As I opened my eyes and hopped out of bed on Monday morning, an enormous smile remained on my face. What seemed like a dream the night before was actually reality and it was slowly beginning to set in – the Philadelphia Eagles are going to Minneapolis to play the New England Patriots in Super Bowl LII. For Patriots fans, a trip to North America’s biggest sporting event might seem like old-hat after seven appearances in the last 16 seasons, but for this 31-year-old native Philadelphian, these things seem to really only come around once, maybe twice, in a lifetime.
Once upon a time, though, Philadelphia had a winning culture, claiming three NFL Championships in its early years, the last of which came in 1960 – the only team to ever beat Vince Lombardi in the postseason. But in the modern day and age, apparently nothing pre-Super Bowl era seems to count, because whenever the discussion comes about with other fans, or even in the media, it always inevitably ends with the harsh fact that the Eagles have failed to win a Super Bowl ring. It’s a narrative that’s seemingly burned into every Philadelphian’s brain during their formative years and the ultimate way for Dallas Cowboys fans to quickly end nearly every bar room debate – but the Eagles have been close before, so close the city could almost taste it.
Growing up as a youngling just outside of the city, I remember hearing the tales of Super Bowl XV – a game in which Philadelphia was favored by three and a half points. Just one week earlier, the Eagles had dismantled the Cowboys and it seemed like destiny for the franchise to obtain it’s first-ever Lombardi Trophy. We all know how that ended – in heart break, with the Oakland Raiders winning 27-10. Heartbreak was becoming a trend for the City of Brotherly Love and, over the next few decades, the Eagles would endure some real doozies – moments that left the city wondering if the football gods were against them.
But Super Bowl XXXIX provided an opportunity for the franchise – and it’s fans – to rejoice and exorcise those moments that had continued to haunt an entire generation of Philadelphians since Super Bowl XV, like the bizarre “Fog Bowl” loss to the Chicago Bears in 1988, Randall Cunningham tearing his ACL in 1991, the crushing NFC Championship loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2001 to close out Veterans Stadium – and the list definitely doesn’t end there. However, after three straight losses in the NFC Championship, the Andy Reid led Eagles seemed destined to put an end to the loser title and bring home a championship from Jacksonville.
It was a time before both smart phones and Twitter but Tom Brady was already an established, dominant quarterback in the NFL. The New England Patriots were fresh off of two Super Bowl wins, one against the “Greatest Show on Turf” St. Louis Rams in 2002 and the other against the Carolina Panthers in 2004, and favored by four points against Philadelphia. Brady managed to pick apart the Eagles’ defense en route to 24-21 victory in a game that still comes up frequently on Philadelphia sports talk radio, thanks in part to Donovan McNabb’s vomit incident on the field in the waning minutes of the fourth quarter.
With such a rich history, spanning more than eight decades, the euphoric moments have been few and far between lately for the Eagles and, in the end, anyone under the age of 58 has only seen seasons end in defeat. But the 2017 season could have a very different ending and Sunday’s mind-blowing 38-7 shellacking of the Minnesota Vikings put Philadelphia just 60 minutes away from its first-ever Super Bowl victory. And the city went crazy.
While many national media members focused on a handful of derogatory incidents going viral, it was reported that there were zero arrests after the contest. Let’s be honest, every city has its idiots, so this is no different – and don’t forget, Vikings fans did disrespect the Rocky statue – but to see between 6,000 and 8,000 fans flood one of the city’s busiest intersections after winning the NFC Championship only proves how hungry this football town is to see a winner and enjoy what would be a massive parade. Walking around town, you can feel the vibe. Eagles’ midnight green is everywhere and on everyone’s mind and, in one of the more improbable outcomes in playoff history thus far, Philadelphians think it can be done and, I must say, I’m one of those fans.