By now, if you watch The Lead or State of the Union, you may have noticed my giant, obnoxious dark green Eagles mug.
Yes, I’m a long-suffering Philly sports fan, though truth be told we haven’t been suffering all that much recently.
My fandom (phan-dom?) first peaked in the early 1980s with the Phillies win in 1980 when I was 11, Eagles NFC Championship (then Super Bowl loss to the Raiders…) in 1981 and Sixers championship in 1983. The devotion my friends and I had to these teams at the time seemed sweet and innocent.
And then because of how apps made it easier to follow sports in the last five or so years, I have been brought back to that mindset: boyish, childlike, my happiness rising or falling depending upon a team’s performance beyond any rational thought. Right in time for these teams to achieve a convergence of excellence.
If you’re not from Philly, maybe you don’t care. Maybe, you don’t like us and find it all off-putting. As Eagles center Jason Kelce put it in 2018 after our glorious Super Bowl victory against the villainous Tom Brady-led Patriots, “No one likes us. We don’t care.”
That’s because historically for so many of us one thing has united all those franchises: pain. I know that if I bothered to follow the MLS, I’m sure I could induce even more of it by supporting the Philadelphia Union. There’s just something about Philadelphia that makes our teams frustratingly, maddeningly prone to delivering disappointment.
Even at the 2018 Super Bowl, I was in a state of more or less constant terror. Right up until the last seconds, when Brady dropped back in the pocket to fling that Hail Mary, I was convinced we were going to lose.
Partly that was because it was the Patriots – because that’s what they do to you – and partly because it was the Eagles, because that’s what we do to ourselves.
When that ball bounced limply into the end zone, I can honestly say that only the joy I experienced at my wedding and the birth of my two children came close.
We’re an odd lot, Philly sports fans. We know that. We experience it all together. We say goodbye by saying “Go birds” these days. It’s like the Hebrew word “Shalom,” which means hello and also goodbye and also peace. It has many meanings but all of them are positive. “What’s up, Jake? Go birds.” I get it, man.
After the Super Bowl LII win, we sank back into a state of dissatisfying sadness. We lost both our quarterbacks. Both of them! The whole team broke up very quickly.
It was weird to watch them so soon after that euphoria and see how many players I’d grown to love were no longer there. Personally, I would have stuck with Nick Foles, but of course, I didn’t know Jalen Hurts was waiting around the corner. The fact that our incredible new quarterback’s name is Hurts really says it all.
Philadelphia fans have a bad reputation, that’s not in dispute. It is a tough town that produces tough people: people who boo and throw snowballs at Santa, or scale traffic light poles or run drunkenly into pillars on subway platforms when we win.
It’s a bit stupid; I’ve been to various major league sports events in Boston, New York, Chicago and elsewhere, and I promise we don’t have a monopoly on drunk, rude idiots. But I also don’t mind if opposing teams and their fans find the Linc or Citizens Bank Park or the Wells Fargo Center intimidating places to enter; for my money, that’s a good thing, especially if it helps us win.
Yes, the origins of the ‘No one likes us’ song come from the English soccer club, Millwall – no need to quote the sports version of Neil Kinnock and not footnote – but some argue their fans are way more horrible than Eagles fans.
There’s still a sense of fun about our horribleness, and still a sense of pain that unites us, even if this is our second Super Bowl in five years.
On Thursday, someone forwarded me a press release that an adult entertainment company sent out saying it was sending 1,500 gallons of cheese-flavored lube to grease the city’s light poles to stop our fans from climbing them. I’m not sure what to think of that, but at least people are thinking about the Eagles. Perhaps, our presidential politics may have turned out differently if the adult entertainment industry had been thinking as prophylactically on other matters.
So what about Sunday? I’m a professional skeptic and like many of my brothers and sisters in Phandom, I’m very superstitious. So I don’t even want to talk about this Sunday. I don’t want to jinx it.
In fact, if the Gods of Fate are reading this, let me acknowledge that I know I deserve nothing and am expecting only pain. That’s Philadelphia sports, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.