I once dated a fellow who fancied himself a die-hard Philadelphia Eagles fan.
He had the epidermal, obvious things covered fairly well. His “man cave” sported a giant, theater-quality flat screen that made the weekly viewing of the game a lifelike experience.
He knew the lingo, and would never say “make the first down” as opposed to “convert,” or mistake a safety for a touchback.
He even had the body mass of a defensive end, although toward the end of our relationship his girth became a bit more offensive, if you get my drift.
In other words, the guy appeared to be a certified football fan (as opposed to the certifiable ones who, when kicked out of the imploded 700 level, resorted to wandering aimlessly in the parking lot and muttering poignantly about better days).
Sadly, though, the man I could have married turned out to be an imposter.
It was a reality I pieced together in small but telling increments — things that separately meant very little but which told volumes when taken together.
The fact that he preferred to watch the Golf Channel instead of the pregame show on Fox was a clue.
So was the fact that he treated his Super Bowl party the way a woman on any of the “Real Housewives” franchises would; namely, all show and no substance. What I mean by this is that he would pay more attention to the menu and the ambience than to the game.
He actually cared more about whether his clueless guests (mostly the female ones) were having a good time than whether the “team that was not the Eagles” was executing on the field.
By most standards this made him a good man and a fine host, but it troubled me. I mean, I wanted Chuck Bednarik on Sundays, not Suzy Homemaker.
This person also preferred to watch the game in the comforting confines of his basement instead of roughing it out at the stadium. To me, this was unsettling. As a woman who had attended literally dozens of games in all types of inclement weather — including a Monday night special at Veterans Stadium when the wind chill was lower than Kim Kardashian’s IQ — I couldn’t understand how a man could actually prefer the crystal-clear reception of his hi-def toy to the fuzzy, alcohol-fueled maelstrom known as Eagles Nation.
Still, affection kept me holding on.
Then came the day that I learned he really didn’t hate Dallas.
At that point, the writing was on the cinder-block wall.
To be truthful, the Eagles played a relatively small role in our breakup. But as I look back on the relationship so many years later, I realize that I never could have married a man who was so disconnected from my own Philadelphia reality: generational sports hatred.
I’ve sometimes mentioned to friends that, in the grand scheme of things, I probably hate the New York Giants more than the Cowboys. That’s because New York is like that pretty, snotty cousin your grandparents like and treat better than you on holidays, whereas Dallas is the blond cheerleader who barely knows you exist.
Familiarity breeds more contempt. And yet, in my heart, I know that if I were in a desert with a Giants fan and a Dallas fan and had a flash of Christian charity, I’d share my last drop of water with the New Yorker. That’s just how a Philadelphian rolls.
That’s also why Sunday’s regular-season finale is such an important game. More than a mere game, it’s an epochal event. Not only will it determine whether the Eagles make it to the playoffs, it will be a pivotal chapter in the ongoing saga of good vs. evil that has played itself out lo these many decades in Philadelphia hearts (if not in Dallas minds).
Even if Tony Romo doesn’t play, there is such meaning to this battle between a surprisingly good Eagles team and the always-dangerous boys from Texas.
To those who love the classics, let me make this analogy. Every time these two teams meet, at least from the Philadelphia perspective, it’s like the “Iliad.”
Homer knew a little something about destiny and despair and the capriciousness of the gods. To me, the Eagles have always been Trojans, star-crossed and destined for defeat, but noble warriors nonetheless.
The Cowboys are the Greeks, beloved of Olympus (particularly the national network broadcast deities) who get every possible break and march across the battlefield expecting their victory (which is usually handed to them by the referees).
Some of you may not like that analogy because the Trojans ended up losing the war. But real classic scholars also remember that one of those vanquished Trojans, Aeneas, ended up founding the eventual Roman Empire, which then conquered the Greeks in an epic slap down.
So, that is why I have faith in the team’s ability to pull this one out on Sunday.
It is also why I’m very happy to still be single, with season tickets.