COMMENTARY | Is life as a Philadelphia Eagles fan really so hard? Yes, it is.
Eagles fans have been through years and decades of failure but continue to come back season after season in hopes that their commitment to their favorite football team will finally be rewarded. The future appears to look bright with Chip Kelly now leading the team and bringing some new twists to the offense, but will he be able to help change the outlook of the Philadelphia fan?
Here is a look at the top five reasons being a Philadelphia Eagles fan is tougher than any other franchise.
The Donovan McNabb Era - Perhaps the most frustrating part of being an Eagles fan was the Donovan McNabb Era in franchise history. Forget about the booing of McNabb at the NFL Draft in 1999 for a moment. With McNabb in midnight green the Eagles made five trips to the NFC Championship Game but managed to reach just one Super Bowl.
McNabb may be the best quarterback in franchise history and some might make a case for his entrance to the Pro Football Hall of Fame down the line. Whether McNabb receives that elite honor or not may be up for debate, but what cannot be undersold is the lack of being able t provide McNabb with a steady core of receivers while he was in his prime. Fans saw just how explosive the offense could be when the Eagles added Terrell Owens to the team in 2004, the one season the Eagles managed to reach the Super Bowl. Unfortunately that had just a small window of opportunity before everything shattered.
The McNabb Era in Philadelphia offered many positive memories, from 4th and 26 to a nearly 15-second scramble in Dallas, but all that will be remembered when looking back on the high point of the franchise's modern history will be the four NFC Championship losses, including a demoralizing Veterans Stadium finale against Tampa Bay and a woeful performance against the Carolina Panthers the following season.
The snowballs at Santa Incident - One of the most iconic moments in Eagles fan history is the infamous snowball incident. Since it's origin in 1968, the story has been exaggerated and taken out of context time and time again. I will spare you the details of the incident because you surely are familiar with the basic elements by now. You also know by now that any time somebody says something negative about the fans in Philadelphia, this rather humorous moment will be quick to be brought up. It is easy to recite without the proper context, and many have become guilty of doing so
"Philadelphia sports fans have the reputation of being the worst in the country and it's bull," Frank Olivo said in an ESPN story in 2011. Olivo was the man who took the brunt of the snowball assault in Franklin Field on a cold day in 1968. "Because the Philadelphia sports fan, regardless of whether the team is good or bad, they will fill these stadiums, they'll put their money out to go to these games, they'll support the team."
If Olivo could forgive and laugh about it, why can't anyone else?
Everybody hates you - It seems as though whenever a list or ranking of the worst fans is released, the Eagles fans will be a lock for a top two spot, going back and forth with Raider Nation. In 2011 GQ reserved the top two spots in a worst fans ranking for the Eagles and Phillies fans. The arguments have become somewhat stale at this point, with the McNabb draft day and snowballs at Santa stories among the most popular items to recycle by national pundits. That said, there have been some infamous moments Eagles fans have been reminded of often.
Some ugly incidents over the years have led to some deserved criticism of the fan base as a whole, which have fueled the national image and perception of the Eagles fan. The problem comes when those national narratives run a little too wild without actually checking for feedback.
Hating Philadelphia Eagles fans has become as easy and lazy to do as anything, and that can be annoying.
Mike Mamula, Kevin Kolb and the NFL Draft - To be fair, the most recent NFL Draft with Chip Kelly in charge managed to spark some enthusiasm about the future. Of course, it will take time to determine whether Kelly's first draft class is to be considered a success or not. It will also take a while to figure out if the Eagles draft class of 2013 will heal the stings of past NFL draft miscalculations.
There have been some great draft picks in more recent memory, including McNabb, Brian Dawkins, Brian Westbrook and LeSean McCoy, but there is a pile of names fans still bring up from time to time. In 1995 the Eagles drafted combine standout Mike Mamula when Warren Sapp was on the board. So was steady tight end Kyle Brady and Hugh Douglas, who would come to the Eagles later in his career. The following year the Eagles drafted Jermane Mayberry, who did become a steady part of the Eagles offensive line, but Ray Lewis was drafted with the next pick by the Baltimore Ravens. In 2002 the Eagles drafted Freddie Mitchell instead of Reggie Wayne, a six-time Pro Bowl receiver picked up five picks later by the Indianapolis Colts. In 2007 the Eagles traded down with the Cowboys, who drafted Pro Bowl defensive end turned linebacker Anthony Spencer, in order to pick up quarterback Kevin Kolb in the second round.
Hindsight is always going to be 20/20 of course, but the string of arguable misses can be haunting.
The Inferiority Complex - Fans would never admit to it but there is a certain inferiority complex and hint of jealousy that comes with being a fan of the Eagles. Consider that the Eagles are the only team in the NFC East without a Vince Lombardi Trophy, and then consider they are the only franchise in the division without multiple Super Bowl championships. The Dallas Cowboys have five Super Bowl victories, the New York Giants have four and the Washington Redskins have three. Between them the NFC East rivals have combined to appear in 18 Super Bowls. The Eagles are sitting with a Super Bowl record of 0-2.
To add salt on the wound, the Eagles also play in the same state as the Pittsburgh Steelers, owners of an NFL record six Super Bowl championships in eight appearances. Just a short drive down I-95 you will find the Baltimore Ravens, now 2-0 in their two Super Bowl appearances as well.
This thought also extends to within the city. Yes, the Eagles do have three NFL championships in their past but they own the longest championship drought in the city. The Philadelphia Phillies ended a citywide drought in 2008, but the Eagles on-going championship drought extends to 1960. Since then the Philadelphia Flyers have won two Stanley Cups (and have played for seven more since 1975) and the Philadelphia 76ers have won two NBA championships. The pressure is on for the Eagles to win everywhere you look.
If and when the Eagles finally get a chance to celebrate a Super Bowl victory, all of the years of suffering will result in massive jubilation. For all of the pitfalls that come with being a fan of the Eagles, it will make that crowning achievement that much more enjoyable.
Kevin McGuire is a Philadelphia-based sports writer. Follow McGuire on Twitter @KevinOnCFB.
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