3 Observations About Eagles Fans (From a Non-Eagles Fan)
Last year, while reporting on a story about football cuisine before the Eagles’ home opener, I crashed multiple tailgates all over the Linc lots, looking for fun anecdotes, quotes and stories, and maybe a couple sausages and beers. I ended up nailing down my own personal definition of Eagles fandom.
One guy in particular stands out to me. Middle-aged, successful. Intelligent and friendly. Owner of multiple businesses. Spoke eloquently about the decades he’s been coming to games with family and friends. Happy to break down a few of his “secret” tailgate recipes, the focus of my column.
Then a kid in a San Diego Chargers jersey strolled by. My interviewee’s eyes suddenly seemed to click to blood-red, like a hungry vampire in a Japanese cartoon.
“HEY, MOTHERFUCKER! FUCK YOU! ASSHOLE! ASSHOLE! ASSHOLE!” Everyone around him immediately joined in with their own chants and diatribes, as if they’d rehearsed this moment in a room with mirrored walls. The sadsack Chargers fan picked up the pace.
Barely sparing a beat, he turned back to me and smiled warmly, like he hadn’t just hopped out of our conversation to launch a bloodcurdling verbal assault on a total stranger.
“Sorry, bud! What was the question?”
I mumbled something about shrimp skewers and slowed backed away.
To many, this is completely normal sporting-event behavior. And it’s nothing I hadn’t seen before, at the pro, college or even high school level. It just took me awhile to realize that it tidily summed up my personal understanding of the contemporary Eagles fan — sharp, self-aware and well-intentioned, and also the complete and utter opposite of that when the moment demands it. Perfect? Not quite — but much different than the mouth-breathing, face-smashing image of Philly supporters perpetuated nationally.
Let’s just get this out now: I am not a fan of the Eagles. And I never will be. That’s why I thought it might be interesting to share a few observations on how an outsider who’s been living in your midst for years perceives you.
1. You’re not as bad as they say you are.
And by “they,” I mean everyone who’s not an Eagles fan, from the media to the man on the street. When the topic of living in Philly comes up, either when I’m traveling or I’m catching up with old friends in Baltimore (where I grew up), people always look like they want to cradle me like a newborn and tell me everything’s going to be OK. Are Eagles fans insufferable assholes, or are they reasonable and cool? In my experience, many are both, like my man I met on assignment. And I don’t think that’s radically unique in the realm of the NFL.
The same topics tend to come up — chucking batteries (yes, I know that was actually Phillies fans), booing Santa Claus, cheering Michael Irvin’s injury, cops disguised in opponent jerseys. I realize that these stereotypes are old hat for the Eagles faithful — emphasis on the old. Talking to a number of lifelong fans, I’ve gathered that many view the 2004 implosion of Veterans Stadium as the start of a sea change in overall attitude. The Lincoln Financial Field era is a little gentler, more erudite — but also high-priced, highly corporate and devoid of legit grit. Take the bad with the good. I feel like a stadium without a courtroom in it is a positive.
2. You get hung up on weird things.
Driving around for work, I end up listening to a ton of sports talk radio, and I’m consistently surprised and amused by the issues callers tend to obsess over, when larger, more vital discussions are at hand. I’ve never heard so many dedicated football minds dissect topics like Chip Kelly’s water-drinking regimen or Desean Jackson’s Instagram. I recently listened to what felt like an hour of earnest analysis on “the kicking situation.” Who can possibly talk about kickers for an hour?! The @FakeWIPCaller Twitter account is genius satire, and it’s almost scary how accurate it is.
“Philly fans are a collective stream of idiotic consciousness,” writes Deadspin’s Drew Magary of the Eagles in his “Why Your Team Sucks” series. “They shift like ice floes and drift toward the stupidest opinion possible, and then head for the next stupid opinion the moment any semblance of rationality is detected.” Obviously this uber-trolling, but I feel that many people do perceive Eagles fans this way. I personally think it’s much more an overbearing focus on the inane than a blithe dedication to the idiotic.
3. Your passion manifests itself in a huge flair for the dramatic.
What do Eagles fans and theater geeks have in common? You both love draaaaaama (*crumples limply onto fainting couch*). And there’s nothing wrong with that. It’s not like you guys have the tragedy-comedy masks pinned up in your garages next to your Randall jerseys or anything, but there is a palpable fondness for histrionics in this town that I’ve always found endearing, if a little silly. I think the long history of the team, coupled with the perceived slings and arrows the fanbase has endured over the years, cultivates this mentality. It’s much more present than it is with my squad, the Ravens, who have only been around since ’96.
The Eagles are “a family heirloom that’s handed down from generation to generation,” and they’re treated as such. “This is more than a team — it’s a family,” intones a hyped-up Bradley Cooper in that new over-the-top promo everyone loves. “It’s our family. This is more than a city. It’s our home. This is more than a game. This is everything. And more.”
I’m not sure if seeing it written out makes it sound more or less operatic, but I’m fairly convinced B-Coop was staring into the eye sockets of Yorick’s exhumed skull when he recorded that bit. Absolutely ridiculous, rather difficult to understand, but also kinda charming. That sums up what being a non-Eagles fan in Eagles country is all about.
Follow @DrewLazor on Twitter.