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Philly fans stay loyal no matter what

The Tuning Fork

The life of the Philadelphia sports fan is riddled with hardships, pains, embarrassments, shame, joy, love and mostly frustration. Each one has stories to tell and an unshakable sense of belonging to a nation of sorts with a collective identity, language and social norms that sometimes clash with modern society. Their devotion to the city draws attention and criticism far and wide — particularly their dogged, relentless hatred of rival players and teams, with a no-holds-barred attitude toward public disapproval of said rivals. Without a doubt, Philadelphia fans are a spectacle to behold in their natural habitat, a land where national history meets “Joe Blow,” where cheese steaks are a source of geographic pride and all inhabitants maintain that Philadelphia is the best city in the United States, despite any evidence to the contrary. Although detached from Philadelphia in my South Jersey home and without ample sports coverage in this area for constant upkeep, I remain part of this entity. Upon returning to Philadelphia this weekend to witness the debacle of a football game, I was reluctantly reintroduced to the overbearing, nagging spouse of Philadelphia sports — disappointment. And as in so many awful British sitcoms, disappointment showed up with a frying pan in hand.

I still remember the moment this summer when the Philadelphia Eagles signed top free agent Nnamdi Asomugha, along with Vince Young, Jason Babin, Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and Ronnie Brown. Upon the signing of these players, as well as former New York Giant Steve Smith, I shouted in ecstasy. My roommate from the summer felt the same way, and frankly, so did the Philadelphia community. The lockout may have prevented organized team activities, practices and general bonding among the team. But with the addition of these great players, what could go wrong?

Well, just about everything did. Michael Vick will be out again with broken ribs, DeSean Jackson missed the game entirely for oversleeping a team meeting, defensive coordinator Juan Castillo continually underutilized Asomugha and Samuel, and Andy Reid must have somehow had an unnoticed stroke between the third and fourth quarters. The season has done them little better. Inexperienced linemen and linebackers, weak safeties and poor offensive line support for Vick have killed our production. Reid’s pass-first offense has kept us from using LeSean McCoy, who has grown into a top-10 running back. The Eagles put up a paltry three offensive points while letting up two touchdowns in the fourth quarter, each time when someone who was not Asomugha covered Larry Fitzgerald, the best receiver in the NFL. It is worth noting that there is an unwritten rule that states, “Asomugha must cover the best receiver on the other team.”

It’s not something Philly fans aren’t used to. Natives of the city of brotherly love have seen Game 6 of the 1993 World Series when Joe Carter crushed a three-run home run to win the series for Toronto. They have seen when the Detroit Red Wings swept the Philadelphia Flyers for the 1997 Stanley Cup. They’ve seen when the New England Patriots took a 24-21 victory over the Eagles in 2005 and when the Los Angeles Lakers took the 2001 Finals in five games and Shaquille O’Neal made Dikembe Mutombo look like a 7-foot-2 baby. Last but not least, they saw Rocky Balboa lose to Apollo Creed and Clubber Lang in the “Rocky” movies, and they later watched Apollo Creed die at the hands of Ivan Drago — although Rocky’s victory against that Soviet “manimal” ended the Cold War.

It is almost like a Shakespearean tragedy, where the protagonists’ hubris is apparent to everyone but the cast, and the audience is captive to the consequences of their ignorance. Watching Reid in the fourth quarter is like seeing Romeo lift the poison to his lips as Juliet lies sleeping beside him, not knowing that she is still alive. The incredible frustration creates great dramatic tension in a play, but it’s awfully unrewarding for a group of people that have spent most of their lives waiting for a happy ending.

One can only describe Philadelphia fans as a group of collective masochists at the beck and call of professional athletes who continually disappoint. Philadelphians sit at the edge of their seats waiting for that one big win that will establish the team, while their hearts are weighed down with past, present and future disappointments. An eerie silence falls over the crowd every time fifteen minutes is set on the fourth quarter clock, or when Ryan Madson takes the mound in the bottom of the ninth. And even when the top of the mountain is reached, general managers and owners somehow raise the expectations for the next year with big name signings and larger claims for glory, only to fall short — I’m looking at you, 2011 Phillies. But as a Philadelphia sports fan, I think I can speak for all of us when I say that at least that fleeting high feels good to the point where I almost forget about the despair of constant defeat. Almost.

Cody Gorman is a School of Arts and Sciences senior majoring in political science and Middle Eastern studies with a minor in history. His column, “The Tuning Fork,” runs on alternate Wednesdays.

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