I refrained from writing anything on this blog for a spell. There has simply been too much to soak in living within a reasonable distance of the sizzling Philadelphia pro sports landscape…redesigned so much within the last few days.
Seinfeld’s George Costanza always wanted to be an architect but even in his most wildest fantasies of his highly fabricated life, he could not have constructed what took place in these parts last weekend.
Even casual sports fans get the implications of the historic Eagles’ free agency frenzy…and the Phillies’ bold trade deadline move for OF Hunter Pence. Quite simply, both organizations may have helped ensure playing on the biggest of their respective sports’ stages come championship-time …and bring titles to a city desperate for them.
And yet, with this sense of great civic pride Philadelphia fans have knowing their pro football team has now joined their baseball squad in standing tall among the few franchises in sport that will do whatever it takes (i.e. spend money) to bring not just winning seasons but championship ones there is – at least for me – a parallel sense the Eagles and their fans will be more despised than ever.
Before last weekend, the average sports fan in this country only hated Philadelphia fans in general because we booed Santa Claus several hundred years ago, booed Cowboys’ WR Michael Irvin while he lay injured (who wouldn’t have booed him back then?), booed our own star 3B Mike Schmidt (hey, he didn’t even start talking to us until he retired and needed work), threw snowballs at people in the winter time (like you haven’t thrown a snowball at somebody when given the chance?)…well, there might have been an instance or two where we threw things more substantial than snowballs…but anyway, we weren’t hated for any of our sports franchises because they’ve been classically inept at winning titles.
The Phillies broke through in 2008 but prior to that…it was 1980. The Sixers have not won an NBA championship since 1982-83. The Flyers did capture back-to-back Stanley Cups…from 1973 to ’75. The Eagles…ah yes, those Eagles…we’re talking 1960 people.
So…when the Eagles started getting more big-time signatures in Philadelphia than the Declaration of Independence at the start of the most unusual and bizarre free agency period the NFL will hopefully ever experience, we Philly fans pretty much set a bulls-eye on ourselves for attracting a whole new generation of haters.
When the Phillies traded several prospects away for Pence, an outfielder many felt would help push their squad over the finish line first come Fall…along with their recent history of accumulating top talent at any cost similar to the Yankees and Red Sox…well there’s just no question the City of Brotherly Love will be getting very little love outside its borders in the next few months.
However, since I think baseball fans have been looking for some time now for another franchise to step up and always make the Yanks and Sox sweat a bit when dipping into these required deep-pocket scenarios my feeling is the Phillies are not now or will be nearly as loathed nationally as what is about to happen with the Eagles.
I can only outline Philadelphia’s historic collective sports suffering – especially when it comes to the Eagles – as a way to try to offset what the media and fans will be throwing our way from this point forward when it comes to the Eagles. Two words.
When the Eagles signed CB’s Nnamdi Asomugha and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, DL’s Jason Babin and Cullen Jenkins…and then “threw in” QB Vince Young…it didn’t take but a few seconds for players and media alike to start talking about a “dream team.” They even mentioned the comparison to the…
Having spent a good part of the NBA Playoffs blogging about the Heat, I expected this. No organization in recent sports history has created such a love-hate relationship with fandom than they have. Wikipedia should include in their notations about the Miami Heat they reset the gold standard for being despised, passing the beloved football Fighting Irish of Notre Dame…who have become so irrelevant the hatred many had for them years back has turned to indifference. Heck, many of their own fans have become indifferent to their fortunes at this point. Anytime a sports organization tries to accumulate a wealth of talent in a short period of time from here on out…the words Miami Heat won’t be far behind.
Yet, it was the way the Heat was constructed that contributed to their being hated so. LeBron James’ “Decision” turned a brush fire into an inferno. That’s why people got so hot at the Heat. Well…there was that disco party…and the mention of multiple titles. I guess a little gasoline was brought to the bonfire…
Anyway…there have admittedly been confident words coming out of Lehigh as the Eagles begin trying to mesh all this newly acquired talent together but football is a much, much different animal. Eagles fans get that after half a century of frustration. I hope national media and fans alike get we get that also. Expectations for an NFL Championship this year? Hey, the Arizona Cardinals came within a whisker a few years back and many felt they didn’t even belong in the Playoffs. The lowly regarded Seattle Seahawks came within an eyelash not that long ago…and many eyebrows were raised in the game that decided it…more than a few folks think they should have won it all…after wondering how the hell they even got there.
No, a “dream team” in football is not how it works. Too long a season, too many variables, too frequent collisions. The Eagles are happy to have all this talent bouncing around training camp right now but there is an awful lot that has to fall into place…like making your entire roster happy campers…
Just ask Eagles veteran CB Asante Samuel in his exchange with the media yesterday…courtesy of Bob Grotz’s column in the West Chester (PA) Daily Local News:
Q: When you first heard about the trade for Nnamdi, what was your initial reaction?
A: We didn’t trade for Nnamdi.
Q: Signed Nnamdi…?
A: It was great. He’s a great teammate. A hell of a player and definitely could do a lot for the team.
Q: Did you worry about your place on the team after that?
A: No. Why would I worry about that?
Q: Where do you see yourself? Starting on the left side?
A: Wherever they want me. If they’re tired of my big play-making ability maybe they’ll ship me off. Maybe they want to keep me. I don’t know. Who knows?
Q: With the cornerback additions, how much do you want to be here?
A: I want to be where I’m wanted. If I’m not appreciated here, then life moves on. I’ll move on.
Q: Do you feel wanted here?
A: It’s about 50-50. So we’ll see how it goes.
Oh, and then there’s WR DeSean Jackson…who has watched all of this money flying about while wondering why his contract hasn’t been restructured as he was led to believe it would be. He’s not in camp. He’s not happy.
Oh, and then there’s WR Jeremy Maclin…who isn’t in camp either…apparently as a result of a mysterious medical ailment that stretches back to last winter. The Eagles are concerned.
Fact of the matter is, with giant rosters and giant egos of this magnitude and so many pieces that have to fit into the puzzles of offense, defense and special teams…and then keeping all those pieces on the field once the horrific violence starts…any NFL team is a long, long way from promising one title let alone multiple ones. Philadelphia fans have been down this road…for half a century.
Courtesy of local media celeb Mike Missanelli, writing for the Philadelphia Inquirer…
“Only one coach has been allowed by his front office to coach as long as (Andy) Reid without winning a championship – Bill Cowher. Only two other coaches, John Madden and Chuck Noll, won their first Super Bowl after coaching more than five years. The vast majority of coaches win their Super Bowls within four years of their initial employment.”
It’s just not the same as the Heat. The NBA is not the NFL. Expectations are certainly high in Eagle-dom this fine day but we have a half a century of reality to overcome. National media and fans…try to keep this in mind.
We’ll turn the heat up on our own team, thanks.
We’ll wait for the falling confetti to believe we’ve gotten to the promised land. If we get caught looking at the Eagles as a “dream team” now…it’s only because all we’ve had is dreams.