When you're a loyal football fan, you don't just 'pick another team'

September 26, 2012 

I described to a friend Monday, in language that could charitably be described as colorful, a loss I still felt in the depths of my soul.

The anger. The frustration. The sadness and, finally, the acceptance.

It was a familiar feeling.

This is the Five Stages of Being a Philadelphia Eagles Fan. This is what happens when we lose, and we often do.

“Why don’t you just pick another team? Like a good team?” my friend asked, innocently.

Practical and pragmatic as I might be in nearly every other aspect of my life, this question struck me as wildly implausible.

It’s like asking water why it’s always so wet or the pope if he’s ever considered being a Lutheran.

I’m an Eagles fan because ... I am. That’s just the way it is.

I recognize that my allegiance to this particular team is, strictly speaking, a choice. It’s a choice I made as a 6-year-old living in Western New York who found himself fascinated by the play of Eagles quarterback Randall Cunningham.

With a rifle where his right arm should be and the legs of a gazelle, Cunningham was the athletic foil to the gutsy but largely immobile Phil Simms, the quarterback and household demigod of my family’s New York Giants.

It was football as I’d never seen it, and I was hooked.

The Eagles lost Cunningham in 1995 but retained the services of a tall-for-his-age 9-year-old fan with good hands, decent quickness and a high motor.

For nearly the next 20 years, I’ve lived and died for a team to which I have no geographic affiliation; yet I have a sense of allegiance and loyalty that feels a part of my DNA, something fundamental to who I am as a person.

I’ve been through a lot with this team.

I’ve been reduced to tears by a particularly rough NFC Championship loss to the traditionless Carolina Panthers in 2004.

I’ve been sent shouting, running and jumping around my living room in fits of exasperated delirium and ecstasy as DeSean Jackson scampered toward the endzone during the waning seconds of the Miracle at the New Meadowlands in 2010.

But I’ve never rooted for a champion.

The Eagles’ last title, won in 1960, predates the creation of the Super Bowl and an entire generation of fans who, like myself, wonder at the beginning of each season if this is finally — mercifully — our year.

But just because it has never been doesn’t mean it will never be.

In the meantime, I’ll throw on an Eagles T-shirt every Sunday, root faithfully for my Birds and take pride in being, however small, a part of a tradition that includes Bednarik and Van Buren, Cunningham and Carmichael, 4th and 26 and The Fog Bowl.

This week, in honor of the Eagles, a playlist featuring eight songs from artists who hail from the City of Brotherly Love.

These colors don’t run! Fly Eagles Fly!

• Billie Holiday, “Pennies from Heaven” — A voice for the ages. None better.

• Jim Croce, “One Less Set of Footsteps” — An underrated songwriting genius and a long sentimental favorite of mine. That he’s from South Philly is just a plus.

• Amos Lee, “Windows Are Rolled Down” — Philly-born and educated at the University of South Carolina in Columbia. Something for everyone here.

• Daryl Hall & John Oates, “Rich Girl” — One of the catchiest songs of all-time. Impossible to get out of your head. Trust me.

• Donora, “Champion” — A relative unknown in Philadelphia’s long and rich musical history but no less worthy of recognition. A terrific song.

• Dr. Dog, “These Days” — A band with a blue-collar sound that reflects its hometown. They have also been instrumental in helping promote and produce records for a number of other indie bands in Philadelphia.

• Santigold, “L.E.S. Artistes” — A song that swells to a beautiful crescendo in the chorus that never fails to move me.

• DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince, “Girls Ain’t Nothing But Trouble” — Would be nothing short of heresy not to include a song by West Philadelphia’s Will Smith.

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