I grew up with the Philadelphia Eagles.
From the time I was old enough to talk, I remember my older brothers teaching me about the game – from penalties to plays to strategies. I never understood the whole concept of women hating football because in our household, my mom was just as passionate about the sport as anyone else — and she passed that along to my older sister and me. In our home, Sundays were about gatherings of family and friends (after Mass, of course), home-cooked meals prepared by Mom (who at 86-years-young is still hosting Sunday dinners), and during football season – Eagles games.
To be fair, we were an equal-opportunity Philly sports family, so our support extended to the Phillies, Flyers, and Sixers. I had the privilege of being in attendance when Tug McGraw threw the last strike to win the World Series against the Kansas City Royals in 1980, and I remember many occasions when my mom would take us to the airport to greet whatever team had just emerged victorious or needed the support of fans in the aftermath of losing a playoff or championship.
When I was 11, my brother Mark took me to a one-day event at Widener University, where the Eagles used to train. I recall how excited I was to meet Dick Vermeil and watch the players practice. Back then, it never occurred to me that I’d ever meet a female who didn’t love the game because just about every woman I cared about did.
But some of my best lifetime memories involve freezing in the bitter cold at the NFC Championship Game in 1981 with my brother Paul and sister Carolyn as we watched the Eagles defeat our nemesis, the Dallas Cowboys, 20-7 and advance to their first Super Bowl. Sadly, they lost 27-10 to the Oakland Raiders, which we witnessed with a houseful of people and yummy food.
My parents had three season tickets and as the years went by, preferred to watch the games on television, creating more opportunities for my siblings and I to cheer on our team from section 242 at Veterans Stadium. Every year when the season started, we’d look forward to hanging out with our friends in section 242, which included a man named Michael Trent whom my dad (a retired general surgeon) once operated on. Often mistaken for former Houston Oilers quarterback Warren Moon, he would often quip that he wished he had Moon’s money. These people lived and died with the Eagles, and though they could be rough and rowdy at times, never beat up the opposing team’s fans. I’d submit they are the true representation of Philly fans — not the bad apples who get all the press and give the rest of us a bad reputation. (For the record, I once went to a game in the Meadowlands in 1989 with Mark and Carolyn, where we were threatened with bodily harm by Giants fans who were displeased that the Eagles beat them).
There have been many inspiring Eagles players, from Harold Carmichael and Bill Bergey to Ron Jaworski and Wilbert Montgomery, to Vince Papale and Brian Dawkins…and this year’s group of Eagles, led by amazing coach Doug Pederson, is no exception. In an NFL season characterized by disrespect of our flag, country, and military, they are a breath of fresh air. In spite of tremendous obstacles — losing their starting quarterback Carson Wentz , along with several key players, to injuries, they never gave up. They blocked out the noise from the media and other “experts” who declared with certainty that Nick Foles could never take them to the Super Bowl. Even loyal fans I know decried the impossibility of carrying on without our franchise quarterback.
But the Eagles didn’t listen to conventional wisdom.
Instead, embracing their status as “underdogs” in true Rocky fashion, they stuck together, built each other up, worked hard, and maintained their belief that it could be done. And here we are today: NFC Champions.
Congratulations Philadelphia Eagles. This fan believes you can and will beat the Patriots. No matter what happens, your integrity, teamwork, faith, and work ethic are an inspiration for all — Philly fans or not.