It was a freezing day in South Philadelphia. Yes, it was two days before Christmas, and the Philadelphia Eagles were on their way to finishing 4-12.
It was 2012, and I vaguely remember there being some rumor that the world was going to end between December 20th-24th. I was upset because this was going to be my first Eagles game, first professional sporting event, for that matter, and I didn’t want to die before I could finally watch the team I’d grown up loving.
My dad and I got free tickets to the game through one of my mom’s friends who didn’t want them, and due to the Eagles’ incessant awfulness, we brought brown bags to put over our heads if the game got too ugly. Two eye holes, cut with care, joined the flurry of Sharpie tear drops billowing down the cheeks of our paper masks.
The morning of the game, I grabbed about five layers of clothing, threw on my LeSean McCoy jersey, picked up our brown bags, and we headed out to the Linc.
Inside the Iggles
This was Andy Reid‘s last year in Philly, and his foot was already halfway out of the door. The season saw it’s share of blowout losses and depressing games, but I was absolutely amazed at how many people were at Lincoln Financial Field on that frigid Sunday afternoon. I always had heard that Philadelphia sports fans were amongst the most passionate and dedicated fans in the world, but it never really registered with me until then.
I heard firsthand how loud the boos can get when those abhorred Washington Redskins take the field. I saw firsthand how the Linc rocks when the Eagles score touchdowns. I saw firsthand the disappointment on every fans face when the comeback effort fell short with a weird Nick Foles‘ intentional grounding that ran all of the time off the clock.
A close to sell-out crowd shuffled out of the stadium quickly as my dad and I stayed in our seats for a bit after. We just sat there, taking everything in while the last of the players and personnel made their ways into the tunnel. When we finally got up to leave, I could barely walk because my feet were so cold. We stumbled down the Xfinity-Gate stairs, past the Eagles drumline, past the trumpet players begging for money, past the solemn and drunken fans who knew that was the last time they would see Andy Reid in midnight green at the Linc.
We never actually put on those brown bags. I think we were too busy absorbing the electric atmosphere to display our shame at our four wins. Actually, I didn’t have any shame. There has never been a moment I was prouder of being an Eagles fan than that day. Not even the next year, when they won the NFC East under a rookie head coach. I was proud of being a part of something that anybody outside of Philadelphia would never understand; they would have laughed at spending money and “wasting” time at a game for a team that won four games.
But, my dad and I, like the 70,000+ other lunatics that made the journey to South Philly on the day before Christmas Eve, have an insatiable passion for our Eagles and an inability to let an outsider’s judgments about our fanhood prevent us from supporting them.
I didn’t start to regain feeling in my feet until about 20 minutes after we got home and I had held my feet in front of the fireplace for a long time. The tingling finally stopped, and I was already bugging my dad to take me to another game next season.
It’s become a yearly thing now. Every year my dad and I argue about which game to go to. I’m on the “see them play a bad team so we know they’ll win, and it has to be in September or October so we’re warm” boat, but he is all about seeing a “good team so it’s a good game.” His favorite comeback during these arguments is “it’s not an Eagles game unless you’re freezing.” We’ve gone on to see the Eagles play the Seahawks and Cardinals since, all extremely bad losses, so you can tell who won those arguments.
Cold Eagles games are overrated and really, really painful, by the way, but… (sips tea).
That day was definitely my favorite Philly sports moment. I’ve gone to plenty of other games, in much better seasons than that one, but it was a day that I’ll cherish forever.