The Curious Case of Philly Fandom
Funny feeling, isn’t it?
Half-pulling for a loss that might exact change, your fandom pulling the rest of you to root your throat raw?
That’s what support means in Philadelphia these days, with the 6-8 Eagles two games and some help from the tournament. It's a balancing act. A limbo. Ambivalence, in its purest and most potent form.
There are two sides to this fence, both understandable sentiments. On the one hand, Philly fans figure, is the bounty of playoff elimination: Andy Reid’s eventual, inevitable ouster, a warm thought to keep them toasty throughout a postseason-less January.
On the other, though, they have the playoffs.
That's the line Delaware County drew and took sides of. That they did is kind of quirky. But the debate makes total sense.
More curious, though, is the turnaround: Why some fans teeter between the two, coming and going on the whims of the Eagles week-by-week game readiness.
Is it the thrill of cheering for a contender? Is it that overstated for Reid is overstated? Is it that nobody thought a late-season surge possible?
Whatever it is, this phenomena is a brand all its own. I can’t remember anything like this Philly 180 in recent sports history: a fan base frothing for losses, until they remember just how sweet the zest of success really is.
How’s that for a Philly legacy? Instead of a rep as the bumbling drunks that windmill in center field, barf on policemen's daughters, pelt Santa with snowballs (knew that was coming), how about a cognitive complexity that makes for the envy of sports rooting public?
It makes for a hell of a story.
If you remember, the earliest pages were written with indifference: Nobody cared about the lockout. You hated labor talks, loved football. Until one made way for the other, you didn't want to be bothered.
Then it started heating up. At the height of summer came the fierce free agent frenzy, a source of excitement you never really knew. Fans flocked to Twitter. The ESPN Bottom Line became an oasis of information about the transactions you thirsted for. Players cashed in. Teams retooled.
It was awesome.
Maybe most of all for your Eagles. First came the eventual NFL sack leader, Jason Babin. Then came the most hyped backup in football memory, Vince Young. Then came Nnamdi Asmougha, and the puzzled look on Jerry Jones faux regal face. Next was Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, in exchange for the peace of mind of a quarterback controversy quelled. Last and best, we figured at the time, was Ronnie Brown, thought to be bringing bulk to the running game.
In short, there was hope.
Until there wasn’t anymore. One four-game slide (Weeks 2-5) and two more back-to-backs (Weeks 9-10 and 12-13) and the Eagles were 4-8 and awful. It left you questioning the Michael Vick Project and the meaning of “Can’t Miss.” Kicking yourself for letting buzz words like “wide nine” dupe you. Rooting for “John The Sign Guy” and a ruckus that, any other year, wouldn’t jibe as well. Wondering how you were jaded by big spending, hype and hoopla and the antithesis of everything you knew about building a championship roster.
How the you were going to get through these lean months.
Worse, how they fell out of contention.
Then, all of a sudden, how the hell they climbed back.
Two decisive wins and masterful performances from both sides, previously unseen from this Eagle roster, and the Birds were back in business. And, apparently, your good graces.
Part of it has to be belief. Belief in the roster. Belief in its chances. Belief in the matchups. Belief, even, in the coaching staff. If fans didn’t think the Eagles viable or Super Bowls possible, the talk wouldn’t have taken this turn. No way.
But they do. So it has.
Should they? Why not? If the first half of the season was such an underachievement, marred by turnovers and injuries and other oddities that couldn’t carry on forever, why wouldn’t a team playing to its potential—to that potential—be one you’d love to live and die with?
Apparently, it is.
(This story was written by Matt Hammond of 973espn.com)