“Philadelphia Eagles” by Keith Allison is licensed under Creative Commons
The friendly sons of Olav are threatening violence up in Snow Country. A former failed Phillies manager has expressed his dislike for Philadelphia fans. And a cabbage-haired Boston columnist has trotted out the old chestnuts—Santa Claus, Michael Irvin—while conveniently forgetting his burg’s disgusting racist history toward black athletes that continues today. (Anything to add, Adam Jones?)
This can mean only one thing: The Eagles are in the Super Bowl.
Nothing boils the blood of folks in lesser locations than a little bit of athletic success by Philadelphia teams. Put Philly on the Big Stage, and suddenly everybody is a drunken ersatz Santa dodging icy missiles while the real St. Nick languishes in Atlantic City, a victim of car (sled?) trouble. It seems that America prefers our teams to be bumbling fools, much like Terry Francona’s Phillies were from 1997 to 2000, when they finished a collective 120 games out of first place. Francona’s reign was a mess, and his 78 games below .500 during four seasons are sixth most among the franchise’s 53 skippers. The year after Francona left town, Larry Bowa directed the Phils to 21 more wins than Francona “managed.” Forgive us for not sending you roses every day, Tito. Oh, and sorry about last year’s playoffs. And the year before …
But this shouldn’t be a time for ripping racist Bostonians, reminding people of just how horrible Francona was in Philadelphia or wondering why those nice people in Minneapolis have all of a sudden sprouted something resembling a collective spine. (Their football team could’ve used one on Jan. 21.) Nope, we should be relishing the week leading up to the Eagles’ third Super Bowl appearance and trying to imagine what the region will be like if they actually defeat Captain Hoodie and his minions. The closest thing I can imagine is the scene in The Ten Commandments when Moses encounters the Israelites living it up around the golden calf.
Had those Jacksonville Jaguars not gacked up a 10-point fourth quarter lead in the AFC title game, Philadelphia fans wouldn’t have to worry about the Bill Belichick and Tom Brady. Of course, if you believe recent reports, the two have been at odds and are communicating only by grunts, profanity and death stares. In other words, business as usual.
Yes, those Patriots are scary. They have five Super Bowl wins, and though Birds fans would prefer they were more like the team that lost 46-10 to Chicago in early ’86, their current iteration is a ruthless football chameleon capable of presenting a different personality every week. You think it was hard to get a read on what Jim Carrey was going to do next in Me, Myself and Irene? Imagine figuring out what the Pats’ game plan will be Sunday in Snowtown.
It’s tempting to adopt the “it’s been a great season regardless” attitude about this Eagles team. Nobody predicted this kind of prosperity back in August, when it appeared defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz was contemplating a coup, and Nick Foles was an uncomfortable reminder of when Chip Kelly tried to turn the Birds into a college program. But a nine-game winning streak fueled by Carson Wentz’s magic and Foles’ post-season metamorphosis from Joe Palooka to Joe Montana have put the Birds one game from the Lombardi Trophy. All that “happy to be here” stuff goes out the window when the championship is 60 minutes away. We thirst for an NFL championship, so it’s time to go get it.
Up in New England, fans believe a trip to the Super Bowl should be included on the schedule card every year. Their overwhelming faith in TB and the Hoodie precludes them from summoning a sufficient froth in anticipation of the contest. Their favorite status and championship pedigree make them confident of a victory.
Not that the rest of the country has been quick to celebrate with the Bostonians, whose smugness and arrogant behavior after the Red Sox finally won the Series accomplished something no one else thought was possible: They made people root for the Yankees.
Come Sunday, the area will have reached unprecedented levels of hysteria, hoping the overpowering performance against the Vikings will translate to a Super victory. It can be done. The Eagles’ front four must hit Brady often and bring pressure up the middle to make him as uncomfortable as possible. Malcolm Jenkins has to win one-on-one battles with Pats’ tight end Rob Gronkowski. The other defensive backs can’t get fooled by the New England play designs that have allowed Dreamy Tom to find open receivers gallivanting across the turf.
Offensively, it comes down to Foles and his confidence. He was clearly a different quarterback against the overrated Minnesota defense than he was against Oakland and Dallas. Yes, the Birds have to run the ball. Yes, the O-line has to come up big against New England’s complicated defensive schemes. But Foles must once again be able to throw the ball downfield.
The Eagles have ventured close to the NFL summit and hope to plant a big green flag at its peak Sunday night. It can happen. In fact, it will happen. And if the rest of the country doesn’t like it, come to Philly and do something about it, instead of lobbing insults from afar. That’s just cowardly.
Prediction: Eagles 23, Patriots 21.
This story originally appeared on MainLineToday.com.