Sports make you do stupid things, if you love them enough. Scratch that—sports teams make you do stupid things. On Sunday I am going to drive from Rochester to Philadelphia to watch on TV as the Eagles play in the Super Bowl in Minneapolis. This is, objectively, stupid.
Maybe stupid isn’t the word. It certainly defies any common sense, to continue to put my emotional neck out for something that will, invariably, make me want to tear my hair out, to spend countless Sunday hours watching grown men try to move a prolate spheroid past a certain line in the hopes that it will give me…something. The team is a “them,” and yet there’s the perpetual “us” that slips into a conversation about prospects. This yearly ritual, this maddening cycle: Why do we do it?
To say that love for a sports team is akin to religious fervor is hardly an original thought, but for me, the relationship with Philadelphia Eagles is not unlike being in our weird, old religion.
What is the history of the Jews but a litany of failures and devastating almosts? Others have suffered (Mormons=Detroit Lions?), but has anyone suffered with the same drama? Feckless leaders take their flocks astray; Rich Kotite is Zedekiah is Marion Campbell. Favorite sons with bright futures bite the hand that feeds; I feel very strongly that Terrell Owens would have joined Dathan and Abiram.
The true connector is the self-deprecation. People love the Eagles, and yet, as any Eagles fan could tell you, no one hates the team more than us. And who makes better jokes about Jews than, well, other Jews? We hem, we haw, and we set expectations as low as possible, so that when the failure comes, we can say we saw it coming.
The ritual I learned from a young age now seems self-explanatory: We hate this thing that we love because it demands so much of us. Sunday, the Eagles try once again to pick up that elusive Lombardi Trophy, running into none other than a descendant of Amalek himself, Tom Brady. Whether they enter the Promised Land or not, I’m not sure how much will actually change—as we know all too well, that’s just the beginning.
In advance, I’m dedicating the outcome of this game to the minor prophets of the Eagles teams I’ve watched: Hank Baskett, Broderick Bunkley, and L.J. Smith, this one, win or lose, is for you.