Love of the Game

Posted: July 8th, 2013 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 24 Comments »

I love the Eagles. I also love the game of football.

When I was younger, my emotions got the best of me. Troy Aikman was Satan. So was Jimmy Johnson. And Emmitt Smith. And Charles Haley. And Larry Allen. I hated them all with unnatural fervor.

I don’t exactly like DeMarcus Ware, but I appreciate the fact he’s a great pass rusher that has Hall of Fame potential. I don’t think he is Satan. (Maybe just Pazuzu)

I now appreciate the game of football. I have less of an “Eagles vs the world” mentality. I still hate the Cowboys, but I’m a lot more rational. And that’s a good thing. Football is the greatest game there is. The way to truly enjoy it is to embrace the great players, no matter who they play for. I’m fascinated by RG3 and his amazing potential. It sucks that he plays for a rival, but I don’t want that to overshadow what a gifted player he is.

I’ve mentioned a few times that I’m an Orioles fan. Buck Showalter is the manager for the O’s. I didn’t know a lot about him before he got to Baltimore. I remember the stories from his Yankees days in the early 90’s. He was overly-strict and it drove his players crazy. Age has mellowed him and I am blown away by what a great manager he is.

One of my favorite things about Showalter is that he doesn’t live under the assumption that the O’s should win every game. There will be times after a tough loss that he’ll stop taking questions in a PC and just say something like  “I hope you guys appreciate how good that pitcher was tonight. That was special. I don’t care who you wanted to win. That was great baseball.”

Buck’s point isn’t to give the Orioles a free pass for losing. There are just some nights in professional sports when the opponent outplays you. Rather than pick apart your failure, sometimes you have to acknowledge the other guy. This happens more in baseball since that is such an individual sport. You can have a dominant hitter or pitcher virtually win a game by  himself.

There are times when Buck’s mentality applies to football. We lost to Dallas on MNF in early 2008, 41-37. That was a terrific game. It was a hard loss, but you couldn’t be mad at the Eagles. They lost. It was disappointing. They did play well. Dallas just made one or two more plays that night. There have been plenty of intense games against the Giants over the years. Some the Eagles won. Some they lost. Those games have a unique feel because of the intensity. The losses are tough, but I think there is something special about the games since the teams bring out the best in each other. Once you step away from the emotion of the outcome you have to admit it is a great rivalry and that the games are special.

Be an Eagles fan. But also be a football fan. Football is the greatest sport in the world. Enjoy the games.

Unless we lose to the Giants 42-7. Then it’s okay to be bitter.

* * * * *

Speaking of loving the game…here is a great piece done by Mark Bowden several years ago. He wrote a book on the 1958 title game between the Colts and Giants. Many consider that the greatest game of all time and a signature moment in the rise of pro football.

Bowden got to watch coaches film of the game with Andy Reid. Say what you want about Big Red, but the man knows football. Andy didn’t know who all the players were so his observations and reactions were interesting. He had no preconceived notions. He just shared thoughts based on what he saw on the film.

Here is the 1958 box score.

You can be happy since the Giants blew a lead and lost.

_


  • Kevin Powell

    The problem is that I am so passionate when it comes to the Eagles, that I can hardly enjoy watching football games because they are so stressful. I do not have fun watching until the win is guaranteed.
    And maybe it is my immaturity rather than my insane fan hood, but I would not feel bad if something horrible happened to Eli Manning or Osi Umenyiora. I just can’t muster up the same hate for Romo because he has accomplished so little.
    Maybe one day I will be able to look at the game from as wise of a perspective as you Tommy, but for now, Eagles vs. the world baby!

    • GvilleEagleFan

      I feel with Osi gone, my last demon in the NFCEast is gone, but it’s more to personality than anything else. Guys like Orakpo, Lee, JPP, Nicks, Kerrigan, and even hapless Eli behave so professionally and seem like such students of the game that its hard to take their success as personally aimed at causing Eagles fans sadness.

