High hopes, then a letdown for Eagles fans

A fan gets her hands on a football from Eagles quarterback Michael Vick after he scored during the fourth quarter.
A fan gets her hands on a football from Eagles quarterback Michael Vick after he scored during the fourth quarter. (DAVID MAIALETTI / Staff Photographer)
Posted: September 17, 2013

PHILADELPHIA The express subway from Center City was a sea of green jerseys and expectant smiles. No one knew - not yet - that the Eagles would lose Sunday. They were still high on the previous win, still gung-ho.

George Flowers, 60, of Villanova - wearing an old Brian Westbook jersey - was one of the hopeful. "This team was dead two years ago," he said. "Now it's alive. Philly's alive."

Zeb Stokes and son Alex, 27, have been going to games together for 22 years.

"They look more like a team now," he said. And to him, it seems as if everyone is on the same page, one that reads, "Run the other team into the ground. Flat out." They chatted happily above the rumble of the subway, recalling plays of years past.

Kathy Lens, of Villanova, has been going to games for 50 years, first with her dad to Franklin Field. Looking back now, it seems as if "it was always snowing."

But now, all anyone can talk about is the heat - the energy - on the field.

At the stop outside the stadium, Eagles balloons festooned the stairway.

Those without tickets? Many decided to tailgate anyway, just to be near the stadium and experience the vibe. Throughout the lot, folks had a super bad case of Chip Kelly fever.

Many had zero expectations when he became the Eagles' coach. They would wait and see.

Now, "I believe Chip Kelly is changing the game of football. Absolutely," said Rich Romano, 23, of King of Prussia.

"Lively," is how many describe the games now.

To John Travia, 23, of Glen Mills - the one in the Hugh Douglas jersey - it looks like the team's finally enjoying the game.

Mike Pond, 34, of Ocean City, N.J., said last season he probably would have done his laundry during a game. This time, he headed to the stadium lot with friends. "I wake up in the morning excited about the game, instead of wondering how Andy Reid is going to blow it," he said.

As the initial plays of the game revved the audience inside the stadium - alas, the Chargers were the first to score - many who didn't have tickets walked to the Xfinity Live! bar and restaurant at Citizens Bank Park.

Ashley Mixon, 25, of Medford, was headed there with a friend - both in green sequined Eagles T-shirts with the name of Mixon's uncle, former quarterback Ron Jaworski, printed on them.

"I'm super excited," she said. When Kelly was hired, she said, "I knew . . . he's a motivator."

John Tirpak, 19, didn't have tickets to Sunday's game, either. But he left his Allentown home at 6 a.m., driving a recreational vehicle tricked out in everything green or Eagles - the family's Eagles "shrine," he joked.

They picked up friends in Norristown and were parked in their spot by 9, preparing to dish out food.

Eagles photos and family photos are interspersed on the walls of the big bus. It has Eagles pillows, Eagles rally towels, Eagles lamp shades, Eagles pennants, Eagles signs, an Eagles clock, even Eagles knobs on cabinets.

And one Dallas star. In the bathroom. Take that!

Win or lose, this has been a family event - "family" including friends - since the '40s.

Many were watching the game on TV under an Eagles awning. Tirpak's father was at the game.

And his grandfather was surely there in spirit. The Army vet died four years ago, but his U.S. flag was there in a case. Sunday would have been his birthday.

On the wall was a sign, "We interrupt this family for football season," but that's not it at all. "This is how we bond," Tirpak said. "It's what brings us together. . . . I never felt closer to my family than when we're at Eagles games."

As the score mounted - headed ultimately for an Eagles loss - many fans just shrugged.

"We're still excited," said Brad Tice, 53, of Marlton, as he packed up another big Eagles RV - they arrived at 6 a.m. and served breakfast and lunch to 150 friends - hoping to get home to his sofa in time for the fourth quarter. "It's early."

Over at Xfinity Live!, where Mixon and a big crowd were still cheering, the final score left them "bummed," she said. But undaunted nevertheless. "We'll see what happens at the next game."

Contact Sandy Bauers at 215-854-5147, sbauers@phillynews.com, or follow on Twitter @sbauers. Read her blog, GreenSpace, at www.philly.com/greenspace.

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