My Platonic Love for the Philadelphia Eagles

We don’t cover sports much around these here parts, for obvious reasons, but we were so moved by our friend Michael’s heartfelt post-game wrap up, that we just had to share it. This is love

Thank you all so much for watching the game at our house. And thank you for your emails of support and congratulations. I am so happy you were able to share the happiness and excitement last night. What fun! Though next year: you have to eat more food. Seriously. I threw out 5 large pieces of KFC this morning!

Philly sports have always been a constant in the lives of many of my friends and relatives, and especially my dad and two brothers. They’ve bonded us and helped us through the ups and downs of life.

The emotional roller coaster of this Eagles season fit right in with the long legacy of Philadelphia sports teams, who through the years have established a well-tread pattern of turning doubters into believers…just  before reversing course, delivering crushing disappointments to the newly inspired.

A lot of national media like to focus on the boorish behavior of some Philly sports fans. But this is misunderstood. That behavior is an outlier. The real story is the passion Philadelphians have for sports relative to other parts of the country.

When I lived in LA, I’d watch Eagles games while eating breakfast at a bar, then go to the beach in December when it was 80 and sunny. Philadelphia doesn’t have that – life is short, dark and miserable (not a metaphor but a relative statistical fact). Despite having Ben Franklin and our history, Philadelphians today live in the cultural shadow of Boston, NY and DC. As a result many people’s pride stems from their sports teams and many relationships are based on that mutual love. When I was a kid, I’d sit on my dad’s lap at games, surrounded by elderly pipe smoking South Philadelphians, and longshoremen who spent much of their discretionary income for the opportunity to sit out and freeze alongside their union buddies, while drinking watered down beer, and cheering the Eagles (and booing the Cowboys, of course!).

This year, the Eagles were not even expected to make the playoffs, with Vegas projecting the team to win just 7 games. But under the leadership of new QB Carson Wentz, they built camaraderie and  chemistry. Unlike most NFL locker rooms, filled with prima donnas, these guys genuinely liked each other and had good character. Defying the early odds, the Eagles won 11 of their first 13 games of the season, and became a favorite to go to the Super Bowl. But in December, they tragically lost Wentz, who at that point was the favorite to be the league’s MVP, when he tore his ACL on a heroic dive for a first down. (Amazingly, after the injury, Wentz actually stayed in the game, and threw a touchdown 2 plays after the play that had broken his leg).  Though momentarily inspiring, for weary Eagles fans, this injury was just the latest reminder that Philadelphia can’t have nice things, and that optimism is futile.

The final 3 games of the season did little to inspire confidence in the outlook under Nick Foles, Wentz’s backup QB. Due to Foles’ weak play, the Eagles limped backwards into the playoffs, becoming the first team ever to earn the best regular season record to then become a Vegas underdog in each of its playoff games. But the Eagles’ players used national doubts as motivational fuel, embracing the underdog role by wearing Halloween greyhound dog masks in media interviews, which, of course, were then sold out within minutes on Amazon due to fan demand.

In the first game of the playoffs, the underdog Eagles beat the Atlanta Falcons at home on January 13th, winning on the final play of one of the coldest football games in Philadelphia history. A week later, the Eagles faced the favored Minnesota Vikings, and overcame fans’ sense of classic Philly dread when the Vikings jumped out to an immediate lead, coming back and beating the Vikings by five touchdowns.  Despite this playoff success, and the surprising play of Foles, who delivered two of the statistically best QB performances in NFL playoff history in these two games, the Eagles entered the Super Bowl against Tom Brady and the New England Patriots as heavy underdogs.

When it was all over, Destiny prevailed over Dynasty, and the rest is history. The Eagles defeated the Empire, and Foles was named Super Bowl MVP. If you need evidence of whether this was deserved comeuppance, this morning it was reported that Giselle (Brady’s wife) helped her children reconcile their father’s loss, telling them that “you have to let someone else win sometimes.”

After the last play, I got to scream into the phone at my relatives and oldest friends, while waking up the kids. I received over 50 text messages in the 30 minutes after the game, some from old friends who I’ve not spent more than a couple hours with in person in 20 years. Though tempted to head for our small town’s traffic light to start a local riot, I restrained myself.  I slept terribly, woke up exhausted and happy, and listened to WIP sports talk radio before work, like I often did before school. Three of the three callers I listened to were crying.  It was glorious. Thank you for being a part of it.

Go Birds!


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