Losers. No More. Eagles Are Champions.

I didn’t cry until I heard Merrill Reese, the longtime radio voice of the Eagles, on YouTube the day after the Super Bowl. His call of the Tom Brady fumble with two minutes left in the fourth quarter pushed the release button. The emotions, the memories, the Sundays, the halftime catches in the backyard, the Monday mornings discussing the game, the plastic cups and t-shirts emblazoned with a mean green eagle, the cheesesteaks, the fireplace and TV on cold winter afternoons, the time with my family. Three generations watching our beloved birds struggle toward the excellence other teams seemed to stumble into.

My grandfather watched the Eagles beat Lombardi’s Packers in 1960, my dad was at the Spectrum in 1974 and ‘75 to see the Flyers win the Stanley Cup and I was born during the Phillies World Series win in 1980. Philadelphia sports are passed down through the generations, with a gypsy’s curse, feeling as though some invisible hand always pulled any success away from our teams. The Flyers of the 80’s couldn’t beat Gretzky’s Oilers, the Sixers couldn’t beat Shaq and Kobe, the Phillies beat the weak Devil Rays in 2008 to break that gypsy curse, but then lost to the hated Yankees the next year. Leaving the Eagles who tried to beat the dynastic Patriots of the early 2000’s and fail.

The website fivethirtyeight.com showed that the Eagles have the lowest rating of championships to expected championships. Basically, we field good teams, then lose.

No more.

The 2017 Eagles, led by the talismanic QB Wentz all year before popping in our backup with three weeks left in the season, a stout defense, a monster O-line, three runners—a bruiser, a shaker and a shifty rookie, not to mention a gutsy and clever coach. But they are just the celebrities. What about our first-year kicker who set a team record with a game winning 61-yard field goal, the fleet-footed/sure-handed receivers, the three talented tight ends with one who used to be a college QB, the linebacker from Hawaii who was our kicker for a game, the athletic center, the replacement left tackle, the green hair of Jalen Mills, the blond tipped dreadlocks of Jay Ajayi. This team is like if Rocky and the Fresh Prince had a baby—tenacious and charismatic.

All year was like watching a party. Even when they lost, it was close. They never lost hope, never slowing down the inevitable momentum of 58 years, even with the devastating injuries. The ghosts of Jaworski, Cunningham and McNabb were exorcised by a guy from Austin, Texas who possessed the 4th quarter spirit necessary to make a city’s wish come true. My emotions after this game were cathartic jubilation. After the hail mary pass fell incomplete I screamed a few expletives, danced around my apartment and finally felt the pleasing taste of being a champion. I lost championships in pee-wee football; I lost championships in high school hockey. My closet was full of participation and 2nd place mini-trophies full of broken dreams and dust. If I couldn’t do it, at least let my pro teams do it! Yet, for more than three decades, sour defeat: Flyers lose 1997, 2010; Eagles lose 1981, 2005; Sixers lose 2001; Phillies lose 1993, 2009.

No more.

EAGLES WIN 2018!

In previous years, after watching the Super Bowl, my mind would drift to the draft, who can we get from the colleges to bring us the big win. I would be full of angst, knowing there were seven long months before any more football, another chance to break the spell of losing.

No more.

Now, I have seven long months to bake, broil, roast and marinate in the feeling of finally being a championship city. The anxious waiting for September is missing, replaced by the fulfillment of a lifelong dream for all the fans from Philadelphia.

 

 

AP EAGLES PATRIOTS SUPER BOWL REAX FOOTBALL S FBN USA PA

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Super Bowl Surprise

It’s my third Super Bowl in Korea. My third big game watched after work on Monday night like some kind of schnook eating spaghetti with ketchup and imitation Doritos, washing it down with a Ramen Cup. Football is the most American of all sports. Like most of us mutt based Americans, it’s a mixture of lots of different sports. But, it was always the sport that brings young boys desperate to hit each other a chance for semi-organized mayhem. Therefore, it was one of my favorites. Like soccer, all you needed was a big field and the requisite ball. But the big difference being in football you can smash your friends once the game starts.

My British and Canadian co-teachers didn’t understand my desire to go Internet, Facebook and cell phone blackout so as to prevent seeing the score before actually watching the game. Alexander was the prime mover of this little charade. “Oh, yeah, the Super Bowl. Broncos won in a nail-biter. You mean you didn’t watch it! Oh, sorry bro.” He was also the same mugg who robbed me of being unsurprised when the Eagles lost their playoff game in true Philadelphia fashion a month ago. It’s okay. I was expecting it being the only American at my school. I just kept my head down and put in my 9 hours.

