Philadelphia Eagles: My American Team
It Extends Past the Gridiron
Fall or Autumn, whichever you call it, the season is the beginning of one of the greatest sports in human history: football. The crispness of the breeze as built men all gather onto the field, to gain points which leads to a trophy and numerous accolades. Yells and joyous canter echoing through the stadium as one sees the progression in which of their teams in the end will bring home a win, while the other team leaves with nothing but anger and disappointment. The balance that this sport has is what I look forward to every season, outside of Pumpkin-flavored everything and Halloween.
I was someone who was a late bloomer in the area of sports. While I only possess physical strength that would be found in sports like track and field, my build would later come in handy during my junior and senior years of high school. Creating a woman's football team or "Powder puff football" team, the cute name only masked the real dirt of the sport. My memory of the flagged sport was when I was able to take a flag off an opponent who would otherwise be more "agile" than myself. The feeling of stopping the potential turn of the tide in the football game, and feeling powerful in doing so: that had begun a life-long love of the sport.
Choosing teams would have been an easier feat if someone was brought up in a family where your were surrounded by it. Although my family is originally from Philadelphia, in my rebellious stage, I had gone against the grain and choose to follow an unliked team: New England. Never being from there or have gone to Boston, I had only imagined what the season of Fall would look like in that area. The scenic imagery that I have tied to the northern area of the states was my ONLY reason to follow the team. Over the years and scandalous situations that the team had found itself in, I had slowly begun to separate myself from them. A free agent, I had begun to look at various teams in which I had felt followed the very values that I, personally, lived by. It would be another few years until I found the very team that I would later following and continue to do so.
When speaking about values, I have lived in various parts of the US and being someone who loves sports, I look at teams like I look at most things that give life a spark. Things that someone would surround themselves with are reflections of who they are and what their souls are made up of. A car or a house are personal examples of representation a person can have, and that is the same idea I've carried with things like sports teams. At the time, The Patriots had stood for an old-age belief of the patriots revolt against the British for me. The story was one of resilience and rebellion; I had found that it was nothing but a story that never resonated with me on a cultural level. It was a white man's story that I've heard over the years which never ignited my warrior spirit.
I had come back to Philadelphia throughout the years, with anguish because of the belief of the city being a "black hole." A place where dreams had gone to die, and my grandmother had done a great job in trying to give me little exposure to the decay of the city. In my closed-minded belief, I had now found myself back in the city that I had, at the time, worked hard to not come back to. Stubborn in my own dismay of "failing," I had been very reluctant to welcome anything that was Philadelphia, including their teams. Little did I know that time and maturity would cause me to look at the city much differently than what I had believed about it for so long.
As the political and social climate has shifted in ways that many people have worked so hard to NOT have happen, it's hard to ignore the obvious downward spiral the county had gone. More African-American players are starting to step up and be vocal about the injustices in the world, especially what is happening in our communities. Although admirable, the players aren't willing to risk their livelihoods all in the name for equality and the ones that have are being blacklisted. With team names that reflect a dark past, I am always reluctant to even acknowledge Dallas as the "American Team." Aside from the obvious rivalry that most cities have with Dallas, the "Cowboy" history only shines a light on the already racial and political virus that has infected this land for centuries. Painted as heroes, similar to the Patriots, it is only a mask of the pillage and murders that white men have done to show dominance over spaces that were not theirs to dominate in the first place. Not sure as to why other people, especially POC, would root for the team with such a history. The ignorance that I had as a young girl following a team like New England, I had begun to open my eyes in many areas of my life; allegiances and what mirrored myself and values were now being dissected.
I was one of the fans that would boo and heckle the Eagles. Wishing for their downfall, I was secretly observing their moves and the ways that they were as a team. When they would go against the Patriots, I would sit in silence and watch. Being from the city, there was something about watching the underdog team work so diligently to become the best. The champion of the entire sport organization and the rewards that come with it. Through hard-work, the sweat and the blood that comes with football, a feeling came over me when I witnessed the team that I had not thought highly of: pride.
I was watching an unbelievable game against another American team. Two quarterbacks, one being very much favored throughout the season going head-to-head for the Lombardi trophy. While most of America was still rearing from their various teams not making it to the grandest stage of the entire season, they had no other choice but to watch the final two teams go after the gold, and the Patriots were being in favored to win. Knowing at the time my feelings for the Patriots, I went for the unlikely team.
Heart-pounding and adrenaline coursing through my veins, I was now yelling and hollering for the Eagles to win. Telling the television to relay the messages to the coaches of better play options for the team, I was rooting extremely hard against a team I had once pledged an allegiance to dislike. Watching each running play, the defensive line would barrel through them. Nick Foles would practice options upon options, trusting that his team would execute. Throughout the Super Bowl game, I was in awe of these men. Amazed by these men whom I wouldn't have given the time of day or pay attention towards otherwise.
Seeing the city on the edge of its seat at the last play of the fourth quarter, I was drawn in. I felt the intensity as my father held his breath for the next pass thrown. I saw the worry in my brother's eyes, praying that the wide receiver would be available and hit the mark. Witnessing all of the emotions that a devoted fan would have, I understood what it meant to be loyal. Throughout the trials and tribulations that the Eagles have faced, the fanbase loyalty has NEVER wavered. That value itself warmed me in a way that I didn't think it would have in regards to a sports team.
Super Bowl 52 was the most memorable moment of my life, sealing my fate as an Eagles fan. Seeing my father tear up with happiness, embracing his son who was able to witness the occasion, gave me a sense of pride. Seeing everyone, from every part of Philly, party in celebration of a win that was well-fought for and deserved made me feel a sense of "home" with Philadelphia. That year, there weren't issues of race or difference of income; everyone was welcoming and warm as they brought their players home with a parade and congratulatory cheers.
In the recent game against another well-liked team, Green Bay, the Eagles team had come out and supported a fallen player after an injury that appeared life-changing, solidifying my beliefs within myself and what I want to represent my spirit. A solid front with a strong back-up, I believe that is what the Eagles are. Constantly being told that they aren't "as good as" some notable teams, when they continue to prove otherwise shows the resilience that the team and the city has. Extending past the field, the players of the Philadelphia Eagles demonstrate a sense of unity and pride that had trickled down into all areas of my life.
The "underdog" belief has channeled itself and a drive in me in what I want out of life. Being told that I am not good enough, the team has only shown that you never underestimate your opponent. Persevering and staying hungry is what the city is to me, what I am within myself and what the Eagles represent. Being broken down over the course of years, they have only shown that they continue to become better and better worthy opponents to face during the season. Similar to myself, through any adversity being faced, we rise as an Eagle would every morning. Ready for the day and hungry to get the first worm.