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The Eagles face the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the NFC Wild Card playoff game in Tampa, FL on January 8 at 8pm on 6abc, ESPN, and all the streaming options. (Also, according to Ticketmaster, resale ticket prices start at $100 each. See you there?!)

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Eagles Fans, Let’s Turn our Crazy into a W

One diehard Birds fan believes Philly can — and should — channel all our anxiety and adrenaline into a win on Monday night. (It’s worked before.)

Eagles Fans, Let’s Turn our Crazy into a W

One diehard Birds fan believes Philly can — and should — channel all our anxiety and adrenaline into a win on Monday night. (It’s worked before.)

The extreme sorrow and sentimental joys of the sports fan are universal emotions. No matter if we’re rooting for cricket or golf, gymnastics or water polo, sports fans experience highs and lows that transcend all manner of borders. We, the lovers of locality-based, non-deadly physical competition, are, deep down, all the same, sharing an emotional language, dwelling on the same spiritual plane. With one exception.

When it comes to the Philadelphia Eagles, here in the 215, fans’ feelings are … bigger. Deeper. Potentially, crazier.

See us, not at the Linc, but at every away game, forming vast swathes of green amid whatever other color we’re playing. We’re there in our jerseys and full-body bird costumes, bearing signs and wearing a whole lotta face and body paint. Listen, after we score a touchdown at MetLife, Lambeau or Gillette, you’ll hear an unmistakable chorus of “Fly, Eagles, Fly.” Watch us, rushing down to the good seats after the game ends, hoping for high-fives, or even a nod.

We’re not weird. You’re weird.

Of course, away games are only one example. You and I could cite dozens more ways Eagles fans are the most devoted and impassioned, including polls of rabidity that consistently rank Birds groupies at the tip top. We live and die by our Eagles. For better or for worse, our economy, both financial and emotional, runs on our wins.

I’ll explain how we — because I am one of these fans — got like this later, for the few of you who don’t know the tales already, and for the majority of us who can’t hear them enough.

But first, another important point. What we’re feeling, the players feel it too. Maybe not when we’re watching from afar, but definitely when we’re there. At this point in the season, after so many wins, then too many losses, we need to muster all our pride, all our belief, and, no matter how the first half or even three quarters go, keep believing and acting like we — you and I — can help put our Eagles back on the road to the Super Bowl.

But let’s first get back to the sentimental part — how we got the way we are.

Where it all began

December 15 was the cold and snowy last game of the 1968 Eagles season. After an initial and abysmal 0-11 run, the Birds had won their last two games (no need to point out this record is the virtual inverse of this year’s). Fans packed Franklin Field … hoping for a loss to the Minnesota Vikings.

They hoped for the worst because a final L could secure them a #1 pick for the most sought-after running back at the time, O.J Simpson. The Birds went into halftime 7-7. Not promising, if you were there to watch them tank it.

So, when the professional Santa Claus hired to parade on the field was a no-show because of the weather, and field management roped a scrawny fan in a low-budget Kris Kringle costume into doing the job … Snowballs ensued.

Poor Frank Olivo. He was certainly not the guy fit to deliver presents to the children of the world in one night. But he was definitely the guy Birds fans could take their frustrations out on. As boos and snowballs rained down, Olivo “got pelted.” But he kept his sense of humor, telling one snowball packer, “You’re not getting anything for Christmas.”

No presents for us fans. What we did get was a reputation. We set an immutable precedent for Birds fans’ emotional reactions for years to come. On that winter’s day, the legend of the inappropriately overly reactive Eagles fan was born. And grew.

When it comes to the Philadelphia Eagles, here in the 215, fans’ feelings are … bigger. Deeper. Potentially, crazier.

During another snowy game — 1989 Eagles-Cowboys at home — Ed Rendell, future honorable mayor of Philadelphia and governor of Pennsylvania, bet a fellow ticket holder $20 that the other guy couldn’t throw a snowball that would hit a Cowboy. The guy tried and failed, but not really, because he inspired the rest of the Vet to follow suit. This time, the fans also chucked ice and beer. One snow bomb ended up hitting Dallas coach Jimmy Johnson.

Rendell never condemned his actions. Instead, he said what we all say: Other fan bases have rowdy tendencies, too. In a 2011 interview with the New York Times, the then-governor brought up a 1968 incident where a Yankee fan threw a knife that grazed the arm of Angels first baseman Wally Joyner; he recalled how, in 2010, a bunch of Bombers’ boshers harassed the wife of then-Rangers pitcher Cliff Lee.

