I still remember the sting in my heart when I left the youth group worship gathering and turned on the radio to hear the Eagles Bucs final score in 2002; 27 – 10. Everything said we would win: the team was on fire, it was the last game at the Vet, Tampa had never won when the temperature was under 32º. Duce Staley ran in the opening drive and I was sure that this would be the year we won it all.
It didn’t start there. I have followed the Eagles as long as I can remember. I remember the Fog Bowl against the Chicago Bears and the heartbreak. I remember the Eagles coming back to beat the Saints in the playoffs the same day the Bills had the greatest comeback in playoff history. We went on to lose to the Cowboys. I remember the Kotite years, the Ray Rhodes years. Disappointment after disappointment, year after year.
The year before Tampa Bay, the Eagles had lost to the Rams on an interception by Aeneas Williams in the NFC Championship, but we weren’t supposed to be there anyway. After Tampa, the following year it was a loss to the Panthers in the NFC Championship. The next year, we make it to the Super Bowl to face the Patriots as underdogs. We lost and it stung because it was a winnable game had McNabb not lost it on the final drive.
Then there was the surprise appearance to the NFC Championship against a beatable Arizona team in 2008. In order to get there, two teams had to lose on the last week of the season and they had to beat a strong Cowboys team. It was Brian Dawkins last season as an Eagle. Both teams lost, which was unexpected and then the Eagles destroy the Cowboys 44-6. We face the beatable Cardinals only to fall to them. Again- we fall short.
This season, I was hoping they made the playoffs, but didn’t expect much more. Wentz was entering his second year and I was not a believer in Doug Pederson or Howie Roseman.
The year started off with a bang when Beth and I got to go to the NFL Draft in Philly. It was awesome to hear the spirit of the fans in the city. The season started 1-1. Then they ripped off 11 straight wins. They faced the resurgent LA Rams and then the unthinkable happened. Wentz tore his ACL and LCL on a touchdown run. Season over. Nick Foles took over at QB. We stumbled into the playoffs and the #1 seed. We wouldn’t make it past the first round and I was convinced we would all be miserable again.
Then the playoffs changed everything. They upset a hot Atlanta team as underdogs. It was a thriller with a goal-line stance. They destroyed the Vikings and the #1 defense in the league. Then it was on to face the other #1 seed, the Patriots looking for their 6th Super Bowl. I was sure this was a loss again. It always happens. Philly fans always have heartbreak.
The Eagles looked fantastic in the Super Bowl. I thought their defense would be key to winning, but it was trash. Nick Foles…backup QB who left the Eagles years before being ridiculed and hated because he was so bad, was on fire. There was no look of weakness in him the entire game. The O-Line was amazing.
The Eagles went up by 5 with about 2:20 left and I was for certain the game was over. Brady does this all the time- game winning drive. And then the D-Line FINALLY came through with a strip-sack on Brady. We kick the field goal and we are up by 8 with 1:05 left. The final Hail Mary failed and the Eagles, after years and years of heartbreak and disappointment, are Super Bowl Champions.
I won’t lie that this morning is a bit surreal. After so much disappointment and hurt all these years, it just seems to good to be true. Part of me doesn’t know how to react. It is awesome though, even if it is only a few months till a new season.
I do reflect on my uncle Jack, one of the biggest influences on me to be a Philadelphia fan. He always bought us Philly food and sports memorabilia when he visited. He passed year ago and would have loved this.
And then my late friend Josh. At a time when I had given up on the Eagles and was focusing on the Phillies, I met him when he was an awkward teenager. He was all in with the Eagles and it was contagious. I found myself shifting focus to the Eagles again after all the disappointment. We watched the 2008 Eagles-Cardinals game together in my parent’s living room in Lynchburg. He was tragically taken from us a few years later by a drunk driver. I know both of these people would have been celebrating like me if they were here, but they are in a far better place right now with Jesus.
I love Philadelphia Eagles football. I even now am thinking about next season. 16 weeks is not long enough. They embody the heart of a city and everything I love about it. I’m proud to be a fan all of these years and hope my kids will carry on the legacy.