When I was a freshman in college, I did the classic move of taking an Intro to Psychology class that had about 700 people in it in a gigantic auditorium where it was impossible for me to pay attention. One thing I did remember was the concept of flashbulb memories.
People can remember minuscule aspects of days long gone by if they’re associated with a huge event. For a specific generation, they could all tell you where they were the day John F. Kennedy died, but probably not what their day was like on November 21, 1963. The professor asked if anyone knew what they were doing on September 10, 2001. No one raised their hand. He then asked if anyone remembered what they were doing the following day. Obviously everyone raised their hands. You get the point.
I’ve watched hundreds off Eagles games in my life. There are wins and losses that I don’t remember that have been loss to time. Did I watch the Eagles’ Week 2 win over the 49ers in 2005? I’m sure I did, but couldn’t tell you a thing about it. There are wins and losses that I kinda sorta remember a play or two from. Those ones can get summed up as “The Matt Bryant Game” type of days.
There’s that stretch from mid-January 2018 to mid-February 2018 where I could write a 1000-page tome about every wacky ongoing in my life, for sure, but that’s sort of a different animal. For one single day, one day that was absolutely meaningless for 99 percent of the people on the planet, one day Philadelphians couldn’t tell you about if you gave them the date, I feel like I can still smell the meatballs cooking from parents’ kitchen and feel the polyester from their couch the way it was on December 19, 2010.
This was an article 10 years in the making. I’ve been planning on writing it on this day for several years now. In a world before Patrick Robinson caused an earthquake at Lincoln Financial Field, before Doug Pederson wanted Philly Philly and before Brandon Graham’s outstretched arm changed the landscape of the city, there was the Miracle at the New Meadowlands.
I was a junior in high school. In another timeline, I could’ve seen myself turning the game off with a little over eight minutes remaining in the game and the Birds trailing 31-10. If you think I’m an emotional wreck of a human being now, imagine me at 16. I was not a happy teen at that moment in time.
For a reason I still don’t know, I didn’t retreat to my room to sulk and drop f-bombs in solace, but I chilled on my childhood home’s loveseat waiting for the final nail in the coffin of my Sunday afternoon.
On the ensuing drive, Michael Vick connected with Brent Celek for a George Kittle-esque rumbling 65-yard touchdown to cut the Eagles’ deficit to just two scores. I didn’t cheer. I didn’t get hype. I still wallowed in self-pity, thinking the Eagles were letting a chance at a special season slip away despite it all. I had seen this movie countless times. I knew the ending.
Then David Akers happened.
He hit that onside kick perfectly in a way that couldn’t happen in today’s game with protective rules that minimize the chances of recovering one. The Eagles were alive. I went from sulking on the couch to inching to the edge of my seat.
Vick’s 35-yard scamper was mesmerizing. He was at peak of his powers that day. I was left wondering what Vick could’ve done if he spent his entire career in Reid’s offense. Maybe I would’ve seen a Super Bowl parade in my youth and I wouldn’t have grown into such a pessimistic Philadelphian.
There was another Eagles stop. There was another Eagles touchdown. Jeremy Maclin yammed the football against wall following the game-tying touchdown. Years later, when listening to the Merrill Reese call of these late-game heroics on YouTube, I would hear these words that would sit with my forever:
Years ago a Giants beat writer, I believe for the Newark Star Ledger by the name of Jerry Izenberg wrote an excellent book, No Medals for Valor, and there aren’t in this game, you either win or you lose. But give the Eagles some credit for coming back and fighting with everything they’re worth.
That’s my team. That’s my city. That’s the shit that makes me feel alive and gives me goosebumps whenever I hear Merrill’s voice.
I was into it. They sucked me back in, as they had innumerable amount of times. I fell in love all over again. I felt like a kid watching the Donovan McNabb teams run through the NFC. I housed my third meatball sandwich of the day. My existence had elevated to another plane.
Before I could process things any further, Trevor Laws crushed Eli Manning for a sack, forcing Matt Dodge to punt.
I can remember the next few minutes as if they occurred this past Sunday. My dad and I are on our feet, unable to relax and sit still given the magnitude of the moment. DeSean Jackson stands back there to return the punt. “There’s no way they’re actually going to punt to him, right?” I think. Oh, I was wrong.
DeSean goes full bravado, waving his arms in the air to pump himself up.
“Come on, you motherfucker, take this the fuck back,” my dad said about five times in a 10-second span.
He fields it. He muffs. He darts. He dodges. Jason Avant killed a guy. He ran around until all the zeroes were on the clock.
My chubby teen self explodes and jumps and dances around and screams like I just won the lottery (maybe I did). My dad, all 6’4” and 275 lbs. of him, was leaping as our living room began to shake. Our dog Sandy was barking her head off as if a burglar just busted through the front window. My mom ran down the stairs from blowdrying her hair and yelled, “WHAT THE FUCK IS GOING ON?!?”
We didn’t care. We just watched once-in-a-lifetime magic.
Yeah, it was just a regular season game in a year the Eagles were handed an early playoff defeat, but in a pre-Super Bowl world, it stood as everything I loved about the underdog nature of this franchise and Philly as a whole.
Maybe Jalen Hurts can treat us to another miracle on Sunday.