A Pessimist's Optimism

I wasn’t born an Eagles fan. Hell, I didn’t even watch football as a kid. Of course I played in my fair share of pickup ballgames as a youth, but primarily I was a basketball player. I only really cared about hoops. I didn’t really develop an appreciation for football until around the time I was a junior in high school when I found a deep love for the defensive side of the ball; more specifically the secondary. The mental and physical prowess necessary to be successful in this aspect of the game alone absolutely amazed me. Basketball is a simple game. Often time designed plays are just wishful thinking. Quite frankly there really is only one play in basketball. The pick and roll. Almost every designed offensive play either incorporates this element or is the base play itself. Simple. Football is a true team sport. It is not, and cannot, be based around one man’s ability. The Falcons during Vick’s time is the closest any team can come during the modern era of football, and even then, without adequate offensive linemen, that plan ultimately fails.

Once I had come to fully appreciate football as a player, then I began to watch football on TV. To give you a reference point, this was 1998. I was living in Idaho at the time, having never lived anywhere longer than five years, I didn’t have a home state and thus I didn’t have a "home team". I just watched the game and tried to learn anything I could. Now, I am sure you all remember the Eagles in 1998. Garbage. I saw a few of the Eagles games that year and was far and away impressed. Obviously not with their win record; at the time they were one of the worst teams in football, but their defense never quit on the team. Even when the game was already a blowout, there was never any quit in the Eagles. I loved that.

The next year, everything changed. Andy Reid came in and drafted Donovan McNabb much to the rousing delight of the Philly fanbase, and I watched the reaction with great amusement. During that draft, I learned of the legend of the Philadelphia Eagles fans: the unflinching accountability, the raw emotion, the unwavering support and loyalty, the snowballing of Santa Clause... it all only drew me closer to the team. Ultimately, the greatest part of that season for me was watching Jim Johnson’s defense. Attacking defensive backs! And who the hell is that Number 20? Damn that boy can hit!

Everything from that point on is all history and I have been a rabid fan of the green birds ever since. If I could even convince my wife to move to Philly after my 20 years are done in the Army, I would, but she doesn’t share my ….fanaticism.

Over the years, at the start of every season, I have said and have heard the same things from other the fans: "I have never been so excited (or insert any synonym you can think of) for the start of a season than THIS year!" I said it early this September again, but even in retrospect, I still think it was true this year. I have NEVER anticipated the start of a sporting season like this year. Nnamdi, DRC, Babin, Jenkins, Young, Watkins, Mudd, Washburn, and we stole Steve Smith too … ridiculous! We had almost beat the eventual Super Bowl champs twice last year. Our three biggest holes, cornerback, pass rush and right offensive line had been filled. I was even excited about Castillo. I will never forget the day that we signed Nnamdi and the whole Bleeding Green Nation website turned green. Nonsensical comments were getting "rec’d" 10 times over. I was out of my mind that night. What a great time to be an Eagle’s fan.

Now fast forward to the present day. The Eagles won the 2011 season opener in an unconvincing manner to the Rams. Then we lost to the Falcons in a rough game we should have won. We moved on to play the Giants and got beat up for most of the game, but managed to hold a lead into the fourth quarter only to let it slip. The 49ers game was supposed to be a tune-up game, and it played like that for the first half, unfortunately, there was another 30 minutes left to play in the game.

Now, I’m the kind of guy who, even in a win, will look for the flaws. In seasons past I have been known to say stuff like "yeah we won but….
- McNabb is still throwing dirtballs out there.
- We still aren’t dominating the opposing team like we should. We keep playing at the other team’s ability level.
- For some reason, it seems like sometimes Vick just isn’t seeing those DBs just standing there in his throwing lane.
I could go on and on but I’ll spare you. I’m a naturally pessimistic person, but I do hope for the best. Most Philly fans I have known or have heard from (web, radio, ect) are fiercely loyal, but absolutely ruthless. If the team loses a big game, they are calling for a player’s head. If the team loses two games close together, or God forbid consecutively, then they want the coach’s head. If we lose three games then everyone needs to be fired and we need to start from scratch. It doesn’t matter if we are only a few games into a season. Just clean house NOW.

I don’t really take that approach. Honestly I find it comical. Today is October 4th. Exactly one month ago, everyone was singing Andy Reid’s praises and talking about how Howie Roseman was a God amongst men. Today I read people’s comments and hear them all over the Eagles Live broadcast about how the sky is falling because we lost three games and we need to make a human sacrifice of the entire coaching staff except for Mudd and Washburn (for now) to lift this curse. Okay that’s a little exaggerated, I admit, but not by much.

Before the season started, most sports pundits were predicting a slow start by the Eagles because of all the new faces on the team (players and coaches), obviously they were right, but for those of you who couldn’t hear them, let’s inject a bit of perspective. We are FOUR games into a 16 game season. Yeah we have dropped three in an embarrassing fashion. Hell, last week alone was a disgusting loss, but that’s three games. By my count, we can lose a game to Buffalo this Sunday (please don’t) and two more this year and STILL be in the hunt for a playoff spot as long we don’t give up those loses to our division rivals. In reality, we can give up ONE of those loses to a division rival not from New York and have a real shot at getting into the dance this year. We have one of the most talented teams in the league and we have shown that in flashes so far. We just haven’t been able put everything together yet consistently, or even for a full game honestly. I know we will get it together, I just hope it doesn’t happen in week 9. Looking at the schedule, the only team that legitimately scares me is the Patriots. Everyone else is very beatable.

As I said in the beginning of the year, just pray for health.
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