The best thing, Jimmy Whalen said afterward, was the win. He would have traded it all -- the 40 or 50 people in his house, the two ex-Eagles and two ex-Cowboys who watched the game with him, the 20 cold cases of Miller Lite and full spread of bbq chicken and ribs and wings - for an Eagles victory.
But he didn't have to.
He got to hang with Seth Joyner and Keith Byars, Tony Dorsett and Jay Novacek and watch five lead changes and one tie, capped off with an end-zone interception and 102-yard touchdown by Lito Sheppard, sealing sweet victory over the division-rival Cowboys.
And he got to start the afternoon off by making Tony Dorsett wipe his feet on a T. O. jersey set out by the front door.
"Couldn't have been better," said Whalen, 28, by phone from his Laguna Beach, Calif, house as the guests were clearing out. He'd made the winning $11,101 bid on eBay for the company of the four pro ballplayers - part of a promotion by Miller Lite that benefits the V Foundation, the cancer-research organization named for former NC State coach Jim Valvano. He'd read about the auction on Blinq and got his boss to put up the money.
Whalen is a Northeast Philly boy, out of Holy Ghost Prep, the son of a retired Philadelphia Fire Department chief, who joined his son for the big game Sunday. So did a Philly cousin, stateside on leave, after seven months in Iraq. All Eagles fans. Even though he lives in California, Whalen's still been to two Eagles games this year, and has plans for more. "I'm pretty die-hard," he says. He had his whole house done up in green, black and white Sunday, which are not the typical colors for Laguna Beach.
He wound up in Southern California on a whim. After college at American U, he did a road trip with friends and found Laguna Beach pleasant enough to keep his interest for a while. A next door neighbor was starting a computer company. Whalen was asked if he wanted a job in sales. Next came business school at USC.
The company, Arbitech, and Whalen are doing well enough that he lives in a glass and concrete house with his girlfriend and a view of the Pacific and three big screen TVs, which were in full demand Sunday as his house filled with friends, colleagues, beer people and ball players.
The ex-Cowboys warmed up first, Whalen said. Dorsett, a Hall of Famer and former Heisman Trophy winner who led Pitt to the national championship in 1976, seemed to Whalen as if he had spent his life at such functions.
Novacek, a five-time Pro Bowler at tight end, tipped his ballcap when meeting the ladies and struck Whalen as the sort you'd like to spend all your Sundays watching games with.
Byars, the all-around back and former Pro Bowl selection, "is the nicest guy in the world," Whalen said. Joyner, the 13-year linebacker and 1991 Defensive Player of the Year, took longer to come to life.
Whalen said he made a point of sitting next to Joyner, trying to make his guest comfortable. "He definitely livened up at the end," Whalen said. "They were giving commentary and it was very critical of the Eagles' running game. They said they needed to run the ball to be effective."
When the Eagles passed on third and short early in the fourth quarter, the ex-Birds couldn't understand it. And when Michael Lewis, on the final drive, interfered with Cowboy receiver Terry Glenn, the former Eagles fell silent. They didn't need to say anything. They erupted seconds later, when Sheppard picked off Dallas QB Drew Bledsoe's pass in the endzone, and ran it all the way back for a touchdown.
That was about the time Tony Dorsett tackled the eight-foot inflatable Eagles player Whalen had positioned in the living room.
"I couldn't have written the script any better," said Whalen, an LA guy who still bleeds green.