I remember I was at a U2 concert in 1997 at the Meadowlands, and my friend and I were tailgating so we heard a lot of conversations going on. It was funny because I had been to a dozen U2 concerts before that one, but it was the first time I had heard comments like the ones I was hearing in that parking lot. There were a couple of guys (who were obviously already drunk) talking about how they hoped the band would play songs from The Joshua Tree, and not “all this nonsense they’ve been making since.” And I realized there were stark contrasts to fandom. There were people who were fans of the band, and people who were fans of a particular album. There’s nothing wrong with the latter, but I was thinking, “Um, why would you come to a show 10 years after the album you’re a fan of was released? You know the band will be playing a lot of newer material, right?” And as a huge happening occurred this week I was reminded of that. Are you a fan of the team or of one individual player?
Of course I’m talking about the Eagles releasing DeSean Jackson, their super-talented sixth year wideout coming off his most explosive season, and the Redskins snapping him up, setting up a chance for him to get revenge on the team that let him go. Now, I’m an Eagles fan through and through. I was there when Ray Rhodes came into town and benched Randall Cunningham in favor of Rodney Peete. I was at Veterans’ Stadium when the group of fans booed Santa Claus. And I was humbled just like every other fan when the team won just four games two years ago, finishing dead last in the NFC East. But through it all I remain an Eagles fan first and foremost, even if I don’t agree with all the decisions made by the front office.
That doesn’t mean, however, that I’ve been blindly picking the Eagles in the playoffs each year in my Playoff Challenge, or that I’m loading up my fantasy teams every season with Eagles players. I’m realistic when it comes to possibly winning and losing for myself, but fandom doesn’t mean being realistic when the game is going on. You just want your team to win no matter what. Being a fan means still cheering when your team is down by 30 points, or when they’ve benched Donovan McNabb, or when your favorite player on the team is sent packing. Being a fan means being realistic to a point, but then flying on faith because it’s your team. In fact, that’s the terminology true fans use. It’s not the team that wins. “We win.” It’s not the team that loses. “We lost a tough one.” We insert ourselves into our favorite teams because we feel the joy and pain right along with them.
I’ll admit I swore when I first got the text alert that the Eagles had cut ties with DeSean Jackson, the same way I swore when they benched Randall Cunningham oh so long ago, because I knew that the move had made the team worse, at least in my opinion. Every move I don’t like is because I think it makes the team worse. Maybe I’ll be proven wrong when the season happens, or maybe I’ll be proven right, but I really want to be proven wrong. Because I’m a fan, and despite everything, I want my team to win. Just like with that U2 concert. I am a U2 fan, and I wanted to hear whatever they decided to play. Even if one of the songs wasn’t my favorite. The band still is, and I’ll listen to that song because I’m a real fan. Will I miss Jackson? Yes, especially if he does what I think he’ll do in Washington and cause us all kinds of headaches on the field when they play us. But I’ll continue to root for my team.
Because that’s what real fans do. And yeah, I’ll do my best to draft Jackson in my fantasy draft in the fall. You’ve been warned.
The Fantasy Ace