Fans Are Flying High (Again)
by Brendon McCullin
are plenty of cities that have fervent sports fans. There
are more than a few that understand the pain of continually
backing losing teams. There is, however, only one Philadelphia.
The psychosis and pathos of its sports fans are the stuff
of psychologists’ wet dreams.
fans not only believe that everything is against them
– and carry around a lot of anger about it –
but they also feel that even if they win there’s
going to be something wrong with it. It’s a syndrome
more pronounced there than anywhere else. After all, as
a city Philadelphia has desperately tried to stay relevant
while long harboring the sneaking suspicion that the rest
of the country views it only as a historical monument,
when they bother to think of it at all.
is the case in a lot of cities with professional sports,
football is the king in Philly. People all across the
Delaware Valley live and die, almost literally, with their
beloved Eagles. Happily, the Eagles are good at the moment.
Very good, one of the best teams in football as a matter
of fact. In what will someday be considered a golden age
for the hometown team then, why are so many Eagles fans
seemingly on the verge of a nervous breakdown?
the biggest issue is that the team has been good for a
few years now, which is an impressive feat in the parity
obsessed NFL. Unfortunately, they haven’t been good
enough to win a Super Bowl or even to play in the over-hyped
game. The thought that the team’s best opportunity
for winning a championship might slip away causes more
stomach churning than an entire tanker of Pepto Bismal
could take care of.
this particular group of Eagles, led by their stoic coach
Andy Reid and their wisecracking quarterback Donovan McNabb,
fans could be excused if they sometimes wish for the old
pleasant familiarity of mediocrity. The current Eagles
have developed a habit of whipping the city into a Super
Bowl frenzy only to rip out their collective heart and
beat it to a pulp with a sledgehammer.
team has been to the last three NFC Championship Games
– one stinkin’ step from the Super Bowl –
and has lost each time. The first year, they were the
young upstarts that almost pulled off an upset over the
powerful St. Louis Rams and that wasn’t so bad.
The second year they were favored against the Tampa Bay
Buccaneers but could barely make a game of it. The fact
that the Bucs went on to win the Super Bowl was no consolation
– if anything it was worse, since their golden boy
head coach, Jon Gruden, got his start as the Eagles offensive
piece de resistance, though, was earlier this year when
the team lost in the Championship game again. Not only
were they favored but their opponents, the Carolina Panthers,
weren’t even expected to make the playoffs at the
start of the season. The Eagles became the first team
ever to lose consecutive Championship games with home
field advantage. And they didn’t put up much of
a fight in doing it either. Any Eagles fan that wasn’t
already drinking suddenly needed a few shots to help dull
then before this season began something amazing happened.
The formerly conservative and budget conscious Eagles
front office signed All-Pro defensive end Jevon Kearse
and traded for All-Pro wide receiver Terrell Owens. Most
Eagles fans needed three different media confirmations
and one good pinch to be sure that it was all true.
the Eagles didn’t just have good new players; they
had new star players. Kearse is nicknamed “The Freak”
for his combination of strength and speed. Owens is one
of the best receivers in the game and possibly the most
controversial player in the entire league. Reporters swarm
around him just waiting for the next outlandish claim
or insult to spill out of his mouth. Philadelphia has
always been a little uncomfortable with controversial
superstars like Allen Iverson and Charles Barkley, but
just the possibility of a Super Bowl trip has bought Owens
a free pass with the ultra-tough fans and local media.
the Eagles are winning at a pace unseen by the franchise
before. Accolades have poured in from all over the country.
The team is getting more attention than it has at any
point in its history. And all of it has Eagles fans more
jittery than a 10-year-old on a sugar high. The pain from
past failures is just too fresh. After all, even mice
eventually learn to stay away from the cheese that comes
with an electric shock.
fact, when the Eagles lost their first game of the season,
being beaten handily by the Pittsburgh Steelers, it was
oddly comforting. It proved that there are still plenty
of things to worry and obsess about. There are once again
reasons to call up sports talk show hosts and rail about
this statistic or that player. Having a team play poorly
is more in a Philly fans comfort zone.
yet, there’s still that nagging thought that maybe
this time the Eagles really are as good as people think
they are. Maybe they can do what only John Madden’s
old Raiders team has done and come back from three straight
Championship game losses and make the Super Bowl. Maybe
the ball will bounce in their favor.
like that can happen, especially if the Boston Red Sox
can win the World Series. The Red Sox made hope a reality
and that makes anything seem possible…even in Philadelphia.
Maybe, just maybe, this is finally the Eagles year.
course, on the chance that the Eagles don’t win
it all, it wouldn’t be a bad idea for some enterprising
young person to begin selling space on the Walt Whitman
Bridge – it will cut down on the lines when everyone
comes to jump off.
McCullin is a volunteer staff writer for 2 Walls Webzine)