      That being said, fuck Cris Canty. Forever. I will never forgive all the late hits and cheap shots he got away with on Vick.

    • planetx1971

      Kevin I’m with you 100% . I feel EXACTLY the same as you do man. There’s times I’m watching my beloved, maddening, delightful, enraging birds that I get so stressed out in close games that I’ll look away on huge 3rd downs or leave the room because I feel I’ll jinx them somehow lol. The close games feel like labor. I can watch other teams and be objective and rationale but not ighles games man. With them, I’m a borderline lunatic who’s entire weeks mood is dictated by how they play. Even with a win just like my father before me. Over 30 years now so I don’t see it changin! Oh and I’m pretty sure RGIII IS the prince of darkness :)

  • Ben

    Tommy, give us a hint where Bama’s goin, we love your podcasts with him and his unique style of writing. Your #1 in my book but Jimmy’s nipping at your heels.
    I feel the same as Kevin when it comes to Eagles games. We Eagles fans hate losing so we need to go undefeated. Is that asking too much?

    • TommyLawlor

      Jimmy is going where all sinners go…
      H
      E
      double hockey sticks.

      • theycallmerob

        Huh…didn’t realize they were hiring bloggers down there. Guess not everyone’s impressed with his MS Paint skills.

  • Cafone

    I also think I am becoming more rational as I age, which likewise manifests itself in a less emotional approach to sports. But it might also be the drop in testosterone.

    • TommyLawlor

      Hadn’t considered that angle.

  • SteveH

    My moods used to swing with the Eagles a lot more than they do now. Now I really only get depressed when they just look completely hopeless and inept. So basically almost all of last year.

    In the spirit of appreciating the game, I just re-watched this earlier today and I present to you a play that never gets old:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gC44nP7ClxM

    • TheRogerPodacter

      haha sounds familiar. i used to scream and curse at the tv any time some small thing happened. i like that the worst i feel about a loss is only the sadness when they play like crap.

  • Dominik

    “There will be times after a tough loss that he’ll stop taking
    questions in a PC and just say something like ”I hope you guys
    appreciate how good that pitcher was tonight. That was special. I don’t
    care who you wanted to win. That was great baseball.”

    Buck’s point isn’t to give the Orioles a free pass for losing. There
    are just some nights in professional sports when the opponent outplays
    you. Rather than pick apart your failure, sometimes you have to
    acknowledge the other guy.”

    Don’t agree with you there. Belichick (in “A Football Life”) said to his players (not at the PC) multiple times after they lost a game: “It’s not them. It’s us. We weren’t good enough.”

    And I like the attitude. That doesn’t mean that you (a) shouldn’t respect your opponent (BB did, and rightfully so) and (b) scream at your team for 3 hours, despite the fact that they lost a close game and played pretty well.

    But it means a special kind of mindset. When you lost a game, you didn’t play perfect. Strive for perfection, despite never fully reach it. Just like Plato’s goal never was to reach wisdom (you just couldn’t, in his world view), his goal was the pursuit of wisdom.

    In the NFL, you theoretically can win 16 games + 3 playoffs games and be the Superbowl champion. But you can’t realistically EXPECT that from your players. However, your mindset should be: it is our fault if we lose a game, because we didn’t reach perfection and perfection is our goal. Now we’ll work the whole week to reach perfection next sunday.

    • TommyLawlor

      You never accept losing. You always want to correct mistakes and try to identify areas where the team needed to play better.

      Think about the Eagles-Pats game of 2007. They were undefeated and playing great. We lost 31-28. We were missing Dawk and Donovan. A pair of Feeley INTs killed us. Overall, the team played very well.

      Andy Reid couldn’t be mad after that game. Feeley made the mistakes that really cost us. The overall team and coaching staff put their all into that game and gameplan.

      Reid didn’t kiss his team’s butt for almost winning. He addressed the issues, but you can bet there was more praise than criticism after that game.

