It’s a Philly Phan Thang

Coaches, players, owners, water boys, equipment managers, etc… they all come and go. Some stay longer than others and some are here for a really long time. The one and only absolute constant in the existence of a professional sports franchise’s lifetime is the fan. Without the fans, a sports franchise does not nor cannot exist. With many fans in Philly it is something that has been passed down through the generations. It is a means to connect child to parent as one of my own sisters has told me. She told me that when she was about high school age she became interested in football and specifically the Eagles as a way to connect and bond with our Dad. He also passed that love and passion on to all his children. There are some Dads out there, for a myriad of reasons, who find it difficult to talk with their children about meaningful things in life. Sports can be a conduit in aiding that conversation to develop. I’m not naïve to think this is exclusive to Philadelphia. It does happen elsewhere. However, I believe our level of passion for our sports teams and the Eagles especially, is what separates us from other professional sporting locales. Allow me an attempt to explain.

Philadelphia is widely known for being a very parochial and provincial city. By that I mean most Philadelphians tend to be born here, live here, and die here. Therefore we are naturally more emotionally invested in our sports teams. Our civic pride is innately tied into how our teams perform. The general mood of the area is many times determined by their success. I include the surrounding areas in that statement; South Jersey, the five suburban counties of Philly, Northern Delaware. We’re very protective of our own. We can say bad things about ourselves but that’s a big no-no for an outsider. You’re inviting trouble if you do. We’ve also long suffered from an inferiority complex for two major reasons. The first is we are almost exactly between New York and Washington, DC. To many outside the Delaware Valley we are seen merely as a train stop between the two. New York has been much more successful in the sporting world than we have been plus they have, rightfully so, a world class city reputation. We see ourselves living in their shadow as the little brother always trying to measure up to the big brother. The second is steeped in history, appropriately so. I think the inferiority complex/second class citizen mentality started when Washington, DC took our title as the capitol of the United States. That was in 1799 give or take a year or so. Therefore we, as a city, in order to make up for these self-perceived shortcomings have turned to sports to balance things out in our collective civic minds. And as our luck would have it, we’ve haven’t exactly shined brightly in this department either. That all changed on Sunday, February 4th, 2018 at approximately 10:30pm.

Lastly I’d like to specifically address the Philadelphia Eagle fan. Jeffrey Lurie was exactly correct when asked what it meant to him and the city of Philadelphia to win the Super Bowl. I paraphrase his response. “There is a word everything. That’s what it means. It’s everything.” In order to understand how that could possibly be, one of three things had to happen. You are born and raised here for your formative years, at least into your late teens but probably early twenties;  you moved here at an early age, before age ten;  or like myself born, raised, and still live here. Several other franchise outposts, for example Atlanta, LA, DC, etc., a significant portion of the fan base are transplants. Some cities are baseball first, for example NYC, Boston, St. Louis, etc . Since sometime in the 50’s I would say Philly started to change from a baseball town into a football crazed, maniacal town. It coincided with the beginnings of the  rise of the  NFL. Secondly, as a blue collar, gritty, rough and tumble kind of city we could easily identify with a sport of the same nature. I believe it’s no coincidence that a man nicknamed “Concrete” Charlie Bednarik, who played during the 50’s was/is the most beloved and considered the best player in franchise history. Newer fans would argue Brian Dawkins and Reggie White, rightfully so, have assumed those titles. For the record, B. Dawk is my favorite all-time Eagle. My Dad, born and raised in South Philly, who grew up an A’s fan in the 20’s, pre Eagles, who enlisted in the Navy 3 days after Pearl Harbor, lived in DC post WW II, and moved back to Philly in ’51, was at the ’60 Championship game along with my brother, season ticket holder from ’61 until the mid-70’s, became an Eagles fan during this time. I think he is an example of this shift from baseball to football fandom. The team appeared in the Championship in ’47, ’48, ’49, & ’60 and won all but ’47. Those chips also contributed to the changeover to football. Along about 1962 I think is when the passion was taken to a new level. This is when some seriously bad football was being played in the 215. All the way through until about ’78. I witnessed some of it at The Vet. It was followed by a brief period of success topped with the Super Bowl appearance in ’81. By ’83 it was bad, bad, and more bad. The late ‘80s were fun but not much success. Followed by another decade or more of bad to mediocre football. From the early 2000’s until now has been mostly good football with some bad sprinkled about. For close to 60 years now we have witnessed  a majority of bad to mediocre football. Amazingly, the passion of the fan base has only grown during that 60 years. I don’t know of another NFL franchise that can make that claim. Through it all, the Eagles dominate sports talk in Philly. Year around. When you haven’t won a chip since 1960 and never won a Super Bowl prior to 2018, I personally no longer considered division chips, wild card appearances, NFC Championship game appearances as a successful season. I was legitimately concerned, at 53 years, that I may not see a Super Bowl Championship in my lifetime. That all changed on Sunday, February 4th, 2018 at approximately 10:30pm. Thank you Jeff Lurie, Doug Pederson and the rest of our Philadelphia Eagles!!

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