When I was young, I was spoiled.
When I was seven-years-old in 1975, I sat down to watch my first National Football League game on TV and my team, the Pittsburgh Steelers, won it all. Just like that. The Steelers beat my brother’s favorite team, the Minnesota Vikings, by a score of 16-6 to win the Super Bowl.
My father took my brothers and me to the local fire hall, where he occasionally volunteered, to watch the game. We lived in Central Pennsylvania so seeing the Steelers make the Super Bowl was a big deal.
I remember being excited for the big game, all the while mesmerized by the TV and pregame hype, even back then, surrounding the championship game. I would alternate between rough-housing on the floor with one of my friends and watching anxiously on the fire hall sofa, turning an old yellow rabbits foot over-and-over in my hands. (Who knows if the rabbits foot was real, it was something that one of my brothers had picked up at a Ringling Brothers Circus and I had inherited.)
I’m sure I watched other games, but the next definitive game I remember came one year later when the Steelers beat the Dallas Cowboys 21-17 in Super Bowl X in the Orange Bowl. Once again, I watched the game with my puffy yellow rabbits foot clamped in my hands. (And yes, I find it funny that even back then I hated the Cowboys.)
I would go on to watch the Steelers win a total of four Super Bowls in six years. Yes, I was spoiled.
It gets complicated
When I became a young man, I moved with my wife first to Washington, D.C. and then later to Southeastern Pennsylvania where she grew up. Spoiled or not, I continued to root for the Steelers, but I soon felt out of place. I felt that if I was really going to become a member of the community, I needed to change my allegiances.
When it came to baseball, I had rooted for the Pittsburgh Pirates as kid, but they couldn’t compete with the bigger payroll teams like the New York Yankees or Los Angles Dodgers and fans of the team would watch annually as their best players walked away to other teams for more lucrative contracts. In a strange way, I felt like the Pirates had abandoned me as a fan so I didn’t feel guilty now rooting for the once despised Philadelphia Phillies.
From a football perspective, the Philadelphia Eagles were the team of choice. I dove in headfirst. The Eagles had success in the 60s prior to the creation of the Super Bowl and have come close a few times, but have never won the big game. For the past twenty-five years or so I’ve rooted for them year-in and year out, but have never experienced Super Bowl bliss.
Super Bowl or bust
In any event, the Eagles are on the precipice. They beat first the Atlanta Falcons in a close NFC Divisional Playoff game 15-10 and then came back and thumped the Minnesota Vikings 38-7 in the NFC Divisional Championship. They’re in Super Bowl LII. And like in the old days for me, they’re once again playing the man in the black hats. Instead of the Dallas Cowboys, the Eagles are going up against the New England Patriots, the modern day bad guy.
Like everyone in the Philadelphia region, I want the Eagles to win, but I want them to win for a million other reasons too. Here’s a few of my reasons:
—For the old guy who I regularly run into at lunchtime when I grab a soda or snack from my local convenience store. I’ll be in a rush and I’ll run into him and he’ll greet you with a hearty smile. He’ll inevitably give a rundown on Sunday’s game and his thoughts on the team’s chance for the next week. He likes to tell stories about when he was a kid and how the 1960 Eagles team defeated the Green Bay Packers 17-13 in the 1960 NFL Championship at Franklin Field, the city’s last championship in the days prior to the Super Bowl. He’s suffered through thick and thin, but he’s remained a fan.
—For the fans, who the media likes to paint as rude, antagonistic fans, but miss out that they’re like fans of any large metropolis. There’s some good, some bad. Would I wear a New York Giants or Dallas Cowboys jersey at Lincoln Financial Field, the Eagles home stadium? No, probably not. If you’re respectful to others, you more likely will be left alone. However, there’s always that one percent that might very well spill a beer on you. In this day and age, though, I think you could say the same thing about any large stadium in America. You walk into Giants Stadium in New York with a Cowboys jersey, let’s see what happens there. Or wear an Oakland Raiders jersey in Kansas City. The media likes to run out the tired, hackneyed line Philadelphians once booed and threw snowballs at Santa Claus. The truth is a bit murkier, but many of these media elite care more about a good story than telling the truth. In fact, a recent Washington Post study found that per-game arrests over the past five seasons were highest in San Diego, New York, Oakland and Pittsburgh. Not Philadelphia.
–For fathers and sons and daughters. When I asked an acquaintance the other day where he was going to watch the big game, he told me he was going to watch it with his ten-year-old daughter and his dad. I shook and scratched my head for second. I don’t know the guy well, but I thought he had told me this past Fall that his father had died. He saw my look and told me that he used to go to every Eagles game with his father, it was that way win or lose, but now watches the game “in spirit” with his dad. The local media has been talking and writing a lot this week about how families are such a big part of Eagles tradition. The idea being that families come together each week to watch the Eagles play. And these fans have been waiting a long time for a championship.
–For Philadelphia. The city played an instrumental role in the American Revolution and is the home to the Liberty Bell. The city has much to brag about, but it often takes a back seat to other large East Coast cities like New York, Boston, and Washington, D.C. Forget about the more cosmopolitan cities like Los Angeles, San Francisco and Miami. Philadelphians love their football. For once, I would love to see the city celebrated for something rather than recovering from another disappointment.
What’s a Super Bowl without a prediction? When Sunday comes around, I’ll be cheering on the Eagles. I feel confident in a win, I think the Eagles have more than enough weapons and, more important, I think the Patriots time in up.
Just to be safe, though, I’m still pulling out that old lucky rabbits foot that I grabbed for good luck oh so many years ago. It’s worked twice before. Let’s hope for a third. I’ll take all the good karma I can get.