Kelly Gail is a writer in New York.
My New Year's resolution is not about going to the gym more, losing weight, or saving additional money.
My goal for 2017 is to quit the Eagles. I seek to separate myself emotionally from the football team I root for in the hope of eliminating the wild mood swings and depression I experience for five months out of the year.
As a lifelong, die-hard Eagles fan who bleeds green, I have long struggled when the team struggles. As I was growing up as the oldest of seven children on the Main Line, football was as much a religion each Sunday as going to Mass.
My moods have been dictated by what happens on the field each week. If the Eagles lose, I experience an ache in my heart that lingers long after the last minute is played. When the Birds are the victors, I am exuberant until the next time they play.
This season was particularly hard on my emotions. With a new starting rookie quarterback, Carson Wentz, and a new head coach, Doug Pederson, my expectations were low. This was a team that won five games last year and had been pegged to be in a major rebuilding phase.
Then the Eagles won their first three games. One of those was after being labeled huge underdogs against the perennially tough Pittsburgh Steelers. A bubble of hope rose within me for a promising year that would defy the odds makers and talking heads on ESPN. Could this be a miracle season? Could I dare to dream they would make the playoffs after finishing in the basement of the NFC East last year?
Wentz, the second overall pick of the 2016 draft from North Dakota State, looked solid, poised, and skilled despite his nonexistent NFL experience. The defense appeared to jell despite the earliness of the season. People were jumping on the "Wentz Wagon" and welcoming visitors to "Wentzlyania." I climbed aboard.
Then came the inevitable downfall. The team went on to lose in excruciating ways to the Detroit Lions, longtime rival Dallas Cowboys, and the Green Bay Packers. When they lost in the last second to the Baltimore Ravens on Dec. 18, I sank into deeper despair, unable to pep talk my way into a better mood. Even though they recently beat the playoff bound New York Giants, I have decided to walk away.
In order to preserve my sanity in 2017, here is the playbook I've drawn up to help me keep my resolution:
Stop saying "we." Did you ever notice that most fans use the term "we" to describe their favorite team? I'm guilty. I don't go out there and run a crossing route over the middle of a football field that may give me a concussion, but I constantly refer to the Eagles as "we" in any and all conversations. Being a sports fan enables you to talk to strangers over a shared love of a team. Being able to say "we" in those conversations creates an immediate bond over a mutual passion. If I can train myself to switch pronouns, I will be better able to separate myself emotionally from the Birds.
Watch other sports. I played hooky from work in 2008 to take Amtrak from New York City to 30th Street Station to watch the Phillies' championship parade. It's not because I was a fan. I just didn't anticipate being able to see an Eagles celebration in my lifetime. As someone who has lived in the Big Apple for the last 18 years, I may need to switch my loyalties from New York teams to the Flyers, Sixers, and Phillies, to better commiserate with my fellow rabid City of Brotherly Love fans.
Get a hobby. Since I have already run the Chicago and New York marathons, I'll need to look for another hobby that gives me the same adrenaline rush. I will have many extra hours a week to devote to another cause. Maybe I'll take up skydiving.
Create a support group. Misery loves company. I can start a support group for other Eagles watchers who hopped off the bandwagon after this tough season. We can kick off each session by watching a clip of the 2005 NFC Championship game against the Atlanta Falcons. For those interested, stay tuned for a Facebook invite.
Just stop watching. During the 2015 season, I let myself be washed over in misery on the way to a 7-9 Eagles record. I couldn't tear myself away, despite the constant bad moods that plagued me. I have spent years watching every Birds game no matter where I am, even if it has meant skipping family events to do so.
I am now determined to spend the next year fighting the urge to spend Sunday glued to the screen for hours. It remains to be seen if I take my own advice and cut myself off completely from my lifetime football habit. But for now I'll start by saying "they" when referencing the Eagles, and see how it goes. Baby steps.