“C’mon in, Coach,” Andy Reid says brightly, wearing a pair of tan cargo shorts and flip-flops and standing dead square in the middle of his spacious office in the Eagles’ South Philly HQ, just down the road from the Linc.
Charlie Manuel, taller than you expect and with the kind of long, loping gait that instantly marks him as a onetime jock, pauses briefly in the doorway, smiles, then extends his hand. “Nice to see you, Coach,” he says warmly, in his rumbling Virginia twang. We know them as Charlie and Andy, but on the rare occasions that they’re in the same room, they use the ultimate sign of athletic respect: “Coach.”
If you’re a Philadelphia sports fan, the moment we’re experiencing right now feels like something out of a dream. A very, very good dream. It began last winter, when the Phillies unexpectedly reacquired super-pitcher Cliff Lee and, in that instant, created what seemed to be a pitching staff—and a team—for the ages. Then, in August, with the Phils actually living up to all that preseason hype, the Eagles did something equally breathtaking: They acquired, within a matter of days, if not hours, a slew of high-profile players who instantly turned them into a serious Super Bowl contender.
Yes, Philadelphia, you’ve died and gone to sporting heaven.
The excitement around the city is so palpable these days that it seemed like the perfect time to do something no one ever has before: get Reid and Manuel, the two leaders of our high-flying franchises, together for a conversation about their teams, their fans, their backgrounds … and their unlikely friendship. And so in the second week of August, a few hours before the Eagles’ first preseason game, the two men (accompanied by Manuel’s fiancée, Missy Martin) are sitting down for a sort of sports summit in Reid’s office.
Reid, now in his 13th season in town, and Manuel, now in his seventh, have an easy rapport, helped by the fact that each is a fan of the other’s sport. Manuel, 67, played high-school football in Virginia in the early 1960s (“My first year, we still had leather helmets,” he says), while Reid, 53, grew up in the shadow of L.A.’s Dodger Stadium and bled Dodger blue. “I played in a park right across the street, those ball fields right there,” he says, as the two men relax in black leather chairs. “I was the only white kid on the team.”
“I was with the Dodgers for a little while in ’74 and ’75,” Manuel remembers. “I had a bad leg then—kind of limped.”
Reid nods. “Hey, listen, I saw you. I was the biggest Dodgers fan in the world. I knew everyone.”
The two could probably talk this way for hours. But after a brief aside about Manuel’s black Tommy Bahama shirt (“I think think that’s the only one I don’t have,” Reid jokes), they settle in for some questions. The ones we all want answered.
Philadelphia magazine: Let’s start off with your friendship. How well do you guys actually know each other?
Andy Reid: Well, we’ve reached out and talked a couple times.
Charlie Manuel: He sent me some text messages. I’d see ’em, but I never learned to text. I’d be sitting, like, in New York in the locker room, and I’d get a message. And I’d be like, “Andy Reid sent me this message.” I think the last one you sent me was when we got Cliff Lee.
Reid: Yeah, that’s right. I was fired up. Actually, I bought season tickets. Right when I heard that was gonna go down, I ordered Phillies season tickets for my sons for Christmas.
PM: Do the two of you feel a special bond because of the positions you hold here in Philadelphia?
Reid: Yeah. I mean, listen, this is a passionate town. Because they come after you. They came after Charlie early. And even when you win, they come after you. I think his first year and my first year—those are man-makers, right there.
PM: What’s it like to go through that kind of criticism from the media and the public? Were you were prepared for it, given Philly’s reputation?
Manuel: For me, yeah, I expected that. When I came here, the first press conference I had, I told them, “You’re probably not gonna like me, but when you get used to me, more than likely I’ll win you over.” When I first came here, I never really got into talk radio—or actually any kind of press. If there was a paper lying around in our coaches’ room, I’d pick it up to see if it was the truth. Most of the time it wasn’t. And I’d get pissed off after I read it.
PM: Do you pay attention to the media now?
Manuel: Not at all.
Reid: What Derek [Boyko, the Eagles’ PR chief] gives me, I get. The rest of it I don’t read. I don’t listen to AM radio. I try to stay away from all that stuff. I think from a management standpoint, you want your own decisions to come into effect. And you don’t want anything messing with it. I don’t care how strong you are—if you start reading all that stuff, it’s gonna sway you one way or another. And then that’s not really the pure you.
PM: Philly fans pride themselves on knowing a lot. But what would average fans be surprised about if they were seeing the games from your side of things? Is it how many hours you put in?
Reid: You probably named one of them. It’s a year-round job. And you give your heart and soul for your organization. There’s a process that takes place. People aren’t aware of that. Now, they don’t have to be—they’re coming to enjoy the entertainment part of it. But there’s a lot of time that goes into the product that you put out there.
Manuel: We play a lot of games—162. And focus definitely has to come into play. I was a football player in high school, and from a mental standpoint, it definitely helped me—it helped me in basketball, it helped me in baseball, it also helped in growing up. I think definitely at times I have a football mentality when I talk to our team. I’m a very upbeat, loose kind of guy in some ways; I communicate with everybody. But you got to be mentally- tough, and you got to bring it every day. The game. Nothing’s more important than the game. To me, baseball is a chemistry, it’s an attitude. I used to be a talent guy—if you gave me the talent, I’d work with the attitude. But it’s definitely the want-to process on our team that works for us.
PM: So it’s the attitude on this Phillies team that makes the difference?
Manuel: I think attitude and chemistry play a big role in baseball. I sure do.
Reid: In football, you gotta get 11 guys dancing the same dance or it’s not gonna work. And they all have to buy in. And get rid of the fluff. I always tell ’em, “Take off the tuxedo and put on the blue jeans. It’s time to roll, like, right now.”