Special to Page 2
There are times, as a writer, you follow one simple rule: Get out of the way.
This is one of those times.
Philadelphia and Eagles fans nationwide are alternating between euphoria, disbelief, panic and bed-wetting these days. And we here at The Hangover are more than happy to exploit it all for a "bonus" edition of the column. Only one rule applies: We're radio station WPHC -- All Philly Corner, All the Time.
(Editors: Your strategy to anger all of New England with this blatantly Philly-biased piece of content surely will play well in the wilds of Maine, Vermont, New Hampshire and Massachusetts -- where not only do they have to dig their entire homes out of snow drifts, but also discover these odes to the Eagles on Page 2. But, as a good soldier, I do as told.)
Before I get out of the way, though, a quick homage.
This Philly Corner and all other bonus columns before Super Bowl XXXIX -- otherwise known as "The Greatest Day of My Life, But Don't Tell That to My Wife" (as many of you Eagles fans have e-mailed) -- are dedicated to the long-lost ghost of Schmitty, the bartender at San Francisco's Gold Cane tavern who first illustrated to me the passion, the comedy and the face-painting so endemic to all Philly fans.
I met Schmitty in 1997, or as Eagles fans know it: The Dark Ages. My wife and I would head into "The Cane" for a pre-dinner beer and, in the course of ordering up from Schmitty, would get "The Lecture" -- about how the Eagles were a good draft away from glory; about how a key acquisition at guard or center on the free-agent market would be the magic elixir; about how Bobby Hoying or Ricky Watters or Torrance Small would be the next great hero.
The Eagles went 6-9-1 in 1997, 3-13 in 1998, and 5-11 in 1999. And quite frankly, I was less interested in Schmitty's delusions than I was in the way he could pour a pure pint of Guinness.
Over the years, Schmitty's passion won out. We began to follow the Eagles because of Schmitty. We regarded the Eagles' flag Schmitty flew year-round outside his Masonic Avenue pad as endearing, rather than as a sign of insanity. (Well, to be honest, we were about 50-50 on that.)
Schmitty used to tell us that his dream was to move back to his native Philly, buy a house, be with his dog Jake and get a job with the Eagles organization. "Dude, I'll tear tickets," he said. "Anything."
Then one day, Schmitty was gone. A bartender told us he moved back to Philly. That was it. No more Eagles flag on Masonic.
We felt empty.
So as I reflect on the birth of the Philly Corner in the weekly Hangover, I have to be honest with myself and realize that Schmitty, in his own fly-to-Arizona-every-year-to-wear-a-green-fright-wig-for-the-Eagles-Cards-NFC-East-tilt way, was the inspiration for it.
This one's for you, Schmitty. Your ghost looms in San Francisco, and it's the damndest thing: I've never seen a ghost with face-paint before.
Regardless, we move on to our pre-Super Bowl Philly Corner. You guys write; I get out of the way.
Sing a song
Eagles fans have been known to serenade with a hearty "Fly, Eagles, Fly" (second-best NFL anthem behind "Hail to the Redskins"), but we all knew last Sunday was going to be special when Eagles fans gathered behind the Fox pregame show and chanted "DALLAS SUCKS!" as Jimmy Johnson spoke.
Reader Andrew G. from New York City says the Philly crowd even went highbrow, a few of them incorporating the European tradition of transposing sporting lyrics to popular song. He says Philly fans mocked the visitors from Dixie by singing, to Doris Day's old hit: "Que sera, sera/Whatever will be, will be/General Sherman's from South Philly/Que sera, sera." I love the thought, and love Andrew's creativity. But judging by 20 weeks of Philly e-mails, I'm wondering if a 250-pound guy in a Brian Dawkins gamer would actually dare sing a Doris Day tune. Regardless, we like the effort, Andrew.
A touching thought
Andrew signed off his e-mail with what may be an emotional rallying cry: "Go Birds! Bring it home for Jerome!!" Now there's an angle. Jerome Brown! Birds fans heading to Jacksonville have to ask themselves upon pondering the propriety of sharing a drink with Pats fans, as Jerome did when his Miami Hurricanes played Penn State in the 1987 Fiesta Bowl: "Would the Japanese sit down and have dinner with Pearl Harbor?"
