Eagle fans finally have a reason to celebrate

Santo Caruso

It is cold.

It is very cold

Not like “Gee, I think I’ll put on a sweater and get a hot cup of cocoa” cold, but more like “I wonder what I will look like when the tip of my nose freezes off.” But that is okay. Because I am where I need to be, I am where I belong: South Philadelphia, Gameday.

I have gone to the last two NFC Championship losses, each tragic in its own way. I remember Donovan throwing the interception to end the game against the Bucs. It was like being shot in the stomach.

Against the Panthers last year, it was different. It was a slow agonizing defeat. I was unsure, and as the game unwound, no particular play struck me as painful, rather it was like having a tooth pulled, except the dentist keeps pulling the wrong one. And he is performing sans anesthesia, and compassion.

Yet, I return to my seat in the stadium again for the fourth time this season. I was still juiced from the Vikings win, but I knew this was the only game that really mattered. I could feel the difference, and not just from the three actionpacked regular season matches I saw (Monday Night against the Vikes, Halloween against the Ravens, and the infamous Dallas late season heartbreaking win).

There was a palpable feeling permeating the fans. We dripped with it. We breathed it in and used it as fuel in weather cold enough to kill an Eskimo.

It was a celebration. We knew as soon as we saw the Falcons, as soon as we scanned our tickets and stepped into the Linc: This game is over. We are going to the Super Bowl.

It wasn’t over confidence or arrogance. We had learned our lesson about taking anything for granted, but we knew that 70,053 (70,000 fans, 53 players) people in this stadium dressed in green and silver would not allow a fourth loss. So leather-lunged and pointed-tongued, we set forth to deny Atlanta from taking away what is rightfully ours.

Two plays in, as Michael Vick walked to the sideline having burned a time out on third and seven, it was over.

I’m sure better days will come for the gifted Vick, but Sunday he might as well have been calling plays next to a jet engine. The fans roared like thunder at the only player they considered worthy of their indigestion from the last week. The players struck like lighting, taking every chance to nail any Falcon who dared fight back. Hollis Thomas crushed Vick on the three to stall a drive. Tra Thomas leveled a blitzing corner, Dawkins, Weapon X himself, rearranging Alge Crumpler’s organs on a crossing pattern. You’ll never hear such cheers on a play that gained 30 yards for the opposition.

I can’t think of any real way to describe the feeling of euphoria engulfing the crowd. For me there is only relief, like a knot untying in my stomach, for once. As Chad Lewis catches the clinching, and foot breaking, touchdown, I just look down and shake my head as my section erupts around me. It’s surreal. I never imagined victory would be this sweet.

I wonder if I will wake up. It will be before kickoff. I’ll still be struggling with my beer, which freezes every time I place it in the cupholder. Jimmy Kelly is being helped up the microphone. He can’t see the fans. His dark glasses hide the unreceptive eyes, but we see the small figure at the fifty yard line. As he struggles through the “National Anthem,” collapsing into his father’s arms several times, audiences across the nation grimace at the thought of what the Philly Phaithful would do.

As the end of the lyric approaches and all witnesses fear the worst, the monotone groan swelling from the upper level and making its way down to the grass. The boos never come, though; rather we join in. We help Jimmy, picking up when he wavers, singing softly so as to not steal his moment.

The game would follow suit. When the team needed us, we picked them up. Runyan flapped his arms, encouraging the obnoxiousness Coach Reid would thank us for afterwards. When it was their time, with confetti raining from the sky lit by fireworks for the first time after a Championship, we gave them their moment.