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Lessons Learned At A Terrible Eagles Preseason Game

Dawand Jones #74 of the Cleveland Browns blocks Nolan Smith #3 of the Philadelphia Eagles in the first half of the preseason game at Lincoln Financial Field on August 17, 2023 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
Mitchell Leff/Getty Images

I have this friend. He’s from Ohio, so I’ll call him Buck. I’ve known him for a while, but we’ve definitely gotten closer the past few years. Buck is a great dude to go to a sporting event with, and that’s how we’ve bonded. I think the real turn for our friendship came when we attended the Sixers’ infamous collapse against the Hawks in 2021. We had to keep going to games until we saw something better. Or something worse! I’m open to seeing my local teams liver-punch me again. If I only I had taken Buck to the World Series game where the Phillies were no-hit! That would’ve been something. I guess it was fun to see it with my wife, too.

I am saying all these nice things about Buck because I am about to absolutely destroy him in this blog. Last night I went to the Eagles game with Buck and Rajiv. I’m using Rajiv’s real name because despite not being an NFL fan, he did not commit a faux pas du football américain last night. I need to protect Buck’s identity, because I care about him and he really fucked up.

Buck grew up in Parma. He’s a Cleveland sports fan. In college he took an 11-hour train trip to see the Browns’ first playoff game since returning to the NFL. Buck is still a Cleveland fan, so I bet he still hates Tommy Maddox for leading that Steelers comeback. Since he’s probably reading this: Tommy Maddox, Tommy Maddox, Tommy Maddox! He deserves it; you’ll learn why.

But Buck has lived in Philadelphia almost half his life. He is a Philly sports fan now, too. Oh, come on. Don’t give me that shit. One, this isn’t a blog about whether Mitchell can root for both Philly and Cleveland teams. Two, it is absolutely fine to be a fan of two or more teams. It’s fun. Who cares. Three, yeah, I know I wrote “Mitchell” above. I didn’t slip up and use his real name. I’m just keeping you on your toes.

So of course Buck wanted to go to Thursday night's preseason game between the Browns and Eagles. A group of us texted about the game a few times during the week. Buck asked the group if he should wear Browns gear to the game. I do think this was the right choice. You can be fans of multiple teams, but you should have a pecking order. I told him Browns, definitely.

You don’t have to wear gear to an opposing team’s stadium. Fans can be awful to people wearing the same colors, let alone different ones. But I have been at the poker table with Buck many times. He is not a man who is afraid of being heckled. I have also seen him give it right back; he’s very smart. He usually wins those hazy battles of casino wit.

Also, this was a preseason game. Nobody plays in those anymore. The crowd would be sparse—a game attended mostly by children and their parents wooed by cheaper tickets. Buck was in no danger even if he were dressed like The Bone Lady or that weird elf with bad ball security. I thought we had agreed on this. I was kind of surprised he even asked.

I was tying my shoe when Buck walked up to meet us last night. I looked up. He had an Eagles hat on. I was furious. I told him he was now guaranteed to be heckled throughout the game—by me. If he had switched fully to the Eagles, fine. But he hasn’t! Two years ago, the Browns had the ball in the fourth quarter with a chance to beat Kansas City and advance to the AFC title game. When they had that chance, my man could not have been more into it. He’s a Browns fan. I truly believe it.

Buck and Rajiv (he is also wonderful) had a great time, I think. I did, too. That was despite the game, which was awful. I expected bad, but sometimes backups playing against each other can produce some fun plays. Not last night. My mind may have wandered, but I think each team had just one (1) exciting play all night, and the Browns one was a Kellen Mond run where he avoided a safety and ran for a first down. Meanwhile, Eagles QB Marcus Mariota played so poorly I should give him a fake name. WrestleMania is in Philly next year, and so WWE intercontinental champion Gunther was there. He did a little skit with Swoop, the Eagles mascot, and it was awful. How do you screw that up? All you gotta do is have Gunther bodyslam Swoop and people will go wild! I once saw Headbanger Mosh, or possibly Headbanger Thrasher, slam the Phillie Phanatic. Gunther is bigger than either Headbanger; the Phanatic is bigger than Swoop. It ruled. Surely, this was possible to replicate last night. It’d be easy! First-and-goal at the one, and the Eagles couldn’t pound it in. Then again, neither could the Browns. On their first drive, John Kelly fumbled untouched as he was about to go in for a one-yard touchdown. It was fitting the game ended in an 18-all tie. At least there isn’t preseason overtime anymore.

There were a handful of Browns fans there. I cannot be everywhere in a stadium, but I did not see any heckling. People there did not pay any attention; fans did the wave while Tyrie Cleveland was being carted off with a neck injury. It actually made me begin to think I had it all wrong. Maybe I should’ve encouraged Buck instead. If he’s going to pretend he has fully ditched the Browns for the Eagles, why shouldn’t I be happy for him? A wonderful friend has made Philadelphia his home—and now he is truly one of us, complaining when the Eagles receivers dropped another pass. (The ball kept hitting them in the worst place—the hands.)

I kept thinking about it, and … by the end of the game, I felt pretty stupid. Buck knew what he was doing. He got to cosplay as an Eagles fan while also getting to cheer on his childhood favorites. It helped that it was preseason, but he really did get to have it both ways. I realized this was all on me. I was the one hiding my true feelings here; in reality I was simply jealous of his ability to do this.

I think I can work it all out for myself, too, though. Buck has a Ph.D. in philosophy, and when I got home I realized he knows more than I do. I was the one succumbing to the NFL state’s disciplinary power over fandom. Perhaps Buck figured it all out through his studies, and maybe I can, too. I shall return to this conversation after I read up on Foucault—Edmonton Elks offensive lineman David Foucault.

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