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Celebrity Corner: Kunal Nayyar

Posted Dec 9, 2013

Celebrity Corner appears during the 2013 season, featuring Eagles fans who have gained fame in their careers of sports, entertainment and popular culture. This week: Kunal Nayyar, who plays Raj Koothrappali on The Big Bang Theory. Follow Kunal on Twitter @kunalnayyar.

I grew up in India, in New Dehli, and we didn’t have American football. In 1999 I came to America to attend college in Portland, Ore., not exactly a football town, and then I went to Temple University in 2003 for Graduate School.

At the time, I was introduced to Madden Football and became obsessed. I didn’t have much exposure to the game, so I learned from playing Madden on, I think at the time, PlayStation. And being in Philadelphia in 2003, of course, the Eagles were an outstanding football team that went to the NFC Championship Game in the time of Donovan McNabb, Brian Dawkins and Brian Westbrook. Andy Reid was killing it. I became a bandwagon fan, in a sense, because I was here and I had no NFL team to call my own, so I became an Eagles fan.

I became a fanatic very quickly, largely through video games, which was weird. Then I started playing fantasy football and I became obsessed with the sport. I was an Eagles fan, am still a fanatical Eagles fan and the Eagles are very close to my heart.

Football was very easy for me to pick up and understand and to fall in love with. I was playing the video game 24 hours every day. As strange as it sounds, I learned the rules and the game of football through that. I grew up following and playing cricket, which some people find impossibly hard to understand. I have always been a huge sports fan and I devoted myself to learning the game of NFL football. I didn’t find it hard to understand at all, although when I try to explain the rules and subtleties of the game to my wife, who is also from India, the game sounds complicated.

As a grad student in Philly, I didn’t have time or money to attend games. There was a bar in Philadelphia, a burger place opposite my apartment, that I would go to because A) I was in love with the waitress and she served me burgers and beer and B) It became ceremonial for me to go to that bar, and sit in a seat they reserved for me, and watch every Eagles game.

I never saw a game live until my agent, who is a very close friend of the Lurie family, invited me to a game and I sat in the Lurie box. I am spoiled, I suppose, and I have become friends with them as well. I am very blessed and very lucky, to know them as friends and to enjoy their hospitality during Eagles games.

I have enjoyed every bit of the experience and I’ve had the pleasure of standing on the field, which nearly moved me to tears. This is the site of so much triumph and heartbreak and then here I am on the field with these titans and it is incredible. Looking at their sheer size and speed up close is just awesome. I was just overwhelmed by the experience.

This Chip Kelly team is very impressive. Nick Foles has come in and run the team and has played the quarterback position very well. Nick makes good decisions under pressure, and our defense has really stepped up. The defense last year was kind of a mess, and then the new regime changed to a 3-4 defense and there were a lot of questions. It’s amazing what the coaching staff has done, and what I think everyone needs to understand is that this is Chip Kelly’s first season. It’s been so much fun.

I watch every game. I have had DirecTV and I sit there and watch and I yell at the TV and think that I know more than the coaches and the players. I’m completely fanatical about the team and every play of every game. I rewind plays and I jump up and down and become lost in each game. I love it.

Sometimes I will hear from people, “You’re just a bandwagon fan” and I’m like, “What I am supposed to do? I didn’t have any football when I was a kid!” It’s kind of funny. Had I grown up in this country, I would have been a fan from the very start.

To me, if you bleed Green, you bleed Green. It doesn’t really matter where you grew up and what your background is.

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