If my Philadelphia Eagles fandom was a marriage, I wouldn’t be considered the best husband in the world.
Before we were "married," I had a few flings. Before I turned 10, I was a Cleveland Browns fan because I shared the same first name with quarterback Brian Sipe.
Judge me if you must, but I was also watching Sesame Street and wasn’t sure if I wanted to be a baseball player or Cookie Monster when I grew up. Hard to judge someone who aspired to be a puppet.
Honestly, I don’t remember being a Browns fan, but that’s what I’ve been told. I still think of Cookie Monster as a potential career path though.
I also don’t remember being a Bears fan, but as a Christmas present in 1985 along with my NFL Fan pack was a card that stated I was a fan of the Chicago Bears. Chalk that one up to being a front-runner, the “Super Bowl Shuffle”—and being 9-years-old!
I don’t remember that either, but it’s in print. It must be true.
I don’t remember exactly when I became an Eagles fan, but I assume it was the year after the Bears won that Super Bowl. I was always a Randall Cunningham and Buddy Ryan fan.
Between 1986 and 1992, we became married as team and fan. (I swear there was nothing going on between me and the “Dirty Bird” Falcons of the Jerry Glanville era and I don’t know where that black Atlanta Falcons jersey in my closet came from!)
Those years were magical. I lived and died Eagles football.
No one could point out the flaws of my Eagles and I always thought they were going to go 16-0. No matter how often people pointed out the flaws in Cunningham’s scramble-first game, I couldn’t wait to watch him play every Sunday.
Other than Michael Jordan, there is no other athlete that I would pay to see play just one more game.
By 1992, Buddy Ryan was out as Eagles head coach and one of the key members of the Eagles defense, Jerome Brown, passed tragically in an automobile accident that summer.
There were still signs pointing to the 1992 season being the greatest season of my Eagles fandom. It wasn’t because the first year of the Rich Kotite era went well or that it was nearly a year since I saw Cunningham play. (Randall went down in the first game of the 1991 season and was out for the year.)
During the eventful offseason, at the age of 16, I landed my first paying job—backup scorekeeper for the Philadelphia Eagles with Stats Inc.
Actually, I was called a reporter, but my job was to watch the games, write down every play, tape the game to re-watch for statistical accuracy, and send the handwritten play-by-play description to Stats.
It was an odd job really. It didn’t pay much. I did the job at home. And I got paid to watch football.
No matter what happened that season, it was destined to be the greatest season in the history of my fandom. Then, a great season unfolded.
The Eagles rattled off four straight wins including a 31-7 pounding of the Dallas Cowboys in week five. The rivalry didn’t carry the same weight it did during “Buddy Ball,” but it was at a time where a Cowboys loss was almost as satisfying as an Eagle win for me.
The next nine weeks were up and (mostly) down. I realized the difficulty of work when forced to re-watch five losses to ensure the stats for stats were accurate.
And I also enjoyed the unadulterated joy of doing something you love for the first time in week 12 when the Eagles pounded the Giants 47-34.
Vai Sikahema’s punt return TD and working over of the Giants' goal post with a vicious boxing combination was what most remember. Having seen what still ranks as my favorite game in Eagles history at least 20 times, I remember most of what happened.
The season ended sadly. (Don’t all Eagles seasons end that way?) But not before Rich Kotite coached (or is it “coached” when referring to Kotite) the Eagles to their first playoff win in 12 years.
It was also the year I knew the Honeymoon was over. Randall had lost a step and lost another year to injury in 1993 after a 4-0 start.
God told Reggie White to go to Green Bay, where he won a Super Bowl in the wrong shade of green. Kotite’s idiocy helped ruin a talented team for the next two seasons. And my relationship with the Eagles was forever fractured.
Since then, I’ve never really recovered. Heck, I even strayed when Cunningham returned to the NFL in 1997 after two poor post-injury seasons with the Eagles and a year in the marble business.
Before Carson Daly taught Earl about karma, I learned its power when Cunningham’s Vikings inexplicably blew the NFC Championship game in 1998. (Why did Robert Smith keep running out of bounds? WHY!?)
I’m still married to the Eagles. We’re not the same though. She’s never really willing to go where I want to go. There have been promises of trips somewhere warm in January, but those usually end at least one week before. And the one time we did go, she threw up.
The offense isn’t excited as it was before we were married. There was that time she added Terrell Owens, but I had to pay for it the whole next year while being forced to stomach Greg Lewis and Reggie Brown and two years later she gave me Donte Stallworth. Was that supposed to make everything OK?
Like every marriage, money is always an issue too. How many players with whom I have lived and died with do I have to see in another jersey?
Owens, Jevon Kearse, Jeremiah Trotter, Troy Vincent, Bobby Taylor, Ike Reese, Hugh Douglas… I’m sure I’m leaving someone out.
This year it is Brian Dawkins. How can I not root for B-Dawk in 2009?
It’s always about money and that budget we have to stick to. Why can’t we just splurge just once and go where I want to go in January or February?
But I still root. I’m still an E-A-G-L-E-S Eagles fan. No matter how many times they get close enough that another loss will rip my heart out, midnight green is the color of the bloody puddle you’ll find me in after the season ends in disappointment again.
What? My closet? Why are you going through my closet?