2/6/18

The Underdogs

I think people think it's funny that I go to a university known for its dominant athletic program but my favorite professional sports teams are the ones that embody the underdogs, the not quite lovable losers. I've been a Philadelphia fan for almost ten years, and I didn't quite get the let down surrounding the sports for a while because the Phillies were good. What did it matter that every other team wasn't so good? The Phillies had just won the World Series and kept making runs, and frankly, I didn't really care about the other teams yet.



But then everything started to revert back to where it always was. Philadelphia was not good at sports. As the seasons changed, I put my hopes into the other teams. Once fall came and the Phillies were out of the playoffs, I put my faith in the Eagles. Then the Flyers. Then the Sixers. Then another year would come without a championship, and the cycle would continue. Phillies. Eagles. Flyers. Sixers. I think my dad would see the hope in my eyes when I would say, "Maybe *insert team* will be good this season!" He knew better than I that the chances of that team being good were slim.

The Phillies have two World Series. The Flyers have two Stanley Cups. The Sixers have three NBA Championships. The Eagles didn't have any Super Bowls. And I was only alive for one of these titles.

I quickly learned that Philadelphia leaned into the rough and tumble persona. My dad always told me that Philadelphia fans would be the first to congratulate someone but also the first to turn on a coach or player. I loved it. I complained about coaches and the teams, but when someone else tried to say something bad, I was quick to defend the city that I had only visited a couple times. People just didn't get it. I still don't really get it, but I know there are no other sports teams and no other city that I would want to support.

The Phillies and baseball have always been my favorites. There is just something poetic about the sport, and I find peace in baseball. But football has always been a close second. I watched the Eagles before I even watched the Phillies. I always wanted an Eagles jersey, but my dad told me to wait for a franchise player unless I wanted Brian Dawkins one like the rest of the city. I put my hope in a lot of players, but nothing really panned out. I called for the firing of Andy Reid and Chip Kelly like the rest of the city, and it hurt. Because no matter what players we drafted or how good a season was, nothing would fill the void of not having a Super Bowl. Not having that ring. 

In my opinion, the Eagles have always been the city's team because football is the city's sport. Philadelphia has grown a lot as a city in recent years, and its residents aren't as scrappy as they used to be, but they still identify with that mentality, and it fits with football.

This season exemplifies the city of Philadelphia perfectly. Once Carson Wentz got hurt, most everyone counted the team out including me. I told my dad there was no way we would win this year. I said we would make it to the playoffs, maybe win the first game, but no way we would win the whole thing. Too many major players were hurt for anything to happen. But the team took that as a rallying cry, and the city did too. The Underdogs. Something Philadelphia had always been. Disrespected and counted out. The lovable losers. It just made sense that this is how it would play out. 

Three hours before the game, I could have sworn I wasn't going to watch it. I was too stressed to even think about the game let alone watch it. But I did. When it was kick-off, something just felt right. Something I rarely feel in regards to the Eagles considering I had had stress dreams about them for a good month. At half-time, I was shaking. We were up by 10? Impossible. As the second half went on, I got more nervous. The Pats had too much time. I had seen this play out in a similar way last year with the Falcons. I prayed, pleaded for a turnover. Just one could help seal it for us. 

As I watched Tom Brady drop that ball, I screamed. If we could just score, it would be at least an 8 point game, and maybe just maybe we would win because if I have learned anything in the last year, the game is not over until the clock hits 00:00. 

The joy I felt when I watched the ball hit the ground is indescribable. I didn't watch the Phillies win the World Series. I was too young and not invested in sports yet. But I watched the Eagles win a Super Bowl. The first one ever in franchise history. I was still shaking, and I started crying. I never thought I would see the day the Eagles won a Super Bowl. Or even a Philadelphia professional team bring a championship back to the city. 

I called my dad after the game, and both of us kept repeating how we couldn't believe it. How it was one of the greatest games ever. The Eagles won the Super Bowl against all odds. On Monday he texted me, "The greatest story ever told. Why we love sports, when every so often, the impossible happens. And we realize that anything is possible." 


I don't know when I will get tired of saying it, but the Eagles won the Super Bowl.
xx, Julianna

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