Father ‘Helmet Head’ Matveenko, diehard Eagles fan

Photo by Alan M. Dumoff

helmethead-webFather Michael Matveenko, a.k.a. “Helmet Head,” stands with a framed copy of the Eagles’ ticket that has his photo on it, along with the other 2010 preseason and regular season tickets. Father Matveenko, along with nine other diehard Eagles fans, was selected to appear on the team’s tickets throughout the season because of their dedication to and support of the football team.

If you are ever at a Philadelphia Eagles game and find yourself in need of spiritual counsel, just ask for “Helmet Head.”

That’s Father Michael Matveenko, pastor of Assumption Parish in Galloway Township, who normally wears a priest collar but on occasion will don an Eagles-style motorcycle helmet. Sitting in Section 207 for every Eagles home game at Lincoln Financial Field, he leads the faithful football fans in E-A-G-L-E-S chants.

And now, his face is on a game ticket.

For the Nov. 21 game pitting the Eagles and New York Giants against each other, control of the NFC East division at stake, the Eagles printed all of their tickets with Father Matveenko’s face on them.

Last summer, the football organization held a contest to determine who were the team’s 10 most diehard fans; their faces and stories would be put on each of the team’s 10 home games this season, two in the preseason, and eight in the regular season.

Nominated by a friend, Father Matveenko was “ecstatic” after hearing the news that he was selected to appear on tickets. Growing up in Camden, he was always an Eagles fan, as his mother has South Philly roots.

A season ticket holder since 1992, his congregation during games is Section 207, where his game ritual includes leading fans in an E-A-G-L-E-S chant, pumping up the home crowd.

He got the nickname “Helmet Head” when one of his friends, during pre-game tailgating, brought a Harley-Davidson motorcycle that he had painted like an Eagles helmet. Putting on the motorcycle helmet during the game, Father Matveenko was inundated with calls for “Helmet Head” to lead the cheers.

Thus, a tradition was born.

Before the 8 p.m. game on Nov. 21, the clergyman watched the pregame warm-ups on the sidelines and, with the Eagles cheerleaders, led the packed stadium into an E-A-G-L-E-S chant.

Afterward, the club gave him a framed copy of that game’s ticket with his photo. He also signed fans’ tickets and posed for pictures.

As far as his football memories go, Father Matveenko calls Nov. 21 “one of the greatest experiences of my life,” close to the time he went to Super Bowl XXXIX in Jacksonville, Fla., to see the Eagles play the New England Patriots.

After the Eagles defeated the Giants 27-17 on his special day to gain sole possession of the NFC East Division (they have since tied back up with the Giants after last week’s games), the pastor still holds Super aspirations for the club, predicting that the team will win their division, and “get deep into the playoffs.”

“If things break right, they should do well,” he said.

He is also glad to see the recent success of Eagles quarterback Michael Vick who, after being released from jail in 2009, after serving time for his role in an illegal dogfighting ring, has played well for the Eagles, who currently have a 7-4 record.

“I’m really excited for what Vick has accomplished,” he said. “It’s a great story of redemption.”

Notwithstanding the accolades, Father Matveenko’s finest privilege as a season ticket holder, is the community he interacts with, either at tailgates or in the stands.

The relationships he’s formed with Eagles fans from far and wide have led to “a great opportunity for evangelization.” He has answered questions fans have had about the Catholic faith, and he has even been asked to preside at weddings and baptize Eagles fans’ children.

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