Written as I listen to Motown Philly by Boyz II Men. My “Philly Philly” Playlist will be on repeat throughout the next two weeks.
Underdogs. n. a competitor thought to have little to no chance of winning a fight or contest. NO CHANCE!!! Did you hear that Philadelphia?!
We. Are. Underdogs.
This is not the first time Philadelphia have been underdogs on their own turf. In fact, Philadelphia was at the center when this underdog of a nation came to realize its rights for independence over 240 years ago. Sandwiched between New York City and Washington DC, Philadelphia has long been seen as the red-headed step child of sorts, never really getting its just due. This city has remained true to the underdog identity. In fact, we have embraced it.
Hate it or love it, though…. The underdog’s on top.
Once again, we have reached the Promised Land. The land that had been reached and conquered by our rivals time and again. We’ve seen other franchises hoist that coveted Lombardi trophy… turn their main streets into parade central and their streets to their celebrated colors. And we have been hungry for years to do the same. Broad Street has been aching, hasn’t it? And we’ve been so close so many times, haven’t we? For years, we have heard it. Heard about how the Birds wouldn’t do anything. How we always seem to choke when getting so close. How we cannot remain consistent for anything. We brought in change after change. Traded and made adjustments. And for years, it was the same, no matter what. It might as well have been that Philly was just cursed, just as Boston had believed for years. No matter what we did, it just seemed that we just weren’t destined for a championship.
And so we have been hungry. We’ve been led to the Table two times prior, both times to just get there and find no food left. And we walked away emptied handed, and broken hearted.
Then the 2017 season started. And boy what a season it was! Going 13-3, with a 9-game winning streak smack dab in the middle. We almost swept our division and were 7 and 1 at home. However, this season was also unfotunately plagued with injuries. And those injuries started early. We lost Hicks, Sproles, Peters, and perhaps most devastating Wentz, among others who sustained minor injuries throughout the season. It was when Wentz went down that most of us got an awful knot in our stomachs albeit too familiar. Although most of us believed that all would be well and we would adjust as we had before (Next Man Up!), some of us just felt defeated. That this just was not destined for our city; that our city would never be good enough in the eyes of the football gods.
Suddenly overnight, we went from super stars and Super Bowl favorites to potentially one and done in the playoffs as we had already clinched a spot. No one believed Foles could possibly step up to the challenge and if he did, he’d find some way to fail us as we have been used to being failed before. And those games following Wentz’s injury proved to the naysayers that they might’ve been right. Our offense struggled. Our defense struggled. Who was this team? Surely, our entire identity could not have rested upon the shoulders of a 25 year old red head from North Dakota. And I’m pretty sure that as those games were too close for comfort for many of us, there was a collective “here we go again” echoed throughout Eagles Nation.
But even we know not the will of our mighty God. He works in mysterious ways, don’t you know! Our team… our city… found a way to overcome these odds. Just like underdogs, we were written off, given NO CHANCE at any success in the playoffs. Once again, we were destined to just get to mediocre… to suffer another familiar feeling, heartbreak. And after such an incredible season! If fans were subjected to it from all the sports news programs on television and radio, you know that the players, coaches, and staff were hearing the same thing. But all that the negativity… the “can’ts” and “won’ts” and “no chances” fell on deaf ears.
Atlanta. Such an impressive squad with an exploding offense and a steady quarterback. They convincingly handled the Rams the week prior and regardless of them being a dome team and coming to an outdoor stadium to face the number 1 seed, we were the underdogs.
Minnesota. This team had such an amazing team with the number 1 ranked defense in the league. We persevered and pulverized those invaders that dared put purple and gold on our Rocky. They came to conquer like their namesake. We sent them packing with their tails between their legs. We made it through, and now we are back at the Promised Land.
And surprise surprise, look who our formidable opponent is: The Empire aka the NE Patriots. These guys have quite the resume, regardless of how many asterisks should be tagged onto the backs of those titles (ahmm Deflategate, anyone?). Long have they reigned supreme, superior over everyone else and dominating the NFL with an unparalleled system that seeks and expects perfection. A well-oiled machine that one can never count out until that clock reaches 0.00 and the other team has more points on the board. And as such, we can’t be surprised that once again, we, the mighty Eagles of Philadelphia have been again counted out as underdogs.
But you know who else were underdogs against this Army? Our detested rivals known as the Giants of New York. In the 2008 Super Bowl, the Giants were underdogs to a New England team who were seeking the perfect season with a Super Bowl Win. No one gave the Giants a chance as a 10-6 team. And then we all watched as Eli had an impeccable game leading his team to shock the world while simultaneously crushing the nearly perfect opponent with a narrow victory 17-14. This is still considered one of the greatest upsets in sports history. In that moment, all who opposed New England, which seemed to be the world (thanks to Spy gate) were Giants fans. I took out my blue as well and was so excited to see that a Titan of an organization could be taken down by the underdog.
They did it again in 2011… 21-17. By the way, the Giants had only won 9 games that season. Marinade on that!
Now I’m not a Giants fan by any means, but I admired how they emerged from underdogs to world champions against the Empire not once by twice in 3 years! And Philadelphia… if they can do it, then our Eagles… our Birds… our Dogs can bring one home to Broad Street!
David. Joan of Arc. Jesse Owens. Jackie Robinson. Seabiscuit. Rudy. Hamilton. Oprah. Katherine G. Johnson. Rocky. 1776 America. 1980 US Hockey Team. The Rebel Alliance. The list goes on and on. Hell, even the Pats were an underdog during the 2001 Super Bowl and look what happened to them.
So Philadelphia, let’s continue to embrace being the underdog. There is absolutely no shame in it and hell, you could say that we are in pretty good company! Let them say we have no chance… that the Patriots are just too good. That we can’t possibly outsmart those guys. That we can’t perform on the big stage. That St. Nick can’t duplicate what he did against Minnesota… citing that we should expect lightning to strike twice. Let them say it all. I want to hear it all.
Because I’m also a theater nerd in addition to an Eagles fanatic, I’m going to paraphrase Hamilton here: We are young. We are scrappy. And we are hungry. Know that this is not a moment, but a MOVEMENT. Foes may oppose us, but we have something to prove! And we shall roll like Moses to claim our Promised Land… that title that we have every right to call our own! (Miranda, 2015, track 3). It’s our time now! This is our year! We all we got, we all we need!
So, keep it coming America… just know you should never EVER count out an underdog. And trust that this dog’s bite is just a lethal as its bark!