Rendell was not wrong. Other fans pitch beer cans onto baseball diamonds (Atlanta, San Francisco), trash fields during major football games (Ole Miss, Iowa). They burn couches (Michigan State University) and flip cars (Kentucky) — which, honestly, I thought Philly sort of invented — after big wins. And don’t even get me started on soccer fans abroad.

Still, we Philadelphians are the wack jobs? To be honest, it’s a reputation I’m seeing Birds fans outwardly embrace more and more. (Five years later, we still can’t get enough of the guy arrested after an attempted burglary in Pittston, who, when asked for comment, said “Go Eagles.”) We’re good with being the most boisterous, obnoxious and obsessed. Except when we lose. And turn on our teams. And on each other.

The bad times

Anxiety and adrenaline make being a sports fan fun. They are also what get us into trouble, taking us from brotherly to political, spirited to sexist, rowdy to racist, and helpful to hurtful. With Eagles fans, when things are good they’re great, but when they’re bad, we end up damaging the people we love the most (that’s our fellow fans and our team, FYI).

Eagles fans don’t just take to Twitter and TikTok to express gametime angst and anxiety. We take it to heart. Many of us can’t sit down during a game, and too many of us drink too much out of worry alone. After we’d get beat, my friend’s brother would call out of work for a full week. That’s better, though, than all those reports about the increase of domestic violence after a pro football loss.

Too often, we become the worst versions of ourselves, and take our frustrations — If we could just get down there on the field, and give Sirianni a hand! — on each other. Former Philadelphia charter school teacher Kyle Jordan lives and dies by the Eagles. He goes to pubs to watch games. “There will be times when we’re all vibing in the bar, high-fiving each other and shit,” he says, “Then, when Hurts fumbles or A.J. Brown misses a catch, suddenly [the players] become ‘stupid n-words.’”

It’s freezing rain. And still, we stand up and cheer. Photo by Olivia Kram.

I surveyed a bunch of Eagles fans about how easy it is for some fans to turn from feeling like family to acting like enemies, and heard the same story, over and over. Once that second fumble or interception happens, suddenly, it doesn’t matter that we all bleed green. Suddenly, we are not all the same. All that adrenaline and anxiety has to go somewhere, and chances are, it’s not going anywhere good.

But maybe, we can turn that around. Turn those negative feelings into positive outcomes.

We can do and have done better

So, we all know that deep down, there is way more that unites than divides us. I’m not talking about humanity, or science, either. I’m talking about being from Philly. We have our shared love of a game and a team, but also of cheesesteaks, wooder ice, soft pretzels, Nick Foles, Randall Cunningham, Brian Westbrook, Reggie White, Brian Dawkins, Dick Vermeil, Jaws. We want Zach Ertz back, and for Fletcher Cox, Jason Kelce, Lane Johnson and Brandon Graham to never leave. We are united not just by our classic fight song, but also its new adaptation:

No one likes us, no one likes us

No one likes us, we don’t care

We’re from Philly, fucking Philly

No one likes us we don’t care

No one likes us. But, if we want to win, we absolutely need to like each other. And our players. Scratch that. We need to love each other and our players. Because you know what? Love doesn’t just win. Love works.

Sure, there’s a time and place for the occasional snowball fight, appropriate booing, and holding certain offensive coordinators accountable (*clears throat*). But, most of the time it’s our job as neighbors in the same Birds nest (just made that up) to correct and call out our fellow fans when they’ve crossed a line. Know what else is our job? To offer outward support when our guys need it most.

Let us remember the lesson of this summer, when Phils fans could have turned their backs or rained down baseball cap-shaped ice cream cups on a $300 million shortstop who stopped producing at the plate. Instead, we stood up, turned toward Trea Turner, and clapped. And guess what? Turner started hitting again. For a brief few days, somehow, despite our years and years of notorious behavior, Philadelphia sports fans managed to turn our penchant and prowess for negativity into positive reinforcement — and positive outcomes.

There’s power in unifying behind healthy love and support.

Can we do the same thing for our Birds? I might not guarantee us a win on Monday, or our rightful spot back atop the NFC, but I guarantee it will make us all feel better in the long run.

Go Birds.

(Also, thank God we didn’t get that 1968 draft pick.)


Abigail Chang, a Southwest Philadelphia native — now a New York transplant pursuing a pre-med degree with a journalism minor — loves to report on community events and facilitate important conversations around race, sports, activism and justice. MORE ON OUR BELOVED EAGLES FROM THE CITIZEN

Photo via Flickr

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