Phil Basser lived most of his first 99 years away from the spotlight, just as he preferred. Then his grandson went on Twitter.
Josh Potter noticed @SNFonNBC had tweeted a screenshot of an apparent 100-year-old Vikings fan, Millie, in the crowd. Potter, an Eagles fan preparing for the 2018 NFC championship game between Minnesota and Philadelphia, replied to the post with a photo of his grandfather and hit “Tweet.”
“My 99 yr old grandpa Phil (turning 100 in March) has lived in Philadelphia since 1918 and has never seen an Eagles Super Bowl. Looks like we got a battle of the centenarians!” Potter wrote.
The tweet went live at 9:18 p.m. ET on Jan. 14. The image of Basser, with his No. 11 Eagles jersey and his right index finger pointing skyward, went viral. Local and national media were hungry to know more about Basser, the man who was older than the Eagles organization itself.
"It only took 99 years for Phil Basser to become an overnight sensation."
Grandpa Phil's story: https://t.co/r7kXhC7R7t pic.twitter.com/2HuwU4KylC
— Philadelphia Eagles (@Eagles) January 20, 2018
Basser, who is Jewish, got to see history. The Eagles defeated the New England Patriots, 41-33, on Feb. 4, capturing the franchise’s first Super Bowl. Basser turned 100 on March 6, and he’s more excited than ever for the upcoming football season.
“The way I look at it, the cream of the league in the past has been the New England Patriots, but I believe their reign is over and the Philadelphia Eagles are the new champs,” Basser wrote in an email.
The Patriots, of course, have dominated the sport for the better part of the 21st century. They’ve played in eight Super Bowls since 2001, winning five, including Super Bowl XXXIX when they beat the Eagles, 24-21.
Philly got sweet revenge this past season, though.
The hometown heroes were seemingly dealt a blow when starting quarterback Carson Wentz, an MVP candidate, tore the ACL in his left knee Week 14 and was forced to sit out the rest of the campaign. Enter Nick Foles.
The backup filled in admirably, guiding the Eagles through the postseason and throwing for 373 yards and three touchdowns in Super Bowl LII. He even caught a touchdown pass during the big game.
Basser, for what it’s worth, remains confident in both signal callers.
“I always wear my Wentz jersey for every game. I would start Carson Wentz because he is a scrambler but if he gets in trouble, I would put in the tried and winning Nick Foles,” he wrote.
The Eagles kept much of their core intact, but will be with some unfamiliar faces in 2018-’19, including Michael Bennett, Haloti Ngata and Mike Wallace. Basser isn’t sure how the new pieces will fit, but he’s eager to find out. The season kicks off Sept. 6 when the Eagles host the Atlanta Falcons on NBC’s Thursday Night Football.
Basser’s family has left its mark on the Philadelphia community in other ways. His daughter, Mindy Gray, and her husband, Jon Gray, donated more than $55 million, according to a family member, to establish the Basser Center for BRCA at Penn Medicine’s Abramson Cancer Center in 2012. It was named in honor of Basser’s late daughter, Faith, who died of ovarian cancer in 2002.
And he maintains a strong connection to his religion.
“My Jewish faith is very important to me. It carried me through WWII and the Korean War. It is my fervent New Year’s wish for 5778 that the Eagles repeat as champions,” he wrote.
Indeed, Basser is hopeful and confident for the upcoming season. In the spirit of the return of football, he penned a ditty.
Hail all hail
Thanks again for bringing home to Philly
the Super Holy Grail.
We’re still salivating it, savoring it and cradled it
in your cozy nest.
Waiting for Rocky B to rouse you for
a repeat victory in SB LIII”
Philly Phil — now 100+ proof.”