For those of us old enough to remember little Tommy McDonald leaping into the arms of Eagles quarterback Sonny Jurgensen after catching a touchdown pass in the 1960s, Sunday could be a special night.
For those of us who thought Roman Gabriel would be the answer, who thought Tom Woodeshick would lead the Eagles to the promised land, who thought Wilbert Montgomery’s epic touchdown against hated Dallas was a sign that the 1981 Lombardi Trophy was headed to Philadelphia, Sunday could be a special night.
For those of us who remember offensive lineman Lane Howell and his constant holding penalties, the agony Tampa Bay’s Ronde Barber brought to the last game at Veterans Stadium in 2003, and Mike Michel’s missed 34-yard field goal that knocked the Birds out of the 1978 playoffs, Sunday could be a special night.
Come to think of it, it already is special for a lot of us because this team has brought back memories of the folks who got us interested in the Eagles in the 1960s. Unfortunately, many of them are no longer here.
But memories of them are stirred by these Eagles, who, in case you’ve been vacationing on Jupiter for a few weeks, will play the New England Patriots in Super Bowl LII on Sunday.
My dad, who died in 2002, was the ultimate Eagles fan. Sunday family get-togethers and birthday parties were arranged around the starting time of his beloved Birds. He was there at Franklin Field the day Chuck Bednarik tackled Jim Taylor and wouldn’t let him up until the final seconds disappeared, and they won their last NFL title in 1960, and he was there with me and my younger brother (and a Thermos of hot dogs my mom had cooked for us) in 1981, when the Birds defeated Dallas at frozen Veterans Stadium to reach the Super Bowl.
My dad owned an auto parts store in Northeast Philadelphia for years, and he was a Big Band crooner who moonlighted by singing at local restaurants and bars on weekends. He was the smartest man I ever knew, someone who could talk with authority about, well, everything — from Russian and American politics, the inner workings of a carburetor, or what ailed the Phillies’ pitching staff.
And, oh, how he could talk about how he would fix the Eagles. (And, believe me, they needed lots of fixing during many of his 74 wonderful years.)
All those lean years, all those struggling quarterbacks, have made the Eagles’ surprising run this season more rewarding for those who have stuck with them through Rick Arrington, Mike Boryla, and Bobby Hoying, through Kevin Kolb, John Huarte, and Pete Liske, through Koy Detmer, Norm Snead, and Bubby Brister.
If the Eagles win Sunday, people will be toasting those players for being the (wobbly) bridge to greatness.
If the Eagles win Sunday, people will also be toasting our dads, moms, uncles, aunts and others who are no longer with us but jump-started our interest in the Birds.
My dad died in 2002, but he was at the Eagles’ Super Bowl in Jacksonville in 2005. Sort of.
He always half-kidded he wanted his ashes spread at Veterans Stadium, and we accommodated him. But we had some ashes left and placed them in a film (remember film?) canister. When my cousin, Rich, drove down to the Super Bowl in 2005, he took the canister with him and said he would sprinkle the remains in the stadium. One problem: He didn’t have a ticket.
But as Rich and a group of friends drove toward Jacksonville, they stopped at a bar where some guy had several tickets for sale. There was a deadlock for the top bid, so the guy asked the potential buyers why he should sell them to him.
My cousin told him he had my dad’s ashes and that he always wanted to be with the Eagles at the Super Bowl.
The man smirked.
“Good story,” he said in a tone that suggested he didn’t believe it.
My cousin pulled the tiny canister out of his pocket and gently lifted the lid to show him the ashes.
“The tickets are yours,” the man said.
My dad’s ashes aren’t headed to Minneapolis for Sunday’s showdown. But he’ll be there in spirit. Just like someone you knew, I’m sure.