Thursday, February 3, 2005
Updated: February 4, 4:32 PM ET
Dying for Sunday
By Brian Murphy
Special to Page 2
For 21 weeks, from late-summer heat to autumn chills
to the deep frost of winter, I have heard from all of
you deranged, hilarious, inebriated, passionate
Philadelphia Eagles fans. And truth told, I expected
what I got: Comedy in a green jersey, from a
blue-collar fan base unafraid to tell it like it is.
I heard it all -- from the bravado of the 700 Level at
the dearly-departed Vet, to your 21st
century-fashioned insecurities and fears about what
your team had in store for you in yet another, bitter
It was not, however, until I received an e-mail from
one of the more esteemed writers I've met in this
business that I realized just how deep the bond runs.
Because I'll be honest: I love the interactions I've
had with Philly fans this year at The Hangover, and
I'm happily rolling out another special edition of the
Philly Corner for Page 2, but -- and I'm just being
honest here -- I'm having trouble
seeing a scenario where the bloodless New England
Patriots lose on Sunday.
Easy! Easy! Easy, partner. We're still friends. I'm
not saying I want the Pats to win.
I'm just saying I've seen them be too good for too
long to think they'll lose on the big stage. And I could be
wrong; I've made a career of being wrong. And
I'd hope you all appreciate my forthrightness on this
topic. We're close enough pals to be honest, right?
All that said -- I'm amazed at the True Believers in
Let's get back to that e-mail from the esteemed writer.
I won't print his name, because he didn't tell me to
run this. I'll just say he works for a big-city newspaper, and has a very
responsible position at it, and has written some very
important and engaging stories.
And he's a Birds fan.
And his e-mail went like this:
"I was at the
NFC Championship, and it was colder than the freezer set at 10, but it was
still one of the happiest days of my life. I'm having a Super Bowl party at the
crib on Sunday, and a few of my oldest homies from Philly will be in the
house, including one who's flying in from L.A.
"Trust me, these cats do not know how to act. An
Eagles Super Bowl, a wedding, or a funeral are the
only three reasons why my wife would allow these guys
to be in our house at the same time. I expect
'For-Sale' signs to be popping up around the
neighborhood by Monday morning.
"I too have drunk the Kool-Aid, and I believe the
Birds can pull it off. Win or lose, no way the Eagles are giving up 40
points to New England like Pittsburgh did. If we score 24 points or more, we
Understand, these aren't the words of a guy in his 30s,
living in his parents' basement, lighting a candle at
his Ron Jaworski poster. This is a responsible adult,
with a family to care for and a glamorous gig.
A friend flying from L.A. just for the game ... a wife allowing grown men to act like giddy children in her home, risking her abode's neighborhood
reputation ... a full-on drinking of 'the Kool-Aid' ... I believe the Birds can pull it off. Eagles Nation, you are united.
Time for me, now, to get out of the way, and let the
anecdotes and e-mails tell the story of a city, a team
and a dream -- convulsing in sweaty, nervous joy.
Setting the Tone
We need a table-setting e-mail, and I believe Birds fan Jason G. in Louisiana speaks for all of
you when he e-mails simply these words: "Seriously --
I really think I am going to have to start drinking
Thursday, to take the edge off Sunday." Bottoms up, J.
A scene from the Linc
Lest you get too caught up in the hype from
Jacksonville, remember that it was two short weeks ago you
were all at the Linc, witnessing visions of subtle
beauty such as the one e-mailed by John Leyh of
Hockessin, Delaware. Leyh works for Budweiser, but
happily transmits the following tableau: "So we're
in Section D3 of the Wachovia Center parking lot. Some
guy gives absolutely the best impression of Merrill
Reese I have ever heard. I've never seen Reese in
person, so for all I know it was really him."
Leyh continues: "He delivers a huge speech about our
Birds and why this time is it for us. All of a sudden,
this other guy appears on the roof of a U-Haul
trailer. He starts the E-A-G-L-E-S cheer, then takes
off his jersey and throws it in the air."
Leyh's eye for detail is keen: "I swear," he writes,
"within three seconds the wind had that thing on
It goes on: "He's going nuts, and he calls for a beer.
Like, 30 cans of beer (Miller Lite, no less) go flying
through the air towards the guy. Some go past him, and
he catches a couple. He gets hit by a few more, yet
manages to crack open and pour three beers down his
face and chest."
