My Newborn Son Is Already Getting The Eagles Fan Experience
10:54 AM EST on December 11, 2023
I was born a few days before the Super Bowl. It was not one of the classics. Washington’s winning strategy was simple: They handed the ball off 52 times, mostly to John Riggins; his 38 carries went for 166 yards. Miami completed just four passes all game. No wonder I became a big football fan when the first game of my life was Super Bowl 17.
The Eagles went just 3-6 in the strike-shortened 1982 NFL season, so the first Eagles game of my life was not until the following September. I do not remember that one, either. This was an odd one. The Eagles and 49ers played on Saturday, a day before any other team played that season. It was like the modern-day Thursday kickoff game, only instead of matching the reigning Super Bowl champion with another top team, it was two teams that went 3-6 the year before played instead. Of course the 49ers did have a star on the team. "His name is Joe Montana," Jere Longman wrote in the Philadelphia Inquirer. "And he throws on the run better than any quarterback in the NFL.”
The Eagles were just 3.5-point underdogs at kickoff, but they didn’t come into the game looking like they’d be any good. One way to guess this was that the team basically said so. Quarterback Ron Jaworski said the week leading up to the season opener that the Eagles offense would not be doing much. “With the kind of team we have here, with a lot of young guys in there… we’re not going to try to do a lot of crazy things with the football,” he said. “We'll kind of guard it out until we get some people in the ballgame, and then maybe we'll open things up a little.” New head coach Marion Campbell was known as a defensive whiz, and new offensive coordinator Dick Wood planned to be conservative as well. So the first Eagles game of my life was a team that would maybe open things up, eventually, against Joe Freakin’ Montana.
Jaws was pretty on the money about the game plan in this one. They threw just 19 times, though their 156 yards passing delivered far more offense than their 40 rushing attempts; those gained 120 yards, an even 3 yards per carry. But, man. They won! They beat Joe Montana and the 49ers 22-17!
Maybe Dick Wood was onto something with that offense of his. In the second quarter Jaworski was “knocked senseless”—Longman’s words—but backup Joe Pisarcik came in and went 8-for-10 for 101 yards. Yes, the Giants’ quarterback for the 1978 Miracle at the Meadowlands, the guy who fumbled the ball while running out the clock, the guy who’d only be known by younger fans, if at all, for that very play… won the game for the Eagles. I guess I could say “again” here if you wanted to be rude.
San Francisco seemed to unravel a bit after the loss, too. Art Spander, in the San Francisco Chronicle, was aghast that 49ers fans were acting like Philly fans and booing. The Niners looked like they’d won the game on a touchdown pass by backup QB Guy Benjamin with 16 seconds left, only to see it called back for a holding flag on Randy Cross. “That’s been the story of my life,” Benjamin said. “I’ve not been blessed with a lot of breaks.” The thing to remember about this guy is that he played for Walsh at Stanford, won a Super Bowl backing up Joe Montana, and now lives in Hawaii. This seems like catching at least a few breaks to me, but then again he also lost his Super Bowl ring.
(At the time, Defector comrade Ray Ratto was a columnist for the Peninsula Times Tribune, a long-defunct newspaper based in Palo Alto. The archive is missing 1983, so I can’t find his story. I did find a Chronicle story a few months earlier that quoted him making fun of the NASL team then known as the Golden Bay Earthquakes.)
Jaworski could’ve returned, Campbell said postgame, but Pisarcik’s 10 passing attempts were just that good I guess. “Joe Pisarcik is the most effective unknown backup quarterback in the league,” Bill Lyon wrote in the Inquirer. “Marion Campbell may have a quarterback controversy brewing,” Mark Soltau wrote in the Chronicle. No wonder I became an Eagles fan, with a start like this. A quarterback completed 8 of 10 passes! Why wasn’t there a parade? A guy in the Super Bowl the previous year had completed just four!
I did not write my Eagles bit last week, and not because they got shellacked by the 49ers. I did not write my Eagles bit because my wife was in labor. “DO NOT WRITE ABOUT ANYTHING OTHER THAN THE NEW THING!” Ratto messaged me. “BIG DOM CAN WAIT!” The next day she gave birth to our son, Simon. (“Big Dom” was not considered as a name, but now it feels like a missed opportunity.) Sunday night’s game against the Cowboys would be the first chance he’d get to see the Eagles in action, and by “see the Eagles in action” I mean “lay in a bassinet that’s not really within range of the television.” It would’ve all been a wash of colors and noise to him, anyway.
The Eagles were 3.5-point underdogs for Simon’s first Eagles game, too. They responded to that slight by putting on a pure masterclass of a performance: They fumbled the ball three times, which made me wary of holding my son like a football. They dropped some sure touchdown passes, too, which made me wary of throwing my son like a football. They ran for 101 yards, or 19 fewer than the Eagles had in that 1983 opener. Pisarcik’s QB rating my first game was 142.1. Jalen Hurts’s rating in Simon’s first game was 88.0. The Cowboys beat the Eagles 33-13.
It sucked. But also, it was great! “This is going to be a fake punt,” I said, before the Eagles successfully converted a fake punt. Since I gave Simon the heads up, that meant everyone watching the game besides Cowboys coach Mike McCarthy saw that fake punt coming. Simon also learned that the referees are always biased in favor of the Cowboys. He may also have learned some bad words, but he might also have been thinking about something else. “The Eagles should try dropping more sure touchdowns tonight,” I said to him at one point. “It’s been working.”
I don’t necessarily want Simon to become an Eagles fan, I should add. Football is a gross sport that’s using up the world’s supply of ketorolac tromethamine. But I do think some great communities have been created in Philadelphia based around gathering on Sundays to watch this shitty team piss everyone off. I’m happy Simon got to dive right into it for his first Eagles game.