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You can leave Philly, but Philly can’t leave you

How we’re a fan is as important as why we are

Washington Redskins v Philadelphia Eagles Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images

As part of the redesign of SB Nation this week, we’re asking you to share your story as to why you’re a fan. You could win a prize! Though I am ineligible for said prize, and this isn’t why I’m a fan, I figured it would be as good a time as any to spend a few words on being a fan from the diaspora.

Being a fan of a local team is a cinch. The team and fans are all around you, you’re always a part of the environment. Being a fan of a team hundreds or thousands of miles away isn’t too difficult now that you can purchase TV packages to see every game, but there are unique struggles, and unique rewards.

On game day in Philly, there are countless bars full of Eagles fans. In another major city, you’re lucky to find three. I’ve found two here in Atlanta—and one of them doesn’t exist anymore. As you would imagine, there’s a sense of isolation. When Matt Bryant sunk the Eagles with a 62 yard field goal, everyone in the “Eagles Nest” section of an otherwise generic sports bar were just as deflated as the Delaware Valley was.

Then we went home and stewed on it, alone. If you were lucky, you’d pass by that other Eagles fan at work to talk about it by saying you’re not going to talk about it as a way to not think about it while thinking about it. It’s doubtful you’d see a friend during the week and just say “man, fuck Matt Bryant” as you try to move on to the next game. You’re pretty much on an island. (Which brings up another angle: the Falcons signed Bryant a few years later and I had to see and hear about him every season, reminding me of that awful game.)

But there’s also a different kind of camaraderie. Drive along 10th Street on a Sunday afternoon in the fall and it’s no different than any other day cutting through midtown and then onto the edge of Georgia Tech’s campus. But eventually you come to an otherwise overlooked, oddly named pizza joint, and you’ve basically stepped foot into South Philly. Everyone, I mean everyone, is in full Eagles garb. The regulars in their regular spots, everyone a friendly stranger as you recite the shibboleth of Fly Eagles Fly after a score. For three hours on a Sunday, you’re back in Philly.

All week you’ve been looking forward to the game, an internal build up with no one to share it with until you walk in the door to twenty Brian Westbrook jerseys and a couple of throwback Randall Cunninghams as well. It makes every game feel like a bigger event. I’m not saying it’s better, but it’s just different.

Four Downs

1 So what that Fletcher Cox missed OTA

Remember when TJ Ward skipped Broncos OTAs to attend the NBA Finals, his new coach didn’t know where he was and it cost the Broncos the Super Bowl in Peyton Manning’s final year? Yeah, I don’t either, because Ward skipping voluntary practice in shorts in May didn’t effect the Broncos season one bit.

Of course it would be nice if Fletcher Cox was at OTA this week. As fans we love the idea of one big, happy team that does everything together, even though that isn’t realistic, or necessary for a successful team. Ultimately, Cox skipping OTA doesn’t matter. It won’t stop the Eagles from winning a game, or Cox from recording a sack.

It’s voluntary practice with no upside for a veteran player (for second year players and especially rookies, there’s some value), and significant downside. In recent years Ryan Clady, Sean Lee, Dante Fowler, Melvin Ingram, Hau’oli Kikaha, BJ Dubose, and Victor Butler tore their ACLs in OTAs, to say nothing of other injuries suffered, such as Tyler Orlosky spraining his MCL this week.

Fletcher Cox’s 2017 season doesn’t hinge one bit on this week’s OTA. Which he’ll be back at this week anyway.

2 Did Marcus Smith forget there was an OTA?

Meanwhile, Marcus Smith, who has his career in the balance, isn’t there and no one really cares. Here’s a guy who has way more to worry about, and it’s not a big deal. It’s so under the radar that even the coaches to mention it. So if you’re concerned that an absence at OTA is indicative of something larger, be more concerned that a player that is an afterthought to us is actually an afterthought to his bosses than an established player not needlessly risking injury.

3 No, Nelson Agholor is not going to be good this year

Speaking of players fighting for their careers... Mike Groh has apparently “lit a fire” under Nelson Agholor. That’s nice. But it doesn’t change that it would take an unprecedented turn around for Agholor to salvage his career as some are hoping. As I wrote in January, WRs who played as much as Agholor did in their first two years (in other words, not guys who were stuck behind established starters) and were as unproductive as Agholor was don’t turn it around.

In two seasons he has just 59 receptions, in a ten year period from 2005 to 2014, only seven WRs have started at least 16 games (Agholor has started 26) in their first two years and caught less than 60 passes: Darrius Heyward-Bey, Arrelious Benn, Stephen Hill, Brandon Jones, T.J. Graham and Keary Colbert.

Don’t get your hopes up.

4 The No Fun League is now the Nominal Fun League

Finally some common sense prevailed and the NFL loosened its’ celebration rules. But it didn’t clearly define what is not legal, and considering that the NFL can’t figure out what is and is not a catch, it’s inevitable that at some point this season we spend way too much time on a Monday talking about a penalty for a celebration that shouldn’t have been a penalty. Hopefully if a player is going to cross whatever line may or may not exist, it’ll be worth it like Joe Horn pulling out a cell phone.

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