There’s been a lot of talk about boycotts lately, particularly with respect to the NFL. The ironic thing is that two diametrically opposed groups are both boycotting the same thing, for different reasons.
On the one hand you have the conservatives who, in defense of the military and other first responders, refuse to watch a game where players take a knee during the national anthem.
On the other hand, you have liberals who, in defense of Black Lives Matter and as a protest against alleged police brutality, refuse to watch a game that doesn’t include Colin Kaepernick.
Both groups hate each other, but they have found common ground at the line of scrimmage and are turning their backs on America’s game. The Constitution says they can. Good for them.
I, on the other hand, will not join in their acts of civic engagement. That is because I am an Eagles fan, and that is something that trumps the Bill of Rights, the Code of Military Conduct, the “Letter From a Birmingham Jail,” and tweets from both the president and that woman who works for ESPN.
If you were not born in this city — yeah, I was born in Baltimore but arrived in Philly at two months old, so cut me a break — you cannot fully appreciate what Eagles fandom means. You might think you do because your boyfriend bleeds green, or your wife’s family owned season tickets, or you once had your picture taken with Chuck Bednarik, but unless your first words were “No Super Bowl,” you simply don’t get the depth and breadth of devotion, emotion, and anger that fills our autumnal Sundays.
And then there’s how true Eagles fans feel about Dallas.
This past Sunday, the Eagles beat the Dallas Cowboys. That is the most bloodless way of describing what happened. To the casual observer, a person who lives on the margins of Eagles fandom, that is enough. Yay, they might think, as they go about their business. How nice. The home team won a game. Good for them.
But you have no idea what really occurred when the final whistle blew and the scoreboard flashed, “We Won.” You think it actually gave a numerical score, but to those of us who spent long stretches of time at the Vet under coaches whose names are now best forgotten, numbers are irrelevant.
Bodies strewn across the playing field, helmets flying, mouthpieces shoved down throats with the ferocity of noontime battle, beer showering down from the 700 level (RIP) and curses that would have made a Viking warrior blush are the measure of the game.
The score is only relevant to the extent that it means we beat them, those vile Texan mutants, half man, half beast. We beat Dallas. All the rest is noise.
You might be thinking that I am taking things a bit far here. It was, after all, not even a playoff game. If you are Italian or Irish, like me, you might even be a bit leery about counting our little eaglets before they have hatched into a playoff victory. You would be right to think that.
Many times in the last 45 years that I have had season tickets, I have made the mistake of believing that a championship ring was possible. And then, the gods of the NFL laughed and punished my hubris with Chip Kelly.
Chip is gone, but the tendency to dream remains. And this year, unlike so many others, the dream is just a gossamer wing’s width short of being a reality. We have the best record in the NFL, we have all but guaranteed a win in our division, we have a quarterback who makes Tim Tebow look like Sid Vicious.
And we weren’t even expecting it. Some might have predicted that this would be a solid year, but who could have believed that Doug Peterson would be the prophet leading us to the promised land? It’s as if someone told the Israelites that they were going to have to dog paddle through the Red Sea with some second stringer like Ezekiel. I’m pretty sure there would have been a few of them reassessing Pharaoh’s offer of employment.
I get the need to be cautious, but after beating our arch-rival in such a convincing manner, it’s hard to be humble.
And still, some of my friends insist on looking away. They say that they have always been fans, but they can’t stand the disrespect to the military. Or they say that they bleed green, but they believe Kaepernick is fighting for something more important than a playoff berth.
I speak four languages fluently, but that’s one this true fan just can’t understand. Let’s go Eagles!