as she was practically born into Philadelphia sports.

Melannie Jay with Phillie Phanatic
Photo credit Annie Jay

A life and fandom blooming from the Veterans Stadium 

Melannie’s mother, Annie, used to work Phillies games as a Phanstormer – game day employees who interact with fans at the ball games and sing “Happy Birthday" to celebrating fans, as well as helping the Phillie Phanatic launch hot dogs into the stands.

Really cool gig.

Anyway, at the start of the 21st century, Annie was pregnant with Melannie during the 2000 season — the final year of Terry Francona’s forgettable tenure as manager. Taking all potentially  necessary measures, the fellow Phanstormers decided to set up an area so Annie could deliver Melannie at Veterans Stadium in the event she went into labor.

Fortunately, that wasn’t necessary.

“I am marginally disappointed from a fan standpoint it didn’t happen,” said Melannie. “From a public health standpoint – thank God it didn’t.”

Yes, The Vet wasn’t the cleanest place on Earth.

“And if you know about The Vet, you know there was a colony of feral cats there. I apparently have a lot of stories, too young to remember a lot of them, of me ‘chasing the cute kitties.’”

It was actually really good practice. As a teenager, Melannie volunteered at a cat shelter and at that point, she was good at grabbing feral cats. Now, she has a pet cat named Puronica Sawyer, who has her own Bryce Harper jersey.

Puronica Sawyer, Melannie Jay's cat.
Puronica Sawyer, Melannie Jay's cat. Photo credit Melannie Jay

The Vet not only taught Melannie how to love cats, but sports in general. No matter what, when she is in attendance at a sporting event, she stays until the end, “because anything could happen.”

That’s something her mother taught her.

And that personal rule even applies to games she watches on television. For example, her close friend Richard DiNapoli said Melannie watched the entire blowout Sixers loss to the Celtics on Mother’s Day all the way to the end.

“She truly feels and understands what it means to be a fan in this city,” DiNapoli told us in an email. “She takes in both the highs and lows with an incomparable energy, whether leaping for joy at the Phillies going to the World Series last season, or slumping dejectedly into the sofa at the end of that same series.”

“… In short, Melannie loves this city and its relationship with sports. She lives that relationship every day, and she returns each season, undaunted, as the cycles of optimism and disappointment start anew.”

And speaking of starting anew, her love of sports is sparking a long-term career goal.

Melannie’s next endeavor: Turning ‘backseat GM’ into a career

Melannie was a double major in English and neuroscience at the University of Pennsylvania and earned a master's in education. She likes running D&D games, but didn’t have the urge to teach anymore, despite her master's degree.

Then, the Phillies – indirectly — stepped in and aggravated her.

She refers to herself as a “backseat GM” — confident she could run her teams with great success. Prior to this season, she was unhappy when the Phillies and starting pitcher Aaron Nola couldn’t agree on a contract extension. That inspired her to become a sports agent.

Melannie Jay
Photo credit Annie Jay

She recently took the LSAT and, assuming she hits her goal score, plans on applying to law school this upcoming cycle so she can have a long-term career representing players, making sure they get what they deserve and think is realistic.

“The other backseat GM’s on the internet don’t know what they’re talking about,” says Melannie. “And I do.”

With her commitment and love of sports, don’t be surprised if Melannie Jay is one day negotiating big contracts for professional athletes.

It’s impossible to doubt a passionate Philadelphia sports fan like her.

Featured Image Photo Credit: Annie Jay