By Mike Greger
It was eight hours before kickoff to the NFC championship game, and I was sitting in hallowed ground at St. Patrick’s Cemetery in Norristown, PA, holding a tacky, souvenir Philadelphia Eagles flag in my hand – and silently humming a tune to myself.
… And I wasn’t the only one there doing so.
To my right, I saw a woman wearing an Eagles jersey crouched over a granite tombstone, presumably saying a prayer for Carson Wentz. I didn’t walk over; I was too entrenched in my own tragic thoughts and had cranked up the decibels on the Eagles fight song uncontrollably reverberating inside my brain.
Fly, Eagles, Fly. On the road to victory. Fly, Eagles, Fly. Score a touchdown 1,2,3. Hit ‘em low. Hit ‘em high. And watch our Eagles fly. Fly, Eagles, Fly. On the road to victory. E-A-G-L-E-S Eagles
Every football fan in the City of Brotherly Love knows the words. Each lyric hits your soul like a touch pass from Wentz or Randall or Jaws. Each chord awakens a belief that this is indeed our year.
Yet, predictably, it never is.
There have been 51 Super Bowls. That’s more flavors than Baskin & Robbins dishes out. That’s more presidents than the United States of America has had in office. That’s more destroyed video tapes than a New England janitor has no recollection of.
Still, zero Super Bowl parades in Philly. Why? Is it because the football gods don’t like us? Were they not entertained by Rocky.
On Saturday, the night before the Super Bowl, I attended services at St. Francis Xavier in the Fairmount section of the city. The congregation was sparse, but blind faith in the Eagles was strong.
A child in an Alshon Jeffery jersey clung to his mother, laughing and smiling all through mass.
A man with a bum knee, unable to kneel, loudly sang every hymn in his Eagles Starter jacket.
A Cowboys fan sat alone in a pew – people looked down when they walked by him for communion, and no one shook his hand during the sign of peace.
The priest, adorned in green vestments, read a gospel from the Book of Mark. It focused on Jesus communing with his dad in the morning and then driving the demons out of Galilee.
The message hit home. You see, my dad died from cancer in 2003, a few months before the NFC championship game against Carolina. He was an Eagles season-ticket holder nearly his whole life, a diehard who gave up his seats when the team moved into Lincoln Financial Field out of necessity more than choice.
As I sat in that church pew, on the eve of the biggest game in history, an ironic calm came over me. I thought back to the 2005 Super Bowl and the three straight NFC championship failures before that.
Ridding demons? This priest was speaking directly to Eagles fans, a conduit to my dad. We had tons to exorcise, starting with the demons of Brady and Belichick and Gronk, to the demons of Branch and Harrison and Bruschi. All these false prophets had interrupted our New Testament.
Why did the football gods hate us so much?
Then, it all started to make sense. This isn’t about appeasing the football gods. We don’t care about them. Because they don’t care about us. This game is about exorcising demons. And we have a lot of demons to drive out.
Luckily, we have a lot of angels on our side. St. Reggie and Pastor Randall and B-Dawk. Heck, we have the Dutch Destroyer watching over us. We are an Audience of One.
Let’s win this championship for Carson.
Let’s win it for Carlo Tedesco and Colin Ashmore, who sing the Eagles fight song to their newborn daughters every night before going to bed, sometimes whispering, “Dallas Sucks.”
Let’s win it for John Furlong, a lifelong Eagles fan from the Franklin Field days who died before getting to light his victory cigar.
Let’s win it for Phil Basser, the 99-year-old Eagles fan and brave Korean War vet who gave old Millie a run for her money.
Let’s win it for Donovan McNabb, so we never have to talk about him puking ever again. Plus, the 10 Commandments tell us to forgive.
Let’s win it for Bradley Cooper, so he can make a movie about it, maybe “Silver Linings Playbook Without Neuroses.”
Let’s win it for Oisin Hayes, a passionate transplant from Ireland who openly chose to root for the most frustrating franchise in history.
Let’s win it for Northeast Philly, because they deserve to throw the party to end all parties at the Frankford and Cottman intersection.
Let’s win it for Steve Troup, a proud military veteran who needs an excuse to get crazy for his 35th birthday. Thank you for your service.
And let’s win it for my Dad, who died much too soon, a 700 Level member before there was a 700 Level. He would be the first one on the Wentz Wagon, there to lead us in the beautiful symphony:
Fly, Eagles, Fly. On the road to victory. Fly, Eagles, Fly. Score a touchdown 1,2,3. Hit ‘em low. Hit ‘em high. And watch our Eagles fly. Fly, Eagles, Fly. On the road to victory. E-A-G-L-E-S Eagles.
You will hear street musicians piping it through trumpets on SEPTA’s Broad Street line.
You will hear sports chatters asking their listeners to sneak up on people and scream it as loud as they can.
You will hear it during church sermons and in graveyards.
It will be last thing you hear when you go to sleep at night and the first thing you hear when you wake up in the morning.
And the football gods will hear it, too. They’ll be humming it to themselves, exorcising their own demons while waving tacky souvenir flags reading: PHILADELPHIA EAGLES, SUPER BOWL CHAMPIONS.