I get it—outside of Philadelphia, most of you probably think Philly has the worst fans. It's not your fault that you've drawn such a faulty conclusion.
You've only been told a part of the story.
You only know about Santa Claus getting pelted with snowballs, Michael Irvin getting booed as he laid on the field injured and that whole Donovan McNabb debacle on draft day.
You only know about the black eyes, because that's how Philadelphia's fans have been framed.
But there is so, so much more to the story than that, and if you're willing to ignore a few bad apples to see the whole tree, you'll see that there's far more to love about Eagles fans than there is to despise.
But in case you aren't sold yet, let me explain to you what I mean.
Our fathers were Eagles fans, as were our grandfathers, and our grandfather's fathers and so on.
It runs deep.
Sitting down in the living room with the older folks or traveling with the family to the games becomes a Sunday tradition. Growing up, I knew two things were probably going to be constant on Sunday: church in the morning and the Eagles in the afternoon.
Philadelphia is the sort of city that families generally settle down in and remain in for several generations. I've been to a lot of cities in my time, but nothing has ever felt like home the way that Philadelphia does. And if you're a Philadelphian, you're an Eagles fan.
Just like your father and his father before him. And just like your kids will be, too.
Yes, our bars are always prepared to host football Sundays and our tailgates are always buzzing. Truthfully, a lot of the folks tailgating are buzzing, too.
See, in Philadelphia, we understand that it's more than just a game. Yes, those three hours are important, but it's just as vital to gather together with your friends and make a day out of the experience.
Someone brings the brew, someone else brings the grill, somebody brings the tailgating games, and oh yeah, everyone else covers the food.
Oh, and the food. In Philly, we have gourmet junk food.
You know about the cheesesteaks, sure. But have you heard about our fantastic Italian hoagies with the finest Italian bread and deli meats you'll ever find? How about our famous soft pretzels? Beer from some of the finest local microbreweries around? Have you had the crab fries?
And let's not forget the roast pork sandwiches with sharp provolone, broccoli rabe and long hots.
Yeah, we know how to eat, drink and cheer. Come join the party.
We don't wave some silly towel.
We don't all dress up like pirates.
We don't need some fireman to get us pumped up during the game; we're always pumped up.
We don't have one crazy section with a cute nickname like the Dawg Pound; our entire stadium is going nuts. (Though the 700 Level of Veterans Stadium was a place Hunter S. Thompson surely should have written about rather than the Kentucky Derby.)
We're not "America's Team," and we sure as hell don't want to be.
Save your gimmicks. We'll just keep it real.
We may react emotionally during a game, but please, please don't assume we're a bunch of buffoons who don't understand what we're watching.
We appreciate the stretch running attack Howard Mudd brought with him when he became the offensive line coach.
We know Andy Reid has no concept of clock management.
We recognized that Nnamdi Asomugha has regressed since coming here, probably because Juan Castillo tried to play him all over the field like Charles Woodson rather than allowing him to play his patented bump-and-run man coverage last year.
And no, we wouldn't have hired Castillo in the first place.
We know what we're watching. We may react too emotionally at times, but I bet you would be surprised to find out that the football IQ of most Philadelphia fans is higher than you'd expect.
There's no question that Eagles fans are tough customers who grow weary with poor performances. We were famously hard on Donovan McNabb. We've called for Andy Reid's head on more than one occasion. (C'mon, we want a Super Bowl!)
We don't expect perfection, but we do expect excellent effort and to at least feel as though we're getting our money's worth. And yes, Philly fans booed Santa Claus.
But it's not what you think.
Watch the video.
Philly fans didn't boo Santa—they booed some ratty, imitation version of Santa Claus! They didn't throw snowballs at Santa, they threw snowballs at some replacement Santa Claus that wasn't up to snuff.
We expect the best in Philadelphia, even from the men and women who dress up as fictional characters. If that isn't a metaphor for the fans here, I don't know what is.
More so than any other NFL team, Philadelphia fans always become a part of the narrative when the Eagles are playing a national game. It seems the Eagles can't be talked about without some ESPN commentator talking about those crazy Philly fans, wink wink, nudge nudge.
We get it, America—you think we're the bottom of the totem pole when it comes to fandom.
You think we're just a bunch of beer-guzzling, profanity-spewing malcontents who would be at home in the Roman Coliseum, cheering for blood.
Well, guess what? We don't really care what you think.
We know that a few knuckleheads and hooligans have given the whole of us a bad name. We know that it's an easy and lazy narrative for the national media to mention our history as fans rather than come up with an interesting angle about our team. We know that you'll never understand what it means to be an Eagles fan or a Philadelphian.
Trust me, the rest of you spend a lot more time talking about us than we spend thinking about you. Frankly, we think the majority of the fanbases out there are just a little bit boring in comparison.
Yeah, we had a judge and courthouse underneath the old Veterans Stadium. Yeah, the old 700 Level at Veterans Stadium was a risky place for an opposing fan to watch a game. Yeah, if a player is nervous playing in Philly, we feel we've done our job.
No sensible fans in Philadelphia ever, under any circumstance, want harm to come to an opposing player or fan. The majority of us aren't barbaric or idiots, for that matter.
But at the same time, if you're intimidated by us, well, we're perfectly okay with that.
Football is a game of overcoming fear, and if we put any pause in an opposing player and cause him to lose a bit of his edge, we feel we've done our job as fans. So yeah, we'll yell from the beginning of the game until the end; we'll find clever ways to tell you what we think of your mother and we'll create a rowdy, intense atmosphere.
If you're worried about us, you're not worried about doing your job on the field. Think of us as the 12th through 60,000th man.
No Super Bowl rings?
Well, I wouldn't say no problem, because in Philly we're dying to see our boys in green hoist the Lombardi Trophy, and we'll give them a hard time until they do.
But through thick and thin, we care, we show up and we don't ignore our team. We're a lot friendlier when they win, make no mistake about it, but you can guarantee that we're still watching whether they're 13-3 or 3-13.
We haven't won squat since 1960.
But you can bet we'll be showing up for another 52 years even if they don't win a championship, as painful and maddening as that would be.
To our credit and occasionally our detriment, we live and die with our team on Sunday. And sometimes throughout the week when we call into WIP to complain. And maybe at dinner we ask our spouses, friends or children what the hell Andy Reid was thinking.
We really love football in Philly. Love it like, whoa.
If you've ever spent a Sunday at Lincoln Financial Field or a local bar (I recommend Chickie's and Pete's), the atmosphere is electrifying. We leave with hoarse throats, emotionally drained no matter what the outcome.
There are no casual Sundays here. We bring our A-game to every contest so that our Birds know we've got their back.
Well, if they don't play like bums, that is.