Keeping perspective

By on February 14, 2018

With age comes wisdom, right?

And perspective.

As a kid, I didn’t give as much credit to my teams’ opponents as I should have.

I can still remember watching the Phillies in the mid-70s. One of their biggest rivals at the time was the Cincinnati Reds, a.k.a. the Big Red Machine.

In fact, my very first ball game was in 1974 when Steve Carlton pitched against Don Gullett, and Cincinnati ended up winning 4-3, as Pete Rose and George Foster each banged out two hits.

I hated those Reds teams. More times than not, they got the upper hand against the Phillies and I couldn’t stand Rose, Joe Morgan, Johnny Bench and the rest of those guys.

Now looking back 40 years, I realize the Big Red Machine was one of the best teams of all time. But instead of appreciating their greatness and sitting back to enjoy a bunch of Hall of Famers in their heyday, even as they were beating up on my favorite team, I was too busy being upset.

I’ve tried to remind myself of that during this era in which we currently find ourselves as Patriots’ QB Tom Brady cements his legacy as the best of all time. I used to think that someone like Joe Montana or Dan Marino would have that title, but in my book, it’s Brady. I think last year’s Super Bowl against the Falcons was the perfect evidence, when New England rallied from a 28-3 deficit.

No lead is ever safe playing against that guy.

So when the Eagles got to Super Bowl LII, I was glad it was against Brady and the Patriots. If they could somehow find a way to win, it would come against the kings of the mountain. It would be a lot more satisfying than playing Jacksonville.

But I was in no position to complain. I just wanted to see one Eagles’ Super Bowl victory, no matter who they were playing.

More importantly, this was a chance to share special moments with the people closest to you. I knew my kids, Brooks and Kendall, had plans to go to friends’ houses to watch the Super Bowl, but beforehand, I was able to get my wife, Leslie, and the two of them together for a family photo, all of us decked out in Eagles’ gear — LeSean McCoy and old-school Randall Cunningham jerseys proudly displayed. I caught up with friends during the week and reflected about past games, in addition to speculating about possible game scenarios.

My first passionate memory of the Eagles was in the 1980 NFC Championship Game against the Cowboys. I was driving home in the car with my parents from playing in a youth ice hockey game listening on the radio as Eagles’ legendary announcer Merrill Reese painted the picture of Wilbert Montgomery rushing for 42-yard first-quarter touchdown run.

Jaws and Philadelphia went on to beat Dallas 20-7, but then lost 27-10 in Super Bowl XV to the Jim Plunkett and the Raiders. Really? Jim Plunkett? And how did Rod Martin grab three interceptions?

I later got my hopes up again after going with friend Mark Dissinger to old Vet Stadium in 1995 and watching Rodney Peete throw for 270 yards and three TDs in a 58-37 NFC wild card win over Barry Sanders and the Lions. Lo and behold, the Eagles got hammered by Dallas the next week.

Through the Fog Bowl in Chicago, the Buddy Ryan, Randall Cunningham, and Reggie White era, and the Andy Reid and Donovan McNabb days, they always came up just a little bit short.

So would it happen again?

Boy, it sure seemed like it when Brady got the ball back with barely over two minutes left and the Patriots trailing by just five, 38-33. But then Brandon Graham etched his name in Eagles’ lore with the strip sack and the rest is history.

A lot of stories have been told in the days since about fans sharing the long-awaited Super Bowl win with their fathers and with generations of family who agonized together over the near-misses.

My dad wasn’t a big sports fan. He was born and raised near Dallas, Texas, so if anything, he would have been a Cowboys fan. I remember him talking once or twice about Tom Landry, but I could probably count on one hand the number of times that I heard him talk about them.

He passed away a little more than a year ago, but still, I’m sure he would have been happy for all Eagles fans. And I’ll bet that we’d have teased each other a little bit about the Eagles-Cowboys rivalry.

I’m thinking that maybe I would have gloated some about the Philly Special, a play that will go down as the best in Philadelphia sports history.

I know my mom doesn’t have a strong rooting interest in sports — unless you’re talking about Bobby Orr and the 1970’s Boston Bruins or any of Brooks’ or Kendall’s teams — but she will watch on TV periodically if she’s channel-surfing. We had fun talking about the game a day or two later.

As Brady’s last-second Hail Mary fell incomplete, I was glad that I could share it with Leslie and Kendall, who had returned home during the second half. Then when Brooks got home from his party, we hugged and gave each other a big high-five.

Along with every other Philadelphia fan, I’ll always remember that night, not only for the big win over Brady and the Patriots, but also for the special moments with family and friends.

Congrats to Eagles fans everywhere.

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