Philly will always bleed green

Posted: November 01, 2013

RECENTLY, while cleaning my closet by the light of a lovely blue moon, I uncovered a treasure trove of photo albums. Mixed in with the pictures of relatives, friends and pets, there was an unusual number of Eagles shots. 1971: A wide-angle view of a sold-out Veterans Stadium. 1978: My brothers holding a team banner with a heartbreakingly hopeful expression in their young eyes. 1982: First game after my father's death, three siblings trying to look happy.

There were more photos of Eagles-related activities than of either grandmother, which is both impressive and troubling.

This discovery led me to the conclusion that football love and, more particularly, Eagles love is something that is coded in our municipal DNA. While we tend to bad-mouth the team and its ownership in their various incarnations, it is indisputable that virtually everyone who grew up in or near the 215 area code is infected with pigskin passion. For those who somehow managed to avoid the disease due to some bizarre genetic mutation, our devotion to this team and this game and even to our rat-infested former Temple of Touchdown seems delusional.

But the fact that a good 70 percent of the photos I unearthed were Eagles-related shows that Philadelphians consider their football as a second (and sometimes superior) religion. That is probably because you need a large dose of faith to keep coming back year after year, mortgaging your home and your heart to the infinitesimally small possibility of - dare we hope - a championship.

What also occurred to me as I dusted off those albums was the touching masochism of the Eagles fan. Unlike our Phillies and Sixers and Flyers siblings who actually do have tangible glory in their past, football fans suffer from a case of championship interruptus that not even a lifetime supply of Viagra could remedy.

The worst are the years when we creep painfully close to victory, racking up more than one playoff victory or even appearing in the Super Bowl before throwing it all away . . . and, in the case of McNabb, up. That's when the heart shrivels into something that resembles the dessicated fruits left behind when the harvest is done.

Until the life cycle begins again, and the bitter snows of winter give way to the seedling warmth of spring, then the blast-oven heat of a Philadelphia summer. A magical thing happens. We forget the pain of that last, lamentable season. Like an amnesiac who has lost any memory of his former life, we approach training camp with a fragile flicker of hope thinking, "Hm, maybe this year we have a shot at the brass ring."

While any normal observer would think such a delusional person deserves a smack in the mug with brass of another kind, Philadelphians do not. Most likely, this is because we have no other choice. To live in this city without hope during football season is to be, well, marginalized. In some ways, it must be like being Jewish at Easter.

To those who don't follow football and who wouldn't even think of putting a photo of Veterans Stadium next to their wedding shots, these remembrances might appear to be the ravings of madmen (and women.)

But as that great quarterback coach Robert Browning once wrote: "A man's reach must exceed his grasp, else what's a heaven for?" That goes for fans, too.

Christine Flowers is a lawyer.


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