I just came home to Dallas from a two-month stint in Philadelphia. No, I wasn't sent there as punishment for my sins. Nor was I there as a missionary to convert poor, lost Eagles fans. I was just taking care of business.
As is my custom when working abroad, I found the area's most listened-to sports talk radio station, set my tuner, and left it there.
In Philly, that means listening to 97.5 The Fanatic. They feature some very capable shows with big-time names like Tony Bruno (of Madden NFL and ESPN fame), Vai Sikahema (former Eagle), and Mike Missanelli, the station's anchor and among the best in the business.
Usually, when traveling other regions, I find the local sports talk to be talentless homers droning, yelling, or pontificating endlessly about topics only a handful of die hard sports nerd fans of their team could possibly even care about. It involves a good deal of idol worship and good old fashioned butt-kissing.
Not in Philly. Those guys will ask the hard questions, take unpopular stances, and even call a caller an idiot, if indeed he is one. Refreshing!
In that regard, the Fanatic reminded me of my favorite hometown station, the Ticket. The well-rounded sports talk was sprinkled with guy talk, humor, and current events/issues. Their approach to sports talk radio made my stay in Philly—a place I actually liked much more than I thought I would—much more enjoyable.
But the most surprising discovery was this: Fans in Philly have exactly the same concerns and the same complaints about their team as Dallas fans do. If you are a Cowboys fan and you read the local papers, listen to local sports radio, and watch local sports anchors, please tell me if any of this sounds familiar...
Here are the top three complaints I heard regarding the Philadelphia Eagles organization, its coach, and its players:
No. 3: The front office types don't know football. Owner Jeff Lurie and general manager Tom Heckert, to hear most Philly fans talk, don't know the first thing about the game. Lurie needs a football guy in the front office.
Hello? Anybody home? Do you smell what I'm cooking here, folks? Their No. 3 complaint is the Cowboy fans' Numero Uno fret.
"That damned Jerry Jones thinks he is a football guy, and he ain't. He ain't at all."
No. 2: The offense is too predictable. Callers and show hosts alike complain that Andy Reid's pass-happy ways are just too predictable.
One fan said, "If I can sit on my couch and know what's coming on the next play, don't you think opposing defensive coordinators can figure it out, too?"
Another fan complained, "He never makes adjustments. He gets whipped by the Cowboys in one game and what does he do? He comes back the next game and does the same thing, hoping for a different result."
How many times have we heard and read the exact same complaints about Jason Garrett and his offense? Too predictable! He doesn't mix it up. He doesn't alter his game plan. He doesn't know how to adjust to what the defense is doing.
No. 1: Donovan McNabb will never win the big one. Yes, he puts up great numbers during the regular season, but he fades in big games, or he makes the big mistake that loses an important game. He is a choke artist.
One fan said, "Sure, McNabb is the greatest quarterback in team history. My aunt is the tallest midget in the circus, too."
Does this sound vaguely familiar to any of you people living in or around Dallas, Texas? How many times have we heard those very accusations leveled at Tony Romo?
The McNabb talk dominated in Philadelphia as trade rumors swirled around the beleaguered quarterback. The fans finally got their wish and now they will see him at Lincoln Field in a Redskins uniform at least once per year. Don't look for a similar fate for Romo. (Unless, of course, he becomes an eleven-year starter with no Super Bowl ring to show for his efforts. Who knows? Jerry might trade him to the Eagles then.)
I was dumbfounded by what I heard in Philly. Can it really be that the same exact problems are prevalent in both cities? Are these two teams really mirror images of one another, with identical shortcomings?
Or is it possible that perception is one thing and the truth another? Is it possible that we armchair quarterbacks and Monday morning coaches don't really know as much as we think we do? Is it possible that the formula for ultimate success in America's greatest sports league is more complex and fraught with more intricacies and interweaving of timely decisions, superior talent, and good fortune than we can possibly grasp?
Or do Jeff Lurie, Jerry Jones, Andy Reid, Jason Garrett, Donovan McNabb, and Tony Romo really just suck? I leave you to ponder those questions and work out the answers for yourself.
The only argument I can really settle after my visit to Philly is this one: "Geno's or Pat's?"