The Dallas Cowboys are America's Team. They have five Super Bowl titles and all the glitz and glamour a person could want. The New York Giants are a member of the old guard, having won titles in the old days as well as four Super Bowls. There's nothing sexy about the Giants. That's just a classy, successful organization. The Washington Redskins aren't in the same league as those two teams, but they've had their share of success over the years. The pinnacle for them was the Joe Gibbs era, when the Skins won a trio of Super Bowls and put out some juggernaut teams.
The Eagles? They've gone to a pair of Super Bowls, but lost both. There are three titles from the old days, but those are a distant memory at this point. There has been plenty of success in the Andy Reid era, but obviously it hasn't resulted in the ultimate prize - winning a Super Bowl. This is like having a good hamburger when you really crave a steak. Still tastes pretty good, maybe even darn good, but it isn't what you want.
Simply put, being an Eagles fan is not easy.
I am an Eagles fan and have been for more than 20 years. There have been some high highs, but some brutally low lows. 2011 was a miserable season. I remember when the Eagles got Nnamdi Asomugha. It was a Friday, about 6 p.m. I kept checking sites to see if he'd stay in Oakland, sign with the Jets, or end up a Cowboy. But wait...at the last minute some surprise team came into the mix. I had no idea who, but I wanted that team to get him. Asomugha to the Jets or Boys would have sucked. I can't remember which site I clicked on, but one of them broke the story that it was in fact the Eagles who were the surprise team. I literally sat in silence, staring at the monitor. Disbelief is the only word I can use to describe the feeling. Nnamdi an Eagle? I quickly flew up to Cloud Nine, where I hung out with billionaires, supermodels, and a bunch of other Eagles fans. We were headed to the Super Bowl. Who was going to stop us?
Who? Us, that's who. I've used this line before, but it's too perfect not to use again: "We have met the enemy and it is us." Turnovers, missed assignments, missed tackles, and miscommunication plagued the 2011 Eagles. Never has an 8-8 season felt so bad. This is one of the lows.
Of course you can think back to 1998 and the misery of a 3-13 season. That will make 2011 seem like a trip to the Playboy Mansion on Awkward Touching Night. The 1998 Eagles lacked coaching, talent, and discipline. "Other than that, how was the play Mrs. Lincoln?" To me, that year was the lowest point. The record was awful, but the team couldn't score points. They didn't just lose. They were painful to watch.
Other people point to the defection of veteran players like Donovan McNabb and Brian Dawkins. How can you be committed to winning and let proven veterans like that leave? To many those were low points. The story with McNabb has changed a bit since he's struggled in his two years away from Philly. Now people aren't so sure what to think.
Dawk remains a beloved figure amongst Eagles Nation and his departure is a major sore spot for many. You think that was hard? Hell no. Joe Banner, Jeff Lurie, and Andy Reid could have strapped him to a chair and gone "Hostel" on him. That would be nothing compared to the departure of Reggie White.
Reggie was a free agent after the 1992 season. He "only" had 14 sacks that year. He was the heart and soul of the team. He was still in his prime. He was one of the best defensive linemen in modern history. And Norman freakin' Braman let him walk. That was pure agony. Losing a declining Brian Dawkins at age 36 wasn't fun, but Reggie back then...that was a whole other level of pain/frustration/misery. Worst of all, Reggie wanted to stay. All he wanted was a fair contract. Braman was tired of Buddy Ryan's guys and wanted cheaper stars. So we got Tim Harris instead. Harris was a good player in his own right, but he was made for other systems and was a disaster in his short time as an Eagle.
As a fan who's been around for a while, I'm able to draw on history to give the current misery some context. That doesn't mean that I'm happy right now, but misery does need some perspective. 8-8 is far from the end of the world. You can build off that and be a Super Bowl contender the very next year.
We all now point to the 2012 season and begin hoping again. Surely the Eagles are going to break through and win the Super Bowl at some point. Right? Odds say they have to. I believe in my heart that the team will hoist the Lombardi Trophy someday, but I also have to admit that I do wonder sometimes. CCR has a song called Someday Never Comes. I prefer to think John Fogerty is referring to Andy Reid someday being described as sexy, but maybe in fact he's talking about the Eagles someday winning it all.
Do the Football Gods have it out for the Eagles? If so, it would be nice if they tell us. We can sacrifice virgins or goats or even virgin goats. We can make an offering at the altar (I assume that's in Canton at the Hall of Fame). Just tell us what to do and consider it done. Joking aside, there are times when it sure does feel like the team is cursed. So what is an Eagles fan to do?
Tug McGraw said it best, "Ya gotta believe." You really do. If not, what's the point? I haven't missed an Eagles game since December of 1994. I missed that one to go to a family get-together on Christmas Eve. I'm the only Eagles fan in the bunch and going to a sports bar was a no-no. I was so miserable that day that I decided it wouldn't happen again. And it hasn't. This year we had Eagles-Cowboys on Christmas Eve. I watched the game with my family. Actually, I watched the game. They watched me. I went from mild-mannered Tommy to insane Eagles fan. I don't think the family realized just how loud I can yell the word "go". My one nephew asked me why I yelled "Golly day" so much. If not for his presence, it would have likely been another GD being yelled at the Eagles linebackers.
I'll never give up on the Eagles because part of being a fan is sticking with the team through thick and thin. I hated Norman Braman for ripping apart Gang Green, but I didn't leave the Eagles. This is my team. Being an Eagles fan means something. I don't blame fans who quit buying tickets or merchandise as a way to show the organization their frustration, but you've got to watch the games. If you bleed Eagles green, it's in your DNA. I don't think everyone should be as fanatical as me. I'm an extremist. I didn't grow up an Eagles fan. I chose to be one. There's some old saying about converts becoming the strongest believers. I guess that's me.
Let's hope that John Fogerty is wrong and someday does come. I can't wait until opposing NFC East fans have to change their taunts and say "So what, you've only got one Super Bowl ring." I happen to think 2012 would be a fantastic time for it to happen. Why put it off? I'm dying to see the Eagles have that celebration like the Giants did this week. Ugh. I'm starting to get depressed again. Being an Eagles fan just ain't easy.