By Larry Jude Wade Swetman
If you have never lived in Philadelphia then you don’t know how passionate football fans can be. I recently moved to Philly about three or four years ago from Atlanta where I was a devoted Falcons can. In the late 90s it was really fun growing into adolescence watching the perennial losers rise from the depths to reach the Superbowl. Against John Elway, no less. Yet Jamal Anderson, Chris Chandler, and Eugene Robinson were firing up the engines. Then Robinson, our star Safety and the core of the defense, got arrested and tarnished the whole experience. He was the heart and soul of the defense and to lose that calibur of player the night before the biggest game of your life–to a fucking prostitution sting–to one of the greatest quarterbacks of all time winning his first SuperBowl… well…do you know what its like to have your dream crushed by John Elway? And now those same Broncos are headed by one of the greatest ever, Peyton Manning? I’m not your typical fan but football history runs in my blood. I have not even mentioned my history with Michael Vick. Phew. Philly fans don’t recognize but that whole dog fighting thing ain’t new. We went through that already in Atlanta. That not withstanding we also saw a tremendous player from day 1. I moved to Philly right after Vick got to the Eagles (coincidence, I assure you). I’ve been through all the shit with Michael Vick and year after year in Philly I always saw the same Vick. The guy who invented the running quarterback being surpassed by those who perfected his craft. It was sad.
When Nick Foles came in after one of Vick’s many injuries I hoped and prayed for a “Tom Brady” situation. Because again remember the Broncos who crushed my dreams now had the greatest quarter back (possibly) ever.
I was not disappointed.
The Snow Bowl last year was one my favorite football games I have ever watched (and I have watched a lot of football in my life). Shady McCoy was so good in those conditions that we should be calling him Snowy McCoy.
Last year was such a good year of football for me. The Falcons were poised to win some games behind Roddy White and Julio Jones. (Side Note: Just to show the depths of my heart for football: I went to high school with Harry Douglas, the third piece of the tri-force high-powered offense of Matt Ryan’s air assault.) But while the Falcons were winning games, the Eagles were winning my heart.
I have met some of the most precious people in my life in the past few years. The people surrounding me form a bond of trust so tight that it seems to have its own gravity. And these people are true Eagles fans. If our bond of trust had a mascot it would probably be an eagle (or a Woodrow, he’s a really sweet dog) and it would definitely be Kelly green.
One of my friends talks about his Eagles like I talk about my Falcons. The good ol’ stories and memories of times gone past when our beloved gladiators marched to battle and won, but also of heartbreaking times. We especially could relate when it came to Michael Vick. But now we both–and everyone for that matter (even my French best friend who would much prefer Marsaille futbol over any city football)–have hope. Chip Kelly is such an enigma that it feels like genius. You know there is something going on in that man’s head that you can see right behind his eyes, something that says “I have a plan.” Shady McCoy is the best running back in the country (period, no remainder). And Nick Foles’ jersey hangs in the Hall of Fame right next to Peyton Manning… already.
This is the setting on which my football drama unfolds. Now think about that. The elusive championship compatriot pact, Atladelphia. Now who do you think two championship thirsty cities would detest for their success? Vince Lombardi. The Cowboys, no doubt (and the fuckin’ DC team)! But Vince Lombardi embodies everything that has eluded us.
Recently my friend told me a story. He told me that on that very day they had been to Franklin Field to watch the Eagles practice. “Interesting,” I said. “Where is Franklin Field? ”
“On Spruce, right over the bridge. You know the one where the Eagles beat Vince Lombardi in his only ever playoff loss in the 1960 NFL Championship game?”
At that moment it registered in my brain that not only had one of my two teams won an NFL Championship (which I personally think is way cooler than a Super Bowl because it didn’t have all the pomp, celebrity, and advertising that championships has now) but they had did it to Vince fucking Lombardi! And then it registered that I ride past this stadium everyday. Twice a day. I helped a woman who fell off her bike right by the gate entrance where Lombardis Packers probably walked through just the other day. That little piece of road that I traverse everyday turns out to hold a host of synchronistic experiences that relate to my life. And it all came from a football game.
No, it came down to a spot. There is a patch of ground inside that brick and mortar stadium that I ride by everyday that testifies that heart can overcome skill. And that’s what the southern in me, the artist in me, the writer in me, the social justice fighter in me and all that is in me longs for: a world where heart checkmates the best laid plans of mice and men. And the championship weary city that I live in, love, and call home made that happen one night in 1960 right inside those bricks that I see 250 times a year. Now twice a day everyday I get a reminder: even the mighty can fall.
Editor’s note: This piece originally appeared on Mr. Swetman’s blog, Revolution #9.