I’m an Eagles fan. I don’t apologize for that. It’s just a statement, even though we are the fans who infamously booed Santa Claus, and our all-world quarterbacks when they make one bad play, and our mascot if he happens to wander onto the field at halftime, and… you get my point. But I’m proud to be an Eagles fan, because at least we’re passionate about our team, win or lose, and we come out in droves to support what we feel is our god-given right, to root on our favorite football team. That’s more than I can say for some, eh hem, fair-feather fans.
I had to be an Eagles fan. I was born and raised in the City of Brotherly Love, and the things we all share are family, friends, and football, not at all in that order. Of course when the Eagles are on TV nothing else is going on in houses across the breadth of the seventh largest city in the country. It’s a Sunday tradition like no other, at least in the fall and early winter, when it counts the most. And sure, the Eagles have never won a Super Bowl, but you would never know it from the lines outside the stadium, to the face paint, to the drunken celebrations when the home team wins. And of course when the home team loses… we boo Santa Claus.
Back in the ’80s to be an Eagles fan meant to love Gang Green — the Eagles powerful defense. Ours was a team built around the deceptively quick moves of Randall Cunningham, for sure, but the heart and soul of the Eagles was Reggie White, Jerome Brown, and that defensive front that scared the bejeezus out of other teams every time they took the field. I desperately wanted a Reggie White jersey, but back then those things were like gold, selling for well over whatever my mother would have deemed worthy of spending on such an item. So I never asked, but it didn’t lessen my desperation for it at all. Other kids in my class had jerseys, and jackets, and hats dedicated to the love of all things Eagles. I was so jealous that I’m sure it oozed out of my every pore. That was Gang Green.
Then Jerome Brown died, and I’ll never forget the sentiment in Eagles nation. He was one of our own, a hometown hero who deserved a sendoff like no other. So began the refrain, “Bring it home for Jerome,” “it” meaning the Super Bowl trophy. There was even a group that rapped about it, a big hit on Philadelphia radio at the time. I can still sing it sometimes, you know, when I’m not being shushed by my wife and children. They don’t understand. They aren’t from Philly. Bringing it home for Jerome became an anthem that reverberated all around the city, an anthem that brought us together not just as football fans but as a culture. It was epic, and even though we didn’t win the Super Bowl it remains as beautiful a moment today as it ever was back then.
As the years have gone by, and as the Eagles defense has gone south (in more ways than one) — giving up 45 points in back-to-back weeks this season — it’s harder and harder to reconcile the team they’ve become with the team they were. Then they go and get all Gang Green against the Patriots a few weeks ago and make me proud all over again. I was screaming at the TV, jumping up and down when they got that interception off of Brady, and returned it for a touchdown. That was the Eagles defense I remembered, that I grew up with. That was Gang Green, and I’ve missed them, not just the individual players, but the culture itself. And I’m still waiting to Bring it Home for Jerome. It could happen.