I'd Live it Again

Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

[Editor's note: Promoted from the FanPosts] I landed in Philly in 1976. It was an important year for our nation, but I didn’t know it. I was seven years old in a different country, city and home. We moved three times, on a reverse housing (but similar economic) trajectory from the Jeffersons, from a downtown apartment building to a smaller apartment complex and finally a duplex with a front yard and basement. I remember the guy down the street giving away hockey pucks because he ran the Zamboni in the Spectrum. I remember me and my friends sticking an M-80 into a beehive and getting stung by a million pissed-off bees.

Forty years later, that’s the way it goes. I can’t picture my every-day life from years ago - just the moments of real happiness and pain. For most of those decades, I’ve had my share of both as an Eagles fan.

I am sure something happened between 1976-81 that was more important than Dick Vermeil’s coaching career, but I can’t think of it. During those four years in Philly, I learned about America through the Eagles first and second, with every other Philly team a distant third. Yeah, Dr. J., Moses, Carlton and Schmidt were awesome. But Jaws roping a pass to Harold Carmichael was a thing of beauty. I was all in on the team, city and people. They didn’t have to be nice to me and my foreign family. But they were.

Then shit happened. Just as the Eagles were on the cusp of beating Dallas and going to the Super Bowl, my parents got jobs in Memphis, Tennessee. I’d never heard of Memphis, so I looked at a map. There wasn’t a professional football team within 500 miles.

I didn’t know it then but that was the least of my problems. I was an 11-year-old Indian kid with a limited knowledge of American history. I didn’t know about slavery, the civil war or American race relations. In 1980s, life in the Deep South still revolved around that history. I was a brown, foreign, Hindu kid from the north who’d been taught to speak my mind. My parents put me into an all-white, all-male Christian school filled with Cowboys fans where my very existence was suicide. I heard a boy call me the n-word for the first time and then a whole lot more.

I clung to the Eagles. I watched them lose to the Raiders in the Super Bowl. Then my hero Vermeil burned out. They sold the team and started to lose and lose. I remember one night, sitting on the edge of my parent’s bed watching them get shredded by Dan Marino in a meaningless Monday night game and crying my eyes out. I remember my dad saying "Why are you crying? They’re just a football team."

Just a football team. I left Memphis for an east coast college in time for the Buddy Ryan years. All of my friends came from cities in the rest of the NFC east. That’s when I realized that being an Eagles fan was the same as not getting laid while all your friends are getting laid. First, the Redskins got laid twice even though they were dicks. Then the Giants got laid twice even though they were boring. Then the pretty boy Cowboys got laid three times even though they were a bunch of racist assholes. Meanwhile, not only did we not get laid, but the two times we could have gotten laid, we were cock-blocked by God who unleashed the Fog on our Super Bowl caliber team and turned Jerome Brown into an angel. Meanwhile, just to fuck with us, he gave us the ultimate dick-tease in Randall Cunningham.

I still had hope. By my late twenties, I’d started to settle down, moved to San Francisco and got a teaching job. The year I met my future wife, the Eagles picked Donovan McNabb. When we got engaged, McNabb took us to our first NFC championship. Sure, we lost but I believed in Number 5, the immortal Brian Dawkins and Andy Reid. The next two years were busy. We got married. The Eagles lost two more NFC championships. After the third loss, I sank into such a deep funk that my pregnant wife asked me if I needed professional help. Next year, when the baby came, I dressed her in a TO jersey and watched the NFC Championship and Super Bowl with my baby good-luck-charm on my lap.

Of course, they lost. We had another child. I changed jobs a couple of times. Over the next ten years, I learned how hard it is to find time to watch football when you have a career and a growing family. I tried to suck the kids into my Eagles world, but they preferred Dora, ballet and the million things that little girls love more than football. To them, my fandom was an amusing oddity and occasional source of terror. When Desean ran the punt back to beat the Giants, I was riding my good-luck exercise bike. I got so excited, I fell off the bike and started jerking around and screaming on the floor. The girls who had just seen a commercial about what to do if a family member has a stroke ran out of the room yelling "Call 911! Daddy’s dying!".

In 2008 when the economy tanked and my school district was laying off thousands of good people, I kept sane by watching Jeff Garcia almost single-handedly take us to the promised land. Then poof! That dream was gone. By the time Reid got so desperate he rehabbed Michael Vick, I’d turned forty. Another moment of excitement on a Monday night in Washington. Then that was gone too.

There’s something about decades of missed opportunities that changes the way you think about a team. In my youth, it was 100% hope. By my forties, there was still hope but it was mixed with the fear of inevitable disappointment, a couple of shots of self-protection, two ounces of desperation and a dose of frantic obsession. You start to wonder if you’re going to die before they win it all. Instead of giving up, I doubled down on my addiction.

It was a terrible time for sports addiction. The internet suddenly provided access to all Eagles all the time. Websites, blogs, fan posts, podcasts… I could even listen to WIP. Instead of waking up, sitting on the can and peacefully contemplating the day ahead, I was reading detailed breakdowns of undrafted tight ends and Chip Kelly’s crazy blocking schemes.

Last year, I think I lost it. I got on the first-year Carson Wentz rollercoaster ride. I thought it was different. Then, when it went south, I went south with it. I knew I’d gone over the edge when I found myself in a bar picking a fight with some perfectly harmless Cheeseheads on the premise that the NFL rigged the Packers game because they wanted to show Aaron Rodger’s hot girlfriend on TV. They looked at me like I was nuts. I said aloud, "I’m too old for this."

So, this year I tried something different. I dialed it back and gave that time to my family. I didn’t try to get out of parental obligations on gamedays. I went to the Chargers game with family members who didn’t know the names of all the Eagles' offensive linemen. I offered to take my daughters paddle boarding while the Eagles were playing. That doesn’t mean I didn’t care. I still half-listened to the game on my phone. But you get the idea.

I tried to enjoy life and the Eagles. When Wentz went down, I had a moment of panic. I wondered if I’d cursed him by jokingly saying I’d convert to Christianity if he won the Super Bowl. But when that passed, I put my faith in Nick (I was there when he threw seven touchdowns at the Coliseum). I rode that faith through the playoffs to the big game, expecting it to go unrewarded but grateful to him and the team for the ride.

I’ve probably watched the game ten times since. But all I seem to remember, just like I remember the exact moments of pain from 2008, 2004, 2003, and 2002, are the moments of pure happiness. The Philly Special; the fourth down catch by Ertz; the strip sack by Graham; and Brady’s Hail Mary falling to the end zone turf.

The best memory will always be of my dad calling at the end of the game, and finally having an answer to the question he’d asked me almost four decades ago.

"Why are you crying?"