I left a rather enjoyable day at school (my first day in two full weeks without feeling the effects of the nasty Korean flu) and headed to the chicken wing shop. I was surprised to hear the man spoke decent English. I put in my order for “red wings” and virtually sprinted down the street to pick up my cheese crusted pepperoni pizza. I had planned everything so that I could get the pizza just in time to run back down the street to pick up the wings as they were being individually and lovingly dusted with spicy sauce. Everything was coming up Milhouse!

The Jack Frost infused wind was biting my nose with the last breath of winter. BBQ meat, the ubiquitous perfume of Seoul, was wafting all around me in a warm smoky way. My pizza’s steam was heating my right hand and I had that anxious yet comfortable pre Super Bowl tension. Will Manning be able to handle the Seahawks nightmare secondary? Will “Beast Mode” come out running hard? Will Richard Sherman get a pick-6 to silence the haters? Will the big running attack of Denver bust up the Seattle D-line? Whatever happens, I’m ready because I don’t know and surprise is the element of sports that I crave. The revelation of winning is always surpassed by HOW they win. In every game, there is a winner and loser, but what will happen before the final buzzer?

So, my natural high of anticipation carried me, slightly panting, into Kyochon Chicken, a little hole in the wall delivery place to pick up my overpriced, but satisfactory wings. I had managed to avoid the KBS news broadcast in the pizza place and waited outside until the ajumma walked out my pie with a mixed smile of confusion and generosity. I had made it the whole day not looking at a computer or a cell phone and was almost home. I had 20 wings being put into a box, a pizza, chocolate, corn chips, an apple and beer. The game was queued up on the website and everything was ready to go. It’s a feeling American Football fans only get once a year. It takes patience to recreate it in a foreign land. I handed my card to the young man who was, as some are wont to do, eager to practice English. He said, “Hey, Shehawkuh! Football. Shehawkuhs win! Right?”

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Super Bowl

Everyone is a critic on the day after the big game. Since everyone saw the game, watching ever so closely so as to not miss a single commercial, halftime nipple slip, game-changing interception, replay of the Leon Lett fiasco or a classic Deion Sanders suit shot. It’s funny to hear non-sports fans discussing who played well or who was the hero or what commercial blew goats. Ladies, it’s not just you. I hear the men talking too. They all think they knew who was going to win. They all could have made that catch or made that pass, despite the mouth full of dip and hands slippery from a beer can’s condensation. The truth is, even the people who thought the Packers would win were still pretty nervous when that last drive began. After all, Big Ben has done it before, a la 2008 vs. Arizona. As good as it must feel to have confetti stuck to your chin with a Super Bowl hat on your head, it must be equally as bad to lose that game. We lost an ice hockey state championship when I was a senior in high school. The locker room was so quiet afterward, we could hear the ice melting. Sports requires a winner and a loser. There are no ties in sports. There are no ties in life. You either get the job or not. You either get the girl or not. Your life is like the Super Bowl everyday. The wins and losses don’t seem as big because there aren’t 100 million people watching. If you wrote a memo to the boss asking to take charge of the new account; depending on what he says and who is rooting for you, some of those 100 million will cheer and some will boo. There are two kinds of people: haters and the hated. Luckily, hopefully, we all get to be both at some point in our lives. A wise man once said, “no matter how good you are, there is always someone better.” The world needs haters and the world needs people to hate on. Ask Silky Johnson or Buck Nasty, they’ll tell you hating is a way of life. Football provides the fodder for hating and we provide the hate. Enjoy the game, pretend like you know what you’re talking about, eat yourself gorged, drink a few brewskis, and don’t forget to hate. This game is America. This game is when we all get together and enjoy Sunday. The playoffs are enormous fun to watch and usually the most stressful. The Super Bowl is when we can all sigh the relief that our team didn’t make it (as long as you’re an Eagles, Falcons, Chargers or Jets fan) and just enjoy the game. The spectacle of the day, the anticipation of the two week buildup, the beauty of Sunday funday creates a thunderdome of satisfaction. The Super Bowl is my Christmas. It’s not a holy day, just a day I look forward to enjoying. They do seem similar: I’m with loved ones usually, eat a big meal, watch the TV, and it’s highly commercialized. The difference is, we don’t get Monday off.