The e-mail arrived shortly before midnight on Saturday. Jim Still, an Eagles fan, was checking in from Miami. He was on his hotel balcony enjoying the warm breeze and the salsa music drifting over from South Beach.
But there was something else, a touch of home.
Out of the blue, Jim wrote, I hear E-a-g-l-e-s, Eagles coming from a group of unseen fans. Ten seconds later, it comes from another bar, from more fans. Twenty seconds later, it comes from the hotel to our right.
I decide that a lone voice from the 12th floor balcony (mine) is needed to keep it going. My Eagles cheer bellows into the 30 mph winds toward nowhere but the Atlantic Ocean. Yet it is heard and met with another round below me (and) a responsive round from each of the separate groups of Philly fans.
Name me one other city, one other sport, one other team, where that would occur? Jim wrote. I have never been more proud to be an Eagles fan, all 4-8 of an Eagles fan that I am.
He added this footnote: Jeff Lurie is staying at the hotel next door. I hope that he always hears our passion.
Hopefully, Lurie heard it and recognized it as something truly special. The passion of Philadelphia fans Eagