Three games into the season, and already the black clouds of doom are thickening over the heads of the Philadelphia Eagles. If the Birds score a decisive win Sunday, the hot seat under Andy Reid’s posterior will lower to a mere glowing simmer and the outcry we’ve been hearing on sports radio and on streets from Mayfair to Mt. Airy will downshift to Philadelphia grumble as usual. Small rays of winged silver sunlight will be spotted peeking through the clouds. But if the Eagles should lose—and especially if they should lose in a sloppy, badly coached, missed opportunity repeat of last Sunday, the kind of game that leaves every laid off bricklayer and sales rep in the city who just spent twenty-six bucks on burgers and brews at a sports bar feeling somewhere between angry and homicidal—gather the kids in the basement. Things will get ugly.
Life is tough these days. Patience is thin. Escape is hard to find. Philadelphians who find their sole relief from reality this time of year on Sunday afternoons watching football have grown weary of also-ran seasons. Patience with Andy Reid’s sideline miscues and condescending Smokey the Pissed-Off Bear post-game press conferences has ended. Get it done, Chubs, or take the act elsewhere.
Reid is in the fans’ crosshairs. But don’t be fooled; if he fails this season, he will be the guy who couldn’t bring it home. The sports world is littered with guys like Reid. We had a quarterback just like him not so long ago.
For Michael Vick, it’s a very different story.
There are two kinds of Vick fans in Philadelphia. There’s the fan that believes in redemption as a principle of life, that believes, as Fitzgerald said, “forgotten is forgiven.” Vick did the crime, did the time and performed a life-changing 360. They see authenticity in his transformation. Put that together with what he does on the gridiron? Seven’s the man. Then there’s the other Michael Vick fan, the fan that believes redemption can only be found in hell for the crimes Vick committed, who believes what Vick did was too black-hearted to ever be forgiven, who doesn’t buy for a second that Vick is a changed man.
Yet these very same unforgiving fans, of which there are many, have put their feelings about Michael Vick and the crimes he committed on a hard to reach shelf for one reason, and for only one reason: they believe Vick can lead the Eagles to victory. Winning trumps all.
If Michael Vick cannot bring it home, if his head remains too foggy or his body can’t take the weekly battering; if the defense is too soft and can’t protect him; if he can’t be the $100 million dollar man for any of these reasons or for any others still unforeseen, beware these fans who put their feelings on the shelf.
They will reach up and bring them down.
Forget the long leash that Andy Reid got in this town. If the Eagles don’t win, Vick will instantly become the $100 million mistake; the ex-con for which redemption will never be fully granted. It’s early in the season, anything could happen, but in Philadelphia, as Michael Vick surely knows, hope never springs eternal.
Tim Whitaker is the executive director of Mighty Writers, a nonprofit program that inspires city kids to write.