Maybe you’ve seen The Girl Next Door. For those who haven’t, here’s the main theme: Nerdy but curious guy falls for super hot chick with a porn-star background. He loves her sense of adventure and care-free philosophy toward life. That, and her looks. And body. Right. Anyway, super hot chick with porn-star background changes the way nerdy but curious guy looks at life, gets him to take more chances, and gives him confidence in himself. Certainly, much more occurs in his existential journey toward self-fulfillment, but you get the idea. (Editor’s note: Is the juice worth the squeeze, Pundit? An interesting query, which depends, of course, on the juice. Tropicana? ‘Cuz if it’s Tropicana, or Dole, I’m down. Or purple drink. Mmmm…purple drink. Screw Sunny D – I want that purple stuff).
It’s a classic tale, really. But what’s the point?
Well, in many ways, I think we’re that kid. (Editors’ note: Who you callin’ nerdy?) We were championship-starved for so long, we never really had any confidence in our teams. But when the Phillies made their run, they changed something about the way we watch – they inspired confidence in us. They made us more positive. They made us believe. With the exception of the rain-delay disaster in the World Series, the entire playoff push was a pretty positive, upbeat experience, and it was partly due to the energy that the fans brought to the park for every game.
And didn’t you get the sense around the city that, when the Eagles made the playoffs, they could legitimately make it to the Super Bowl? Once they made it, couldn’t you sense true belief from Eagles fans? All year long, we were frustrated by a team that routinely lost games it could have won. In many cases, should have won. Hell, in the case of the Redskins game, needed to win. And yet, despite that fact, despite the daunting twists and dire turns, as soon as the Eagles landed in the playoffs, you got this strange sensation that they were about to make a run.
Why? Why any optimism at all? For much of the season, they had been presented chance after chance. And in many cases, they blew them. Any other year, and Eagles fans would have been excited about making the playoffs, but their excitement would have inevitably been dulled by rumblings that they were lucky to get in and would probably blow it, losing in painful fashion.
But this year? This year was different. This year, it was, “Alright baby, we’re in. We got as good a chance as anybody – I know that this team can do it.”
“I believe in this team.”
And it’s all because of the Phillies.
The Phillies showed us that, once you’re in the tournament, you’ve got a chance. They broke the curse. They freed us from the painful shackles of playoff pessimism. Hey, if the Eagles don’t make the playoffs, we’re not having this conversation.
But they did. And we are.
And the Eagles have the opportunity to change us as well. They have the chance to remind us that, no matter how bleak the situation looks, no matter how abysmal the failure may seem, it ain’t over ’til it’s over. Crazy things happen. Any given Sunday, blah blah blah. For years and years, such sports cliches just didn’t fly here – too many times had we gotten our hopes up, only to be crushed…
But if the Eagles finish their run with a Super Bowl win, they’ll immortalize a lesson we probably would be wise to heed anyway.
Never give up.
Not on yourself, or your teammates, or in this case, the team you root for. You never know what might happen. You never know how magical that second lease on life might be. Rocky was supposed to teach us that, but he won in the first movie. He was only the lovable underdog for a few hours, after all. Had he finally won the title in Rocky 25, maybe we would have gotten it then. (Editor’s note: That’s coming out next summer, right? I heard he’s fighting an Iraqi boxer named Haddam Insane. I could be wrong, though…) But instead, we latched on to the identity of the hard-nosed, working-class, no-nonsense fan of the underdog who rooted with an unabashed passion. To a fault, at times. In many ways, we’ve missed the point.
So here’s hoping the Eagles are on point for two more Sundays. Here’s hoping they change us for the better, just like ‘dem Fightins.’
One last note, and than I’m done. An epilogue, if you will. When I first started writing this post, I wasn’t really sure where it was headed. It’s funny – I think I had a totally different idea for the post than this. Maybe you wouldn’t have guessed, due to redeeming power of editing, but the first draft of this piece was a scattered, convoluted mess of mixed metaphor that ended somewhere drastically different from where it had started. (Editor’s note: I would have guessed). I kind of realized I was going awry as I was writing, but for some reason, I kept on going, curious as to where I was headed. Normally, I would have probably scrapped the whole thing and tried something new. But not this time; instead, I just kind of went with it.
And here we are.