With the Eagles up 33-7 yesterday, a guy in my fantasy football league sent an email to our chain. (Yeah, we’re so old we use email. Shut up.) “After today, the Eagles will have one fewer win than the Bills,” he wrote. Literally a half hour later, he’d changed his mind: “I’m officially nervous now. They’re blowing it.” I was already there. I’d sent two emails before him to the chain. The first one read: “Eagles gonna choke here?” Just two minutes later, for some reason, I added, “Wow, they might.”
Of course the Eagles were in very little danger of losing yesterday. They beat the Saints, 40-29, their first win at home in five tries this season. Even when the Saints got within 33-19, ESPN’s win probability chart still never got closer than an 88.4 percent win probability for the Eagles. When I mentioned the Eagles were looking chokeish in the chat yesterday, my editor David Roth replied, “Dan, they are up two scores on Trevor Siemian. I think you’ll be okay.”
But it was not just me. My Twitter timeline was full of Eagles fans worried about the team committing an epic collapse against the Saints. My parents and I were texting about how they were maybe going to lose. I know this is silly, but you could just kind of feel it. The Eagles hadn’t scored an offensive touchdown since the first quarter, and were settling for field goals even after putting together some impressive drives. The Eagles went up 33-7, then gave up a 75-yard touchdown drive. They went three-and-out, and the Saints went 39 yards in three plays for another score. The Eagles went for negative-3 yards on in a three-and-out, and the Saints got the ball back in Eagles territory again. There were still 11 minutes left. And then there was a bullshit roughing the passer penalty, which led to a fan yelling “That’s fucking bullshit!” on camera.
There’s a lot to like in this clip. There’s the dude in the retro Eagles jacket giving the refs the finger. I’m always confused at this—they might hear you yell, but they’re definitely not going to see you flipping them the bird. Then there’s the dude in facepaint and what appears to be a full football uniform screaming. (That’s not “Shoulderpads” Shaun Young; he “retired” from being a superfan earlier this year. Sure, sure.) But the woman in the middle is the key here, obviously: First she looks behind her, surely to check the video board to see if it was, indeed, a bullshit roughing the passer call. It was, so she turns around and informs the refs that it was fucking bullshit. You will not be surprised to learn that the local press has already run this into the ground. But no matter. I particularly liked this report from Rob Tornoe in the Inquirer, where I learned that this fan’s name is Mary Kate Mink and that she immediately got a text from her mom that said “I’m mad at you because you cursed.” She went to high school at Prendie, for those of you keeping track. “I was just saying it was a bad call,” she told Tornoe. “And it was a bad call.”
In that moment, in my way, I was like Mary Kate Mink—so angry, because I was so convinced the Eagles were going to lose. This is a fun (“fun”) thing about football. During so many games, even when my team is ahead, I am constantly on the verge and worrying about a collapse. I remember going to Los Angeles to see the defending Super Bowl champion Philadelphia Eagles, the Coliseum full of Eagles fans, the team up 30-13 and I was positive the Eagles were going to lose.
The Eagles ended up winning that game, 30-23, but the Rams had a shot! Jared Goff drove them down to the Eagles’ 18-yard line before time ran out. It was pretty great, honestly. That feeling, uneasy as it is, is why football is great; it goes the other way too. There was no point in the Eagles epic “Miracle at the New Meadowlands” comeback that I was not positive the Eagles were completing a comeback for the ages. (As soon as Brent Celek had that touchdown catch where he zigzagged up and down the field like he was a receiver in Tecmo Super Bowl, I knew it was a Birds win.)
It does not matter that plenty of times I have thought this, and my team has either continued to get slaughtered, or continued to run away with the game. It’s the feeling of this that’s fun. My brain can trick me into making a football game that is actually over feel like a close one.
And now I can spend the rest of my week like any normal Eagles fan: plotting out a way the Eagles run the table and make a surprise push into the playoffs. It’s only during games where I’m fatalistic. During the week it’s all sunshine.