I was given this assignment over the weekend and I’ve spent a few days trying to figure out how to go about writing it. I’ve been swamped with NCAA tournament coverage along with taking part in the community mock draft. So, yeah, I’m still not entirely sure how to attack this.
I write about the Eagles because I’ve grown up as an Eagles fan, I love the team, I live and die with them each Sunday with the rest of you. But normally when I write, I try to write while shedding the Eagles fan in me. I like to be as objective as possible so I can provide just honest opinion along with fact.
With that being said, it is clear that I am a fan of the Eagles and I’ve lived with this team since the mid-80s. In just my lifetime Eagles fans have done plenty of things to make a name for themselves as a notorious bunch. However, it all started way back in 1968.
Anyone reading this should know the incident in question. A certain Christmas icon was booed and pelted with snowballs at halftime of the game that sent the Eagles to a wretched 2-12 season.
Yes, Santa Claus was booed that day. Yes, Santa Claus was hit with snowballs as well. But it was 1968! Get over it! Every single time anyone in the national media brings up Philadelphia fans, it always comes back to that. I was still more than a decade away from birth!
Now that isn’t to say Eagles fans haven’t earned it with other incidents since. There have been plenty.
Start with the 1987 NFL work-stoppage. More than any other fan base, Eagles fans despised the replacement players. For the team’s home game against the replacement Bears, the announced attendance was 4,074. Four thousand and seventy-four!
Eagles game have been sold out for years. Even the two home preseason games drew an average of 48,239 fans. Not only did fans stay away in droves, they actually stood on the picket line with their beloved Eagles players.
Two years later, instigated by future Mayor of Philadelphia and Governor of Pennsylvania Ed Rendell, Eagles fans blasted Dallas Cowboys coach Jimmy Johnson with snowballs. Yes, Philadelphiansenjoy a good snowball.
Another eight years went by before the next travesty at Veterans Stadium. In another terrible season in 1997, the team was wrongfully showcased against the San Francisco 49ers on Monday Night Football. It was a game the team lost 24-12 and the “future,” Bobby Hoying saw his first action. But what will always be remembered is that a maniacal fan shot off a flare gun in the stands.
That set forth what may officially make Eagles fans notorious. In 1998 the team installed a court and jail under the stadium, run by Judge Seamus McCaffery. The fans had been so unruly that the team decided to arrest, imprison and try their fans under the stadium.
Extending the three-year run of dominance on the notorious fan charts, the Eagles had two incidents in 1999. They started with what is probably the second-most beloved story for Philadelphia haters. The booing of Donovan McNabb at the NFL draft. In fairness, the fans wanted college football great Ricky Williams. They were going to boo no matter who was picked. They ended up being wrong, but it wasn’t personal against Donovan.
Then, eight months later, on that atrocious Veterans Stadium turf, Michael Irvin suffered the neck injury that ultimately ended his career. His face mask was removed from his helmet, his neck was immobilized and he was carted off the field.
In the midst off all this, Eagles fans incessantly booed. They booed for what seemed like minutes. Only it wasn’t minutes. And they weren’t booing Irvin. They were booing Deion Sanders who was doing a ridiculous and disrespectful dance over Irvin’s prone body.
As far as national-level incidents, that’s it. It seems like a lot, but honestly, stuff like this happens everywhere. Eagles fans are not the most notorious in the league just for these events that have been etched in the NFL’s collective memory. They are the most notorious because they love their team. They love their team like a family member.
Loving a team like a family member will often lead to a lot of anger. The type of anger you can only feel toward a loved one who has let you down or disappointed you. What most people outside of Philadelphia don’t realize is, the Eagles have let down their fans more than most.
Eagles fans feel tortured. First by an organization that was a laughingstock in the second half of the 1960s through the 70s. Then through the Buddy Ryan era which yielded zero playoff wins. Then the Rich Kotite era which was an embarrassment and also coincided with the owner letting players like Reggie White, Seth Joyner and Eric Allen just walk away.
Now is the Jeffrey Lurie regime with Andy Reid, Joe Banner and Howie Roseman at the helm. This particular version of the Eagles organization has tested the fan base like no other. They have teased and taunted with a run of great success in the first part of the last decade only to see it wane and waver over the last seven years.
They treat the fans as if they are customers and nothing more. That makes this group resentful, because Philadelphians actually are more prone to love than to hate. Philadelphians wear their hearts on their sleeves and they hate to have them broken.
Many people think Philadelphia is a city full of belligerent thugs, but in truth it is filled with people who are emotional and love to love. They love their Eagles and they will go down with the ship. Lurie and Reid and Banner will all be gone someday, but Philadelphians will be there forever.
To some they may be known as the most notorious fans in football. To some they may be known as lame brains. To some they may be nothing but a bunch of disgusting pigs. But to me they are simply the best fans in all of sports. We love our Eagles and we just want our Eagles to love us back.