No not the “Joe Walsh is a legend” Eagles, I mean the Philadelphia Eagles. As I talk more about the NFL on this blog and in my podcast, I should clarify something. An event that happened that I still, within reason, take a rash of shit for from my friends.
The Eagles and I broke up for a few months.
Relationships go through hard times, and it’s what we do and how we recover from those hard times that really make a relationship what it is: a success or a failure. So as I sit here and bask in our success, headed into next weeks NFC Championship game against the Vikings, I reflect on the hard times when we “took a break”.
I’ve always loved football, but it took me a while to understand it fully and to find my passion for the sport. When I was ten years old, that passion hit me, and the Philadelphia Eagles were the natural choice (or if you ask my mother, the only choice) for me. But as I was getting to know everything about the league and the individual teams, I also learned about the individual players.
It was the year 2000 when I was ten years old, and a year later I developed a relationship with another team. The Seattle Seahawks.
Matt Hasselbeck. A man that can only be described as the earnest assistant to the main hero of a Shakespeare comedy. Everything is swirling around him and he’s just trying to get a grasp, hang on, and come out the other side with success while everybody else dies. He was never the best, or the most reliable, but you could depend on Matt to be Matt. Always striving to be the best that he could be, and lift his team up with him.
For two years he was backup to the “man’s man” at Quarterback, Brett Favre. If I had learned anything at all, it’s that when you spend that much time and practice around a great player like that, then you too can use that experience and those tools to also become great. I saw his potential, and decided to keep an eye on him.
So that’s what I did, and continued to do in 2001 when he was traded to the Seattle Seahawks. I’ve always been Eagles over everyone, but also watching the ‘Hawks, and four years later he led them to Super Bowl XL. They lost to the Steelers that year, but he was forever enshrined as one of Seattle’s best.
Now it’s time for some fast-forwarding:
Head Coach Chip Kelly’s first year with the Eagles. It was an exciting time as we were ready for growth beyond Andy Reid. The one thing Reid was never able to do was get us a Super Bowl, so maybe this new guy with a quick temper could do it. While we didn’t get that opportunity that year, it was ok. First year Head Coaches rarely do. Gotta get to know your team etc.
Meanwhile in 2013:
QB Russell Wilson, RB Marshawn Lynch, and one of the all time great defensive secondary units known as The Legion of Boom lead the Seahawks to their first Super Bowl victory. The first time either of the teams I support have won a Super Bowl. It was an exciting time, so I decided to grow my NFL Jersey collection by adding Russel Wilson’s #3 to my closet.
Now to 2015:
Chip Kelly had made his impression on Philadelphia, and it wasn’t a good one. We hated him. Support the team? Absolutely. But only if that guy steps up and makes good moves as GM/Coach to bring a championship to our city. But what did he do? Exactly the opposite.
In 2014 Nick Foles was our Starting QB and set a few records. Meanwhile Lesean McCoy was still pounding the ball through defenses like a knife through butter and a few other stars began to emerge. But Chip Kelly wanted it HIS way. So he traded them all away for next-to nothing and drafted rookies that would not last in his system, or anyone else for that matter. 2015 was an absolute low point for the Eagles, and for my relationship to them.
After unloading all of our stars, and gaining only a miserable 6 wins, I took a very public break from my Eagles fandom and spent the rest of the season supporting the Seahawks. It was hard, but the Eagles owner came out in the media and said he “fully supports Chip Kelly”, the most miserable and aggravating coach in the history of Philadelphia sports. He ruined what great team we had, the players who were still there were miserable, and it looked like he was going to be there for a while.
Less than a week later Chip Kelly was fired. Our team was in tatters, and I was too miserable and angry at them to go back just yet. Besides, the Seahawks were making a playoff run and I wanted to believe in football again. I took time to be joyous in the post-season, and knew that when the next head coach for the Eagles steps up, I’ll be there to support once more.
2016: In comes Doug Pederson, QB Carson Wentz, and the most promising year of football the Eagles had seen in a long time that wasn’t wrought with negativity and miserable players. It was the dawn of a new era, and the entirety of the Eagles fan base were feeling really good.
The relationship was on the mend, so I came back and decided we’d make it work. This year, the fruits of our labor rewarded. Despite injuries, including Wentz’s ACL tear vs the Rams, we are soon to be NFC Champs, and I can’t wait to see whats next.
Some of you may judge me and thats ok. This relationship went through a hard time and we all do weird things during hard times. But I’ve learned my lesson, and I won’t abandon ever again. That Wilson jersey will be on that hanger for a long time.
Fly, Eagles, Fly