A Big Step in the Right Direction
A friend of mine recently asked me if Philly felt noticeably different a couple of weeks out from the Eagles’ historic Super Bowl win. It’s a great question, which as a non-native perhaps I am ill suited or well suited to answer.
There is certainly a degree to which the answer is yes and no. Yes, in that we are still giddy from the newness of being world champs, with all the euphoria and bragging rights that come with it. No, in that we are still hungry, still gritty, still with a chip on our collective shoulder.
But I think there’s more to this story than just one win, albeit an incredible and life-altering one. Philly teams have long reflected and embraced the psyche of their city: blue collar, tough as nails, big hearted. But there was always a “but.” Eagles fans in particular – and, this is a great, four-sport city, but I don’t think it’s too controversial a statement to say that football is where this city’s greatest passions lie – always had a sense of dread hanging over them. One learned never to get too high after a victory or imminent victory, because things would invariably come crashing down.
Perhaps I am engaging in some revisionist history here, but I’d have to say that while both the 2004 and 2018 Eagles had a “happy to be here” vibe on the eve of their respective Super Bowl games, there was far more enthusiasm and optimism about this year’s version actually winning the game. Buoyed by a closer-than-you-remember divisional championship (we all remember the goal-line stand at the end, but don’t forget that right before the Eagles' only touchdown of the game Nick Foles averted disaster by falling on his own fumble at the 1) and then a blow-out conference championship, and with a clear sense of identity and destiny heading into the Super Bowl (i.e. “underdogs” taking on the perennial champs and their “pretty boy” leader Tom Brady), fans throughout the region went from “could this be” to “this could be” right before my eyes.
Even down to the final quarter, possession, and play, when the game’s outcome hung in the balance, there wasn’t sense of dread, as if something bad was inevitably going to happen. Rather, there was a sense of excitement and possibility, that we weren’t quite across the threshold yet but it was possible we were actually going to make it. In other words, the butterflies and heart-pounding of any other sports city that didn’t feel as doomed and defeated as Philly had seemed for so many decades. It may seem like a subtle difference, but I’m sure fans in Cleveland understand.
We have a ways to go as a city and a region, and one win isn’t going to get us all the way to where we know we want to be. But it was a big step earlier this month, and how we braced for it and then celebrated it is indicative that we had already taken a bunch of big steps leading up to it. So, it’s the same Philly, but with a little bit of a spring in our collective step, because we know we’re going in the right direction, and it feels good.