      The flip side is that you can have ugly wins where you get down on the team for not playing well enough. This helps build the Pats type of mentality about playing football at a high level all the time. If you focus on how you do something rather than just the results, the results will generally be very good.

      • Dominik

        I’m fine with having an optimistic approach if the situation is appropriate.

        I don’t want the HC to find excuses because the opponent was good. Ignore the opponent, focus on yourself. If Andy told his players: “I liked this and this and this, but I didn’t like that and that. Overall, it was a solid game with a not-so-solid result, we need to eliminate our mistakes next week and we will win that game” that’s totally fine with me.

        I know it’s a phrase, but every opponent is just as good as you let them.

        I’m with you on the “how you do something” approach. A very good soccer coach in Germany always says: I don’t care about the result, I only care about the way we play. If we play good, normally we will win the game. If we play bad, normally we will lose the game.

        I’m very tolerant towards the approach a HC chooses. I just want it to be focused on his team, not about the opponent.

  • P_P_K

    For me, a big part of having fun as an Eagles fan is exaggerating some of the sub-plots, especially the ones with emotional overtones. For instance, hating the Cowboys and Giants is part of what defines my Eagles identity, and I enjoy the mock-grudges that I hold, like still being pissed that Reggie White left us for the Packers. Football is the ideal context to induldge some emotions that I would not want to express in my real life. It’s fun, it’s cathartic, and I doubt there’s any other fan base that really “gets it” like Eagles Nation.

  • Average__Joseph

    That was a very interesting article by Mark Bowden. It would have been great if there was a camera taping Reid and Bowden watching the game. I would love to see the NFL Network do a show with coaches breaking down old games like the Ice Bowl, Namath and Super Bowl 3, or even Super Bowl 4….Think of Belichick or Gruden breaking down coach’s tape of Super Bowl 3…it would be informative, interesting and very entertaining.

    • TommyLawlor

      Would love to have watched them watching the film.

  • Iskar36

    In some ways, I agree with you fully Tommy, but in others ways, I strongly disagree. There is no player in the NFL that I hate on a personal level. I don’t wish injury on any player, and I do think quality players on rival teams is what makes sports fantastic. Guys like RG3 or DeMarcus Ware or Eli Manning I have a ton of respect for and I do appreciate their talent. Still, when they play the Eagles, I hate the teams they represent and the fact that they are standing in our way to succeed.

    It’s one of the reasons that personally, I am not particularly a fan of fantasy sports. When I’m watching the Eagles and a friend of mine has a Cowboys player on his fantasy team, I can’t stand the comments you will regularly hear such as, “I want the Eagles to win, but I hope Dez Bryant gets a TD and some fantasy points.” No! For me, I am with Dominik on this one, I want the Eagles to absolutely demolish the other team. I don’t want the other team scoring a single point or even gaining a single yard. At the end of the game, if we have humiliated the other team into submission, as an Eagles fan, I am happy (think back to the 44-6 Dallas game that so many of us enjoyed).

    Obviously that isn’t realistic in any sustainable way (and in reality, sports would be boring if teams dominated that way every single game), but if a guy has a good game, especially in football where it is such a team-oriented sport, I can’t take the mindset of being wowed by the opponent. Instead, I look for the player(s)/coach(s) on our team that wasn’t capable of putting an end to that.

    So while I don’t have a hate for any one player, I hate seeing a rival succeed against the Eagles (or at the expense of the Eagles in cases where a rival teams win hurts the Eagles playoff opportunities). Great players are obviously what make the sport great, so I certainly wouldn’t want the rest of the NFC East to be completely lacking other quality players, but at the end of the day, I can’t sit back and simply appreciate what that player has done, especially if it costs the Eagles.

    • TommyLawlor

      I still hate our rivals. It just ends about 5 mins after the game is over. When I was younger, the hate never stopped.