Ah, Jerome. We miss you, buddy.
Speaking of historical ramifications, reader Nick Seabrook from New Jersey, like many Eagles fans, has begun talking of "The Upset." Yes, there are many who believe their beloved Birds can do it, and Nick puts it in context when he says: "It would be the biggest win this country has seen since we defeated the Germans in World War I."
World War One! Way to go deep, Nick, vaulting "The War to End All Wars" past the more trendy favorite, WW II. Perhaps Nick was watching some World War I footage on History Channel Classic and let his emotions get the best of him.
We knew it was over when ...
... Little Timmy Kelly reduced a nation to misty-eyed blubbering with his national anthem. And people! Please! You who wrote in to berate your friendly author for the line about booing Timmy are officially on Hangover Probation. It was a joke, son. You who lashed out obviously haven't spent the better part of four months reading the weekly tributes to "A2U," Hibachi injuries, Monkey Suits and High-Steppers from the 700 Level. As if karmically sent, Little Timmy's dad writes in to thank the Hangover for the mention of his gutty little kid, who was born blind and with cerebral palsy, and yet turned out a smokin' national anthem. Little Timmy is a local hero in the Philly area, but Mr. Kelly is kind enough to extend a national thank you. "Let me tell you, it was brutal on the field," Mr. Kelly writes. "The wind was blowing directly in his face. He has a beautiful voice, and it really is unfortunate the wind was blowing so badly. ... He has peformed for the Eagles in the past in good weather and, as he says, 'rocked the house.' He is a fan favorite, and they love him."
More than a few of you sentimentalists out there admit that when Little Timmy faltered on a wind-blown lyric, the sound of the The Linc soaring in voice to say, essentially, "We Have Your Back, Little Dude" was their Goosebump Moment of the Year.
You big softees. Come over here so I can give you a noogie.
Back to the debauchery
The pregame scene at the Linc was, as can be expected, filled with dreamers, drifters and ne'er do wells. In other words, it was an Eagles playoff game.
To what lengths do they go to show their love? Reader Patrick R. e-mailed a lengthy tale about a gate-crashing pulled by himself and two pals, the details of which put "The Great Escape" to shame. Suffice it to say, Patrick R. boiled down his Sneak-In into a few lasting lessons: "1. Never underestimate the power of a $100 bill. 2. Never underestimate the will of a few drunken, desperate Eagles fans. 3. Never try to sneak into a game through the Club Box Section. 4. Never tell a girl who is dating the director of security that you just snuck into the Club Box Level."
All ended well, with the lads enjoying the game from the end-zone catwalk. Patrick R. does add that the lengthy pregame tailgating was aided by a propane heater, which he calls "the greatest invention since birth control."
True love conquers all
It is with deep regret that I tell this particular Birds fan that, in cutting-and-pasting his e-mail, I lost his name (yes, a "Reader Whose Name I Accidentally Deleted" makes a triumphant return from the early Hangover days). But I hope he appreciates the effort. His story is a harrowing one, but has a happy ending. It's about his buddy "Shieldsy," who decided to shed his shirt and share love with the fans during the game. Anonymous reader writes: "Shieldsy has a 'bar tumor' the size of a keg, and proceeds to bounce around the aisle, giving high-fives." Now it gets rich: "Suddenly, he realizes he 'high-fived' his wedding ring off."
Is there a deeper symbolism at work anywhere? Perhaps that shirtless Shieldsy, Gut Champ of Philly, has a more profound love for the Eagles than for his own bride?
The reader continues: "I tell him that we will find it, and will stay after everybody clears out, to look." The picture is not pretty. "We were up against slush, snow, trash, beer puddles and general goop. We were about to give up when a sweet young female security guard started to help us."
Here's the key: "Using her sober brain, unlike those of us who were blowing .225, she decided to look two rows in front of us. She deduced the high-five from a person behind you would make a ring fly backwards. We, on the other hand, found it difficult to bend over with 27 layers of clothes on."
Cue the soaring theme music of "Fly, Eagles, Fly" ... as Anonymous Reader concludes on a high note: "She found it."
