Living in Texas as a Philadelphia Eagles fan means that I am subject to abuse. The abuse ranges from good-natured and friendly ribbing to hostile jabs meant to inflict emotional pain. I always tell the latter crowd that as it pertains to the Eagles, I am impervious to agony, as I have already suffered at their hands enough. So close, so many times and yet nothing. This season seemed different. The team had their franchise quarterback, a dynamic coaching staff, and a roster unity that was unparalleled in past seasons. The fall of Carson Wentz is nothing new to a lifelong Eagles fan. It is just another chapter in the misery we all endure.
The Agony of Being a Philadelphia Eagles Fan
The Heyday of Eagles Football
I wasn’t alive then. My father wasn’t even alive then, but from 1947 to 1949 the Eagles were kings of the football world. Three straight NFL titles. Of course, this accomplishment is dimmed by the fact that at the time there were only ten NFL teams spread across eight cities. However, that does not take away the three-peat run.
After that magical run, the Eagles reverted back to mediocrity until the improbable 1960 season. There is a famous picture of Chuck Bednarik standing over an unconscious Frank Gifford from this season that most football fans have seen. Also, I know that this fact usually resides within the hearts of every Eagles fan, but Philadelphia was the only team to beat Vince Lombardi‘s Green Bay Packers in the playoffs. The franchise’s last championship came in 1960 against Lombardi. It sounds so incredible when you think about all the world has accomplished since that moment in time and yet the Eagles stand idle.
Dick Vermeil, the Savior
Between 1960 and 1978 the Eagles, well, sucked again as they recorded only one winning season. The arrival of Dick Vermeil sparked excitement and joy throughout the city. He didn’t disappoint. If you remember, Vermeil was the guy that actually held an open tryout to the public to spark his player’s interest and fire. By his third season as the Eagles head coach, he had them back in the playoffs. From 1978 to 1980 the Eagles were a dominant football team. That dominance culminated in their first trip to the Super Bowl. Yet, in true Philadelphia Eagles fashion, they lost in spectacularly emotionally crippling fashion. An offensive pass interference call against Harold Carmichael wiped out a touchdown and any hope of an Eagles title. It was a soul-crushing blow for Eagles fans, but a theme that would become a constant.
By this stage of life, I was self-aware and had more or less started to see the light. I knew that my chances of ever seeing an Eagles victory in the Super Bowl were low. This was the season though. The Eagles had a dynamic and exciting quarterback in Randall Cunningham, as well as the offensive weapons to accompany him in Keith Byars, Keith Jackson, Fred Barnett, and Calvin Williams. The prize and pride, however, was the defense. Perhaps one of the best units to ever play in the NFL.
So what went wrong? Four passes into the season Cunningham tore his ACL. The Eagles went 10-6 with a burned out and half-crippled Jim McMahon playing quarterback. Not to mention the two games started by a third-string quarterback and two more by the fourth-stringer. Let that sink in. The Eagles defense was so good in 1991 that they finished 10-6 with four different quarterbacks starting a game. Yet, more disappointment for Eagles fans
The Andy Reid/Donovan McNabb Years
Although fans booed him on draft day, McNabb was the hero that the Eagles needed and deserved. McNabb and Reid would take the team to four NFC title games during their tenure. Three heart-breaking years in a row from 2001 to 2003 they reached the NFC title game only to face defeat and heartache. Then something incredible happened. The Eagles actually got McNabb a top tier receiver, diva Terrell Owens. McNabb and Owens joining forces in midnight green was a beautiful thing and it led the Eagles all the way to the Super Bowl.
The Eagles hovered close during the entirety of the game. Just close enough to keep the hope alive in Eagles fans hearts. Then it happened; Eagles football at its finest. What everyone knew was going to happen, what everyone feared would happen. The final drive of the game Andy Reid showed up. The offence looked as though they had never played in the final two minutes of a game before. The moment I saw the players standing around and walking to the huddle, I knew that the Eagles were doomed. The team looked lost and anger filled my soul.
2017 – Down Goes Wentz, Down Goes Wentz!
At the beginning of the season, I tempered expectations. I put trust in the process of what the Eagles organization was trying to accomplish. The Eagles exceeded all expectations thanks to the MVP level play of second-year quarterback Carson Wentz. Even with all the talk of the Eagles being a Super Bowl contender, Wentz being an MVP candidate, and the team showing true resilience in the face of crippling injuries to key players, I stayed committed to my tempered expectations. It did not help alleviate the pain.
I cried when I saw Wentz’s face as he took off his helmet and walked towards the locker room. Knowing full well that his season had met its demise and most likely the Eagles Super Bowl aspirations faded with his loss as well.
As the years have passed I have resigned myself to the idea that I may never see the team I love so much holding the Lombardi Trophy. It is one thing to be a Browns fan and know that you have no shot at a Super Bowl, but entirely another to be so close, so often and have nothing to show for it.
I know that as Philadelphia fans we have most assuredly brought the wrath of the football gods upon us. Aside from pelting Santa Claus with a barrage of snow balls (I still say he was drunk which is entirely plausible considering he was a fan they plucked from the stands at halftime), booed Destiny’s Child off the stage for wearing a Kobe Bryant jersey, threw batteries at Cowboys and Giants players coming out of the tunnel, booed possibly the greatest third baseman in the history of MLB for twenty seasons, and generally behaved so poorly our stadium had a court room in its bowels at one point, we are an overly supportive fan base of a team that has provided little in terms of winning.
I love the Philadelphia Eagles more than I could ever hope to express. I have endured the terrible and I have celebrated the near successes. Regardless of the standings, I have been there, season after season, showing my support, love, and devotion. I am sorry for whatever we did as fans to endure this perpetual heartache. I will take the brunt of the reparations if it means my team will hold the Lombardi Trophy at the end of the season and I get to celebrate the ultimate success with them.
Please let me feel that feeling once in my life. Please stop torturing us.
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