Eagles' loss hurts, but pales in comparison
I’ve been “bleeding green” since the first time I saw an Eagles game on TV in the 50s on a black & white TV with rabbit ears as an antenna. My mom worked her Sunday spaghetti dinner around the game so we wouldn’t throw meatballs at the TV. I got my first season tickets at Franklin Field when I was a junior at St. Joes and sat through some of the worst performances in team history under the watches of Joe “Must Go” Kuharich and Jerry Williams. I had those tickets for 10 years, into the Vet, until I made the team, and didn’t need them anymore.
I was so hooked as a fan that if they lost I couldn’t pick up the Evening Bulletin for a week. And, I felt the same way this past Sunday after that agonizing loss to the Saints. It’s twice now that those “Who Dats” have broken my heart in the playoffs, and now they’re calling the latest loss an upset!
Upset? More like “upsetting,” for crying out loud.
I still haven’t read a newspaper, blog or watched or listened to an NFL/Eagle expert -- insider or outsider. The only thing that seeped thru the cracks was D-Jax’s untimely remarks about his contract. Even if you were asked the question, there’s no excuse, No. 10. You just lost a playoff game.
For over 48 hours, “just one play” was resonating in my brain. One damn play on offense, defense or special teams. This dream-like season turned into a sour pumpkin around midnight last Saturday at the Linc. I guarantee you that the character guys in the Eagles locker room were saying same thing to themselves, “just one more play…” And I say “character” out of pure and deep respect for them and the coaching staff. They gave their all and came up short. There is no shame in that at all!
Go back to the beginning of the season and a .500 record was to be considered a success -- if not a pipe dream. Heck, coach Vermeil was 2-12 his first year and it took him three years to get to the playoffs.
I was still feeing pretty funky Monday morning until I met a young man named Bobby Donnelly up in West Orange, N.J. A proud member of the Navy’ Special Forces Underwater Demolition Team, he was doing a “routine” training jump from over 30,000 feet. They call it a HALO jump -- an acronym for High Altitude-Low Opening. As Bobby landed he fractured his ankle and two years later, he was faced with the decision of his young lifetime: foot or no foot?
His cousin, a Navy Seal, told Bobby to “cut the darn thing off,“ and he did. His foot was amputated just above the ankle. But feeling sorry for himself is not part of Bobby’s DNA -- not this tough guy. Now, he plays on the Wounded Warrior Amputee Flag Football Team and will be playing some of my NFL Alumni buddies and 911 First Responders in a flag football game on Jan. 29th. I will get you details later so check my Instagram Super Bowl week so follow me at: @vincepapale83.
The next night I went to a screening with my family to see our friend, Mark Wahlberg, star in Lone Survivor. I felt a connection thru Mark with Marcus Luttrell, a Navy Seal hero and the real lone survivor. Mark told me it was the toughest role physically and emotionally he ever filmed. I’ll gladly take a back seat to that. He told the Seal family that he’d play the role with passion and integrity and make them proud. That’s the same thing he told me when we first met in 2005.
The movie very intense and left my family, the audience (including several combat veterans) and me emotionally exhausted. It will definitely leave you shaking your head, thinking, “How did they get put in that situation?”
Many groans were heard and many tears were shed throughout the movie. I’ve have never been so impacted by a movie in my life and highly recommend reading the book and seeing the film.
Guys like Bobby, Marcus & his teammates really know how to play their game -- one of life or death. When they lose it’s by more than just a score -- it’s a by limb or, even a life. They make willing sacrifices to keep our fading dream alive. There are no regrets … no crying in their beers … no whining about the contract they were not forced to sign. They accept their roles and carry them out with dignity and honor.
They just go out and perform -- as a proud and unified unit.
All of the sudden the loss to the Saints didn’t seem so bad. Yeah, most of us were sick to our stomachs over a loss that was oh-so-close. Looking at it in realistic terms, though, it’s still only a game ... a sport. For most of us, and to the Eagles, there is always next year. For those who wear the uniform adorned with U.S.A., that isn’t always the case.
The blood they spill isn’t the metaphorical “green” that we bleed … it’s the real RED deal. So, please thank every person you see in uniform … they are the keepers of our dreams. And, thank you, Eagles, too, for all of the thrills you gave us this year and for keeping the dream alive.
Imagine the possibility of having your dream come true. I did!
Have an Invincible 2014!