As someone who's in the City of Brotherly Love for a good education, there's one thing I've learned oh-so clearly:
Nothing in Philadelphia is more widely loved than the Eagles. They are
the Red Sox of Boston or the Red Wings of Detroit - the team put on a
pedestal, the heart and soul of Philadelphians. And the mood and
emotions of Eagles fans directly correlate with the final score.
With victory comes deafening whooping and screaming, honking of car horns, and the chanting of "E-A-G-L-E-S, EAGLES!"
With defeat comes a combination of awkward silence and vulgar
obscenities, the throwing of any object within reach, the sight of
adults sobbing. Win or lose, there's always a good deal of alcohol
consumption, hugging of random strangers - for elation or consolation -
and over-analysis of every play and action, on and off the field.
In the days, hours, minutes, seconds - breaths - before kickoff, the
faith says that there's "absolutely no way the Eagles are going to
lose." Yet in a matter of plays - maybe even seconds - Eagles fans
become their team's most hostile critics.
This fanaticism has captivated the sports nation. From coast to coast,
other fans condemn Philadelphians for being overly harsh, verging on
abusive. Growing up in Connecticut, I truly believed that Eagles fans
Then I moved to Philadelphia.
The cheers and obscenities that fill Cavanaugh's near the Penn campus
on Sunday afternoons would be heard at the Linc if not for the constant
drone of West Philadelphia motorists. And it is at Cav's, during my
first semester at college, that I learned to be the best fan in all
sports - an Eagles fan.
I learned that Eagles fans will not tolerate disrespect. If opposing
fans don't have the decency (or common sense) to remain invisible in
Philadelphia territory, they will suffer the consequences.
Some learn the easy way. My friends learned the hard way. One Sunday,
in a quintessential display of freshman naivete, they decided it would
be entertaining to applaud all Eagles miscues. The result? An onslaught
of chicken legs, utensils and wet napkins aimed at our table. And
another lesson learned.
Eagles fans also anticipate the worst possible outcome. One afternoon,
with time about to expire, David Akers set up to kick a potentially
game-winning 23-yard field goal - almost a gimme.
Yet, Eagles fans braced themselves for disappointment, resorting to
silent prayer, the rally cap and closed eyes. When the kick sailed
cleanly through the uprights, the eruption was as if some higher power
had blessed us with nothing short of a miracle.
The Phillies may boast the Phanatic, but Eagles fans are their own
greatest mascots. Unprovoked cheers and spontaneous renditions of "Fly
Eagles Fly" are not unique to Sundays at Cavanaugh's. And it doesn't
matter where. I've heard it on winter afternoons walking around Center
City. And in the upper deck at Phillies games in April. Football season
may last from September to January, but Eagles fans bleed green and
silver all year round.
Outside Philadelphia, Eagles fans are depicted as untamed and uncouth. That's accurate, maybe, but not totally correct.
If I've learned nothing else from my Sundays at Cavanaugh's, it's that
Eagles fans are a rare treat in the world of professional sports, where
way too many fans often lack unbridled passion. Where college students
completely succumb to school pride, pro sports fans have been turned
into mere spectators to an event. How ironic that at the highest level
of athleticism comes the lowest level of fanaticism - at least
elsewhere in the world of sports.
Outsiders construe Philadelphians' rabid cheering for the Eagles as
deplorable - and in the case of throwing utensils and poultry parts,
that may be true.
BUT Philadelphians unite for the Eagles in a way rarely seen elsewhere
in the American scene. People today declare their allegiances in a few
sedate words. Long gone are the days of headline-worthy protests and
rallies. Somewhere along the way, we've became timid in giving
ourselves away to a larger cause.
We need to rediscover passion - to be more like Eagles fans.