What was the payout? "Shieldsy gave her a big hug, and two twenties for the effort."
To think, a modern-day Isaac Newton in a yellow jacket -- and she's 40 bucks richer for the effort.
What the world needs now, is love, sweet love
Get out your hankies, Philly fans. The testimonials from Sunday night's postgame love-fest are, well, moving. To think that these hard-bitten, frostbitten fans could warm their hearts over their collective passion for the Eagles? Well, I'll get out of the way and let reader Bob B. say: "There was a euphoric love going on in the postgame tailgate that has never been felt in Philly. Even though I was unable to move my legs and other extremities due to frostbite, high-fives were being passed around the parking lot to each guy, and I was getting hugs and kisses from tons of beautiful young women."
Bob B. wonders if he was delusionary: "At one point, I didn't know if I should be giving out dollar bills, or if I was just having a vision because I had actually died from the cold. The only other thought I had was that this must have been what the original, non-corporate Woodstock must have been like."
He poses a rhetorical query: "Did others have this feeling, and does it have a name?"
Bob B. isn't alone in opening up his heart. Reader Matt Zegarski writes: "It was amazing what happened, and I'm not talking about the game at the Linc. What really happened was the entire city was happy about the same thing, at the same time."
Zegarski experienced "Urbanophoria" (I just made that up) after the game: "While walking to a friend's house from The Bayou in Manayunk, everybody was high-fiving each other, and having a great time. Not only did I hug total strangers -- and I don't even hug friends -- but one of the guys saw I dropped my phone, and ran down the street to give it back."
Whoa! Now that's a new Philly! In the old Philly, the guy keeps the phone and logs several calls to the Caribbean on the other guy's minutes.
More heartfelt testimonial comes from reader Chris Cieri, who describes what can only be called a "Gridlock High" in trying to drive downtown on Sunday night: "The highlight of my night was the 30 minutes I spent on Broad Street trying to get home, and the mass of humanity shouting, hugging and acting like total fools." How long to drive three blocks for Cieri? "Thirty minutes," he says. "On any other night, I would have probably taken someone's life with my own hands, but not tonight. I honked and high-fived every idiot out there, and loved every second of it."
Perhaps the most immediate portrait is drawn by an e-mailer who goes only by Skauff. He e-mailed in the wee hours Monday morning, saying he had just arrived home from the revelry: "Words cannot express the feeling of this city right now ... what I just saw was grown men reduced to tears of joy, people running through the streets in the snow, making snow angels ... the traffic was horrendous, but no one cared at all. People were literally dancing in the streets to a symphony of Eagles chants, car horns and cries of jubilation."
Skauff then paints the picture that will linger: "Strangers were hugging -- their only connection a green jersey with a number 5 or 20 on their chest. It was the most wonderful sight I have ever seen."
Then again, it's Philly, right?
Lest we get too sentimental, reader Fran L. informs us that a pregame TV report on the local Fox affiliate found a reporter chasing down "The Naked Fan" in the Linc parking lot. The female reporter attempted to interview Naked Fan, who responded by turning to face the reporter, grabbing his genital region and, as Fran writes, "in his best Austin Powers said: 'Do I make you horny, baby?'"
Like I said: It's Philly, right?
We end with visual poetry
We will have more Philly Corner as the Super Bowl approaches, and you are encouraged to e-mail all memories, anecdotes and comedy to the address listed below. But we will end this bonus edition with my favorite image of the year. It is picked up by reader Tom G., who was reveling in postgame coverage when his eyes fell upon the following: "It was the 11 o'clock news, and images of hundreds of Eagles fans jamming the snow-covered parking lot at the Linc were shown. Who pops up on the screen? A 300-pound drunk guy wearing a severely undersized PINK Eagles hooded sweatshirt."
Tom G.'s eye for detail is precise: "This thing is ripped at the waist and sleeves," he writes, "and he is screaming at the top of his lungs."
Ladies and gentlemen, I give you the Philly Corner.
E-mail Brian Murphy at firstname.lastname@example.org with thoughts, questions and unanswerable philosophical rants.