Since I was young enough to sidle up next to my father under my own free will and watch Philadelphia sports, he warned me about the losing and disappointment that came with being a fan.
“Get used to it.”
During trips to Veterans Stadium for Phillies games when the woeful late eighties teams couldn’t even muster a run.
When Dad called to cancel Prism as the Flyers were about to get eliminated from the playoffs again.
But Dad really hammered home the message about the Eagles. Maybe because we loved them a little bit more and thus, the losses had an extra sting.
My first real memory of the Eagles was the 1988 season. The Birds finished atop the division and made the postseason for the first time since 1981. The Buddy-Ryan led squad lost in the infamous Fog Bowl.
“It’s like the fog lifts every time the Bears are on offense,” Dad said incredulously.
The Eagles went to the playoffs five of the next eight seasons but never advanced past the Divisional Round. Now a teenager, I was starting to get used to always waiting until next year.
When the team hired Andy Reid, it was a hope that anything would be better than Ray Rhodes. It also raised my expectations, especially the NFC Championship loss in 2001. The Eagles had a franchise quarterback in Donovan McNabb and in only his third season since taking over the Rhodes-trainwreck, Reid had brought the Eagles to the brink of a Super Bowl birth.
“We’ll be back. Next time, they win that game,” I said.
Dad, older and wiser, knew not to take it for granted. It hurt him more to watch the Eagles lose to the (eventual champ) Rams. At that point, it was only the second NFC Championship game in his life he had ever seen the Eagles play. It doesn’t happen every day….but…you get used to it.
We get used to – not without complaining – the mediocre teams. But with this era of Eagles, we soon discovered something much more painful.
Crushing playoff defeat.
Ronde Barber’s interception in 2002.
Ricky Manning’s three interceptions in 2003.
Rodney Harrison’s interception, Andy Reid’s clock management, and McNabb puking in 2004.
Scott Young’s drive killing false start in 2006. Jeff Garcia could have been St. Nick that year!
Larry Fitzgerald’s dominance in 2008.
“Get used to it.”
Misery loves company. Eventually, I didn’t just watch games with Dad. My brother, Harry, joined us. Mom played the role of the sports widow and watched the first quarter then went to the mall. In 2000, I met someone who matched my passion for the Eagles (and all Philadelphia sports), my husband, Tom. He had recently purchased season tickets, not because he was flush with cash, but because the ticket agent talked him and his friend into it since they were going to almost every home game. A few of Tom and I’s first dates were at the 700 Level of the Vet, and our “unofficial” housewarming party was in 2004 when the Eagles lost to the Patriots in the Super Bowl.
Some fans will never know the near-nightmare of the Eagles nearly leaving the city in the early eighties. Or believe that less than twenty years ago the team had to have a sales pitch for season tickets. Or suffered a thousand deaths by the hand of the team they love. Others have gone through all that, and a Franklin Field boatload more.
On Super Bowl Sunday, I watched the game with Dad, Tom, and my mother. The mall closed at six so she didn’t have any better options. My brother is out of the country on business, but we kept in touch after each quarter via FaceTime.
Every season I watched the Eagles it’s ended in disappointment. Despite everything that happened this year and the way this team made me want to believe, I was waiting for it all to end horrifically.
Dad was optimistic all season. “It’s going to be all right,” he kept saying. Tom, and so many others I know, recalled recently deceased loved ones who weren’t here but were surely watching from the ultimate skybox. “It’s fate. And the NFL MVP has ever won the Super Bowl,” he reasoned.
I didn’t believe until the clock hit all zeroes.
The feeling that followed was worth the thousand deaths. The Rich Kotites, Shawn Andrews, Bubby Bristers, the Sundays watching, the Mondays wallowing and marrying a guy just because he had season tickets (joking).
The days following the Super Bowl were like nothing I have ever experienced. I’ve never seen more grown men cry, more euphoria, or outpouring of pride. Personally, I’ve come down with a case of the cry/laughs. The first time…okay…half dozen times I watched Doug Pederson’s post-game speech I cried, but it was immediately followed by giddy laughter when I realized the Eagles really won.
“An individual can make a difference,’” Pederson said, “but a team makes a miracle.’”
People will point to the “Philly Special,” Brandon Graham’s strip of Tom Brady, or Zach Ertz’s touchdown as the reason the Eagles won the Super Bowl. I’m not only a die-hard fan of the team, but I’m a fan who pores over draft guides and other nuances. It can be easy to pick any of those unforgettable plays, but for me, I was waiting for this team, like all the other who preceded them, to disappoint me. When it didn’t happen, I couldn’t attribute it to just a gutsy call or timely play.
It took a miracle.
Which is why when Pederson said at victory parade to “get used to it” I believed him.