  • Brian

    I’m also an O’s an Eagles fan, and it’s always been sort of an interesting contrast in suffering. What’s more painful, the constant hopeless losing of the 1998-2011 O’s, or the rip-your-heart-out near misses of Reid’s Eagles?

    With the Orioles, Buck always takes the long view, which you can do in baseball compared to the NFL in which every game is the equivalent of 10 baseball games. He always has faith in his guys, too. This season, I wonder if that might be a flaw. Sticking with the struggling Wieters at #6 all year and sticking with Johnson at closer, vs. closer-by-committee, after 7 blown saves (and several conversions where his stuff doesn’t seem to have his usual bite) that would be the difference between first place and their current position. (To Buck and JJ’s credit, JJ looked nasty in the 9th yesterday against the Yankees).

    I don’t mean to complain, mind you. Buck’s completely changed the culture of the team and seemed, especially last year, to get more than the sum of their parts out of the team.

    The Eagles don’t have that culture of losing, but hopefully Chip will bring a new, clear direction to the franchise.

    Sorry, I know that wasn’t your point about Showalter at all!

    • TommyLawlor

      Buck isn’t perfect, but I do trust him.

  • Always Hopeful

    Great reminder Tommy! My perspective has changed as I have gotten older. I teach my kids, root for your team with all you got, but also respect the GAME enough to know that you or your team will not always win. I judge my teams and my own effort by the following: did I/they seem prepared and did I/they “show up”. If you feel you or your team did that, be a good sport and give credit where credit is due. Great quote from Showalter. He gets it. There is an appreciation of these games played with excellence that crosses team allegiance. Thanks again Tommy.

    • Dominik

      Every coach and every player must respect the opponent, fans should respect the opponent. But respect doesn’t mean to not hate losing against a team or even hate to see that team win in general (there is basically no Giants game where I don’t root for the opponent, with the exception of division games, where I choose what win would hurt the Eagles more).

      I respect Eli Manning with the ball in his hands, 6 points down, 2 minutes to go in the game. I respect the hell out of that. I don’t wish Manning an injury, but I wish that he throws an interception and sucks. Then I can scream “Eliception!!” and the world is a good place. But like I said, it doesn’t mean I don’t respect the guy as a player. Absolutely not.

      From a coaches perspective: of course you must respect the opponent, but after the game: focus on your team. And if they don’t play well (not: if they don’t win) be hard on them. Don’t say: man, almost every team lost against them, they are really good. Ask yourself: why didn’t we play well against them?
      You don’t get better by accepting greatness from your opponent, you get better by striving for greatness yourself.

      • Always Hopeful

        I feel that. Sometimes their greatness is better than yours / ours no matter how much you prepare, show up or get better. We are all finite in our abilities and the athletic field sometimes is the clearest place to see that.

        Tommy mentioned how football is the greatest team sport and i agree. So many people have to work together to be successful. Very rewarding when we see the fruit of that team work (Ried’s early years) and very depressing when we don’t (Reid’s last year specifically).

        • Dominik

          “Sometimes their greatness is better than yours / ours no matter how much you prepare, show up or get better. We are all finite in our abilities and the athletic field sometimes is the clearest place to see that.”

          No doubt. And you need to respect great teams, that’s part of sports. But playing bad against a great team is never an excuse for playing bad, imho.

          That’s the thing for me – respect your opponent, but never make an excuse because your opponent is good. You can think to yourself: damn, they are tough to beat. But don’t talk like that to your team, if you’re the HC.

          Think about the Patriots in their first SB win under BB. They had to face the greatest show on turf. Warner, Faulk, Holt. With a first year starter at QB and no weapons on the offensive side. 16.5 point underdog in Vegas.

          If the mindset of the Patriots would have been: man, those Rams are a great football team – they would have never won that game. They thought: our opponent is a very good football team (obviously, if you’re in the SB), but we’re better, we’ll beat them.