Here is where Leyh has a gut-check moment: "It was
hard. I'm an Eagles fan, yet I was torn between this
guy's intensity for the Birds, and the fact that I'm a
Bud guy -- and he's drinking Miller, for God's sake!"
Ladies and gentlemen -- a pregame scene from the
parking lot at an Eagles game. Take it for what it's
A report from a Hangover legend
Longtime readers know that Philly resident Paul (20
Pound Motionless Quaker Head) Manion has been a key
component of The Hangover and the Philly Corner, and
Manion must be heard at this time. His vignette from
the afterglow of the NFC Championship: "I walked past
one of the ubiquitous snow drifts that are filling our
city streets the other day," Manion writes, "to see
someone had written EAGLES in bright green spraypaint
on the snow. A fan SPRAYED PAINT ONTO SNOW." (Manion's caps provided for emphasis.)
A report from another Hangover legend
Gabe from Philly has been a consistent and comedic
contributor. In fact, it was Gabe from Philly who got
the whole Meat Sweats wagon rolling, way back in Week
1 or 2. Now, Gabe is in heat. He's in Jacksonville, but before he left reported that the
Eagles are doing what even the holidays sometimes
cannot do -- bring families together. He says
stories are legion of expat Philadelphians flying home
to be with grandparents, or mom and dad, or brothers
and sisters, just for the game. But not all of Gabe's
feelings are warm and fuzzy. He dares to enter the world
of comparisons between Eagles fans and Patriots fans, between Philly and Boston.
"Philly and Boston might have a lot
of similarities," he writes, "but Boston is most
certainly a baseball town and Philly is most certainly
a football town. Throw in the 'Yankee-fication' of
their fan base and you've got a big group of people
who don't deserve anything more than seeing Tom Brady
on 'Hollywood Squares', in the Jim J. Bullock spot."
Whoa! Count it as the first anti-New England salvo in
the Philly Corner, and let the floodgates open.
Let's be honest. The Philly Corner has long ignored --
convieniently -- the darker side of Philly's soul. We
don't endorse the physical assaults, and like to think
the majority of you are funny and endearing, not violent.
That said, we must recognize that, when pushed,
Philadelphians will defend their turf. Last week's
Philly Corner included a couple of e-mails from New
Englanders dismissing Philly as a second-rate town and
team, and let's just say Eagles fans have responded
with a collective snowball to New England's head.
Their main argument: Not long ago, the Patriots were a
forgotten franchise, doomed to obscurity. So, in
Philly-speak, where do these jerks get off
talking like their stuff don't stink? (Note: That last sentence was severely tidied up by
the ESPN.com copy police. Please use your imagination for the real sentiment.)
Anyway, an Eagles fan known only as Rich D. writes: "I
love both cities and have great memories of living in
both. But Patriots fans are acting a bit nouveau
riche. They're forgetting their
Irving-Fryar-meltdown-watching roots." Concludes Richard: "Four years back, guys. Four years
John Szczepanski from Buffalo isn't even an Eagles
fan. He's a Bills fan, and experiencing AFC East envy.
Szczepanski's message is the same to Pats fans:
"Don't forget that your team was once crap, and unto
crap thou shalt return."
Almost has a Biblical ring, doesn't it?
The ultimate comes from Pete L. in Conshohocken, Pa.,
who sees the game as nothing short of a clash of
cultures. Excepting what he sees as real passion in
Southie, Pete writes off Boston as a bastion of the
effette. He writes to a Pats fan named Gabe from last
week's column, a note that derided Philly as a
"marginal town": "Enjoy the game, Gabe, make a day of
it," Pete says. "Maybe soak up all the grandeur of
your fair city with one of those duckboat tours in
the day, maybe swing out to Brookline for some sushi ... I'll spend the day in my marginal town, soaking up anything and everything that might just clog up the
remaining millimeter of my arteries that isn't already clogged."
Pete isn't done. "I'll run the Art Museum steps for
exercise and visit Valley Forge to call on some real
Patriots. I'll take a drive down to Penn's Landing to
gaze on the Spirit of 76 and stroll Elfreth's Alley,
America's first street. I'll kick by Pat's and Geno's
for a pregame cheesesteak, double whiz wit, before
rolling over to Chickie N Pete's to watch the game
with real fans -- the kind who will live and die on
every play not because we're underdogs, not because
that is what marginal people do, but because passion
isn't something you learn. It is innate, inborn and
exists in every corner of this city."
Pardon me, reader, while I dab at the corner of my
Anybody else hear Ray Charles' "America the Beautiful"
in the background when you read that?
We the people, in order relieve a more perfect bladder
If Pete's Philly-phirst screed doesn't touch you, we
turn to Joe W., a Philadelphian now living in Florida
who tries to find the right way to describe what it
means to be an Eagles fan. He settles on this poetic
"2003, first year of the Linc. At the Eagles-Panthers
NFC title game, I'm proud to say we treated our new
palace with the respect it deserved: No more urinating
in the sinks."
Touching, but Joe isn't done: "Showing decorum beyond
our years, my buddies and I displayed the level-headed
temperament heretofore only found in 'top-drawer'
cities. Our group of eight wandered the concourse
area, with one in the middle and seven forming a
Still with him? Joe goes on: "The 'middleman' would
casually empty his bladder into an empty beer cup, and
upon finishing, simply deposit the contents into a
nearby trashcan and take his place as a member of 'the
shield.' This process was repeated until the mission
was successfully completed. To the untrained eye, it
was nothing but an innocuous halftime gathering of
The mere description of the act moves Joe, and he
finds himself struggling to keep his eyes dry.
"It's that kind of team-first attitude that makes me
long for my time in South Philly," Joe writes.
Andy Reid as Maori Warrior
Eagles fans, know that a globe is watching on Sunday.
An e-mail comes from Birds fanatic Eric C. in New
Zealand. He moved to Kiwi Land recently, and while he
loves it, and plays rugby, he has trouble convincing
the locals of the importance of the Green and White.
Eric writes that he will be, quite simply, wigging out
in Wellington come Sunday.
"On Monday the 7th of February, at 12 p.m. in New
Zealand, nothing else will matter to me. I will be in
front of the TV watching the game I've waited my whole
life to see. Nothing can stop me. I've called off
work, put a lock on the door and told the housemates
to leave, if they wish to live."
Writes Eric: "You can take the Philadelphia fan out of
Philadelphia, but you can't take the Fan out of the
Man. This game makes me feel at home, makes me feel
like an American, makes me feel proud to be alive,
because my team is in the Super Bowl and I can watch
them win -- because they can."
And if they do?
Writes Eric, from the Southern Hemisphere: "If they do
what we all know they're capable of, you'll be
watching celebrations in Wellington, New Zealand, of
one man, one flag, drunkenly marching proudly in front
of the government houses -- and even they will
understand that in American football, or 'gridiron' as
they call it, the Philadelphia Eagles are world
Did somebody cue up Ray Charles again? Damndest thing.
A final thought
The more brilliant of you Eagles fans are what have
touched me the most and, hopefully, have touched the
readers the most. Eagles fans aren't all idiots, drunk
and felonious and bizarre. Many are funny and smart
and dying -- just dying -- for
My favorite comes from a reader named Alex M. He is
real, he is honest, he is a Birds fan -- dying, just
dying for Sunday. Alex's point:
Philly is flawed. Philly is cold and miserable. Philly
is not glamorous. Philly is hard-bitten and
But Philly is his town. And the Eagles are his team.
Writes Alex: "I can't wait to tell my friends what we
have to put up with in this second-rate city. The
winters are wretched, the summers humid and
oppressing, spring and fall don't even exist here."
He goes on: "In most cities, college guys brag about
how many girls they have hooked up with this semester.
In Philly, we brag about how long we've gone without.
We brag about how bad our hangovers
are, and how many Gatorades it took to get our sight
Alex's question: If the Eagles win the Super Bowl,
will Philly lose its identity of the ne'er-do-well
town of America, the burg that can't get it done, the
city that never wakes up to find itself top of the
heap, king of the hill, A-Number-One?
Alex finds the muse. He writes: "The suffering. The
pain. The misery. We love it. We hate it. We need it."
Could Alex be right? Is Philly destined for phailure?
He didn't want to believe it. He wants to believe the
best. He is, however, speaking from the heart.
I prefer to think of my friend's e-mail, the one that
opened The Hangover's Philly Corner at the top of this
piece. I prefer to think of his crew from childhood in
Philadelphia, gathering at his home this Sunday. I
prefer to think of the hugs, the Eagles jerseys, the
spirit that brought them together, through all these
I prefer to think they believe the Eagles can win.
Godspeed, Birds fans. It's been a fun ride.
E-mail Brian Murphy at firstname.lastname@example.org with thoughts, questions and unanswerable philosophical rants -- and Philly stories, especially from Jacksonville.