Monday, October 9, 2017
A Not-So Bird’s Eye View
I've always had the utmost respect for journalists who put their lives at risk to get a story. It's such a noble and under-appreciated cause to voluntarily walk into a death trap simply for our education or gratification.
Whether it is the reporter standing in the eye of a hurricane while simultaneously pleading for those there to evacuate, or the columnist attempting to expose corruption in war-ridden countries abroad, the deeds of these brave men and women should always be applauded.
Now, while I'd certainly never compare myself to them or their heroic endeavors, I couldn't help but feel a bit courageous on the morning of September 24, when I entered the parking lot of Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia, draped in an old-school blue and white New York Giants jersey.
And I did it all for you.
Not everyone was excited as me, though. When my mom saw my game day outfit, she looked at me like she was Stacy London in a Wal-Mart parking lot (just Google it). The combination of fear and repulsion in her eyes was less due to the fact that I hadn't shaved since the previous Tuesday, though I'm sure that still played a role, but instead the result of my intrepid choice to wear Giants blue in enemy territory.
I understand that cheering for the opposition makes me a target for verbal ridicule, and I'm man enough to handle that without overreacting, but if simply wearing an opponent's jersey turned me into a human punching bag I would have had to reassess my decision. Nonetheless, the fact that it was even a conversation exemplifies the reputation that Eagles fans carry.
I guess the reputation is well earned. The old Veteran's Stadium housed a courtroom and jail cell for in-game offenses springing from a 1997 game against the 49ers featuring over 60 fights and a discharged flare gun. Birds fans are also credited for cheering Michael Irving's career-ending injury and booing Santa Clause, all while peeing in sinks and leaving enough puke piles around the stadium to ensure the janitors don't make it home without the stomach flu. And who could forget the viral picture of a maybe-8 year-old fan flipping off the opposing team and camera?
"Hey Jimmy, tell the nice photographer that the Eagles are #1!"
I grew up in Allentown, Pennsylvania, about 45 minutes outside the city of Philadelphia, making my experience with Eagle's fans rather intimate. Being a Giants fan, thanks to my family's New Jersey roots, in a sea of Eagles green has given me the unique opportunity to witness the agony of an average Eagles' enthusiast up close-all while watching both the other Pennsylvania team and closest geographic rival win multiple championships over the past 12 years. And I'm sympathetic to your struggles. I've seen Joe Buck stumble to find the words to describe another Donovan McNabb bounce pass. I've observed Chip Kelly's roster moves that seemingly only made sense in a game of Razz. I've lived through fully-priced Dunkin' Donuts coffee on Mondays.
What I'm trying to say is I understand the rowdy and often-bitter nature of Eagles' fans. I even appreciate their everlasting loyalty and devotion to their team, regardless of their successes or failures. So I anticipated how the Eagle faithful would react to a patron in rival colors, and no form of treatment by them would sincerely surprise me.
Or so I thought.
I walked onto the premises for the early morning tailgate, bracing for the worst, when something crazy happened. The Eagles fans were ... nice. They were inviting and cordial like an overzealous dinner party host. I got head-nods from passerby and handshakes from natives. I played catch with an Eagles fan I've never met, and handed shots by one I'll never see again.
"Yo, Giants guy, cheese or no cheese?" A burger? ... For me?
They were sympathetic to the Giants' (then) 0-2 start, even professing that Eli deserved better. They empathized with the Giants' talented defense constantly being placed in awful spots and acknowledged Beckham's insane talent. We joked of years past and wished each other luck in years future.
Inside the stadium was more of the same. Kindliness. Altruism. Compassion. Okay, so I was called an asshole by a lovely middle-aged lady with a nose gage and full neck tattoo who smelled like beef jerky and American Spirits, but I'm sure she just needed something to add to her resume. When Jake Elliot (somehow) made the game-winning field goal pushing the Giants to 0-3, the fans rightfully cheered in victory. But nobody spit on me. Nobody spilled beer on me. I wasn't given the Rock Bottom. Instead, an Eagles fan pat me on the back and offered his condolences. There wasn't even a kick-me sign attached to his hand, either!
As I sat in the stadium, half heartbroken and half confused, I tried to piece the puzzle together. Have we become the pity team? The last pick in recess kickball that everyone feels bad for, yet no one wants to claim? Or is it because I'm not an obnoxious fan? I'll certainly cheer for my team, but I don't have a first down dance in my repertoire, and choose not to stare down random fans after big plays like they were just dunked on.
But maybe it is something deeper than that. Perhaps it's the age we live in, where people are too concerned about their fantasy football team and accidental Tinder left-swipes to hold a grudge against random opposing fans. Maybe Eagles fans just aren't as bad as we think.
Of course, this is just one man's perspective. I'm sure others have stories of getting tough-guy shoulder bumped or shampooed in Coors Lite, but we'll let someone else tell that tale. Regardless, with all of the political and social divide this country faces, it is nice to think that one day Eagles' and Giants' fans can coexist, and maybe even get along. So here I stand, a proud Giants fan, proclaiming that Eagles fans have gotten a bad rap. They aren't as bad as the media and public have made them out to be. They aren't assholes, and in fact, I think most Eagles\ fans actually have a soft spot.
Now, if that doesn't piss them off, I don't know what will.