For as long as I can remember, I’ve been an Eagles fan. It wasn’t by choice though, it was by birth. See, my father grew up in Philadelphia and passed on the same traditions that his father had instilled in him.
It might have been a gradual process, but while most children my age were learning to walk, I was becoming engrossed with the four major teams of Philadelphia – and learning to hate New York teams. But it hasn’t always been easy and at times the bad has far outweighed the good, though it might be the reason I’m as dedicated as I am, even today at nearly 26 years of age.
Especially when it comes to my beloved Eagles.
Philadelphia is a football town – if anyone ever tells you otherwise, they’re wrong. The Phillies certainly have stolen the spotlight in recent years but the city will never be as amped for the ‘Fightins’ as it is for its so-called ‘Iggles’ on Sunday afternoon. The last championship for the Eagles came in 1960 – before there was a Super Bowl. If I had a dollar for every time an opposing fan asked me how many Super Bowls the Eagles have, I’d be in Forbes magazine – but I always respond the same way.
“Apparently nothing in the NFL mattered before Lamar Hunt created the Super Bowl.”
Believe me, I know that’s pathetic but those were the team’s glory days and fans simply don’t know what I’ve had to put up with, starting in my younger days, when free agency meant nothing and the kelly green meant everything. It was long after the “legend” of fans pelting Santa Claus with snowballs – an event people still bring up, but had you seen that haggard imposter you would have too!
It was an era when the Eagles were coached by Buddy Ryan and led by players like Randall Cunningham, Reggie White and Eric Allen. But underachieving, injuries and the death of Jerome Brown hindered the team, while rival cities like Washington and New York were enjoying parades. Then came the biggest blow in franchise history.
The date was April 6, 1993. It was on this date that perhaps the greatest defensive lineman in the history of the NFL – Reggie White – left the Eagles to sign with the Green Bay Packers. At just six-years-old, I was not only confused but also shocked and annoyed, because that’s how my father reacted. Years later I came to understand why that was the case.
The Eagles snubbed White and didn’t offer him a contract, so White took it upon himself to find a new home, despite wanting ever-so-desperately to continue his career in Philadelphia. The team wouldn’t fully recover from that day, at least not until the new millennium.
The team entered a dark period, one filled with such “legendary superstars” as quarterback Bobby Hoying, Mike Mamula and Charlie Garner. To put it nicely, the team blew. Year after year, the Eagles were an embarrassment, stockpiling more proof on how many saw the team as the laughing stock of the division. Then things began to turn around thanks to a new coach named Andy Reid and a second overall draft pick by the name of Donovan McNabb. The Eagles were getting good and becoming a powerhouse in the NFC and before long – in 2001 – were in the NFC Championship game against the St. Louis Rams, though it wasn’t meant to be.
“That’s okay, there’s always next year and this team is only going to get better,” I told myself.
Well next year came and ended with the same result – a loss in the NFC Championship game, this time to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. That was a heartbreaker. It was a game the Eagles shouldn’t have lost and made for one long offseason. But come on, we all know the third time’s a charm, right – right?
Nope. The 2003 playoffs warranted the same ending as the last two seasons, only this time it was at the hands of the Carolina Panthers. It was my belief at that point that either the Eagles were attempting to do their best Buffalo Bills impersonation, or the team was simply trying to see if it could lose to every NFC team en route to a Super Bowl appearance.
But not next year, because the Eagles finally made it past the NFC title game and appeared in their second Super Bowl in franchise history – the first having been in 1980. The city turned green and like many others, I was grabbing every piece of memorabilia for the event I could find – I mean this was a new experience for me. However, just like in 1980, the game ended in a loss for Philadelphia and the term choke was saddled to the team. Fans were blaming everyone and everything they could possibly think of, though it’s probably the image of McNabb puking on the field towards the end of the game that is best remembered around these parts. It still haunts me to this very day.
Every year since I’ve had the same 'maybe-next-year' mentality, but I feel like I’ve been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s – since I seem to forget how the story will end – as December rolls around.
I’m not even going to get started about Michael Vick and his issues both on and off the field.
Through all these events, my love for the Iggles has only grown – while my blood has become a darker shade of green. I’ve grown up with the Eagles, I’ll get old with the Eagles and I’m completely prepared for many more years of mediocrity. But would one Super Bowl be too much to ask for? – if for no other reason than to shut up fans of the Giants and Dallas Cowboys.
Photo Credit: WD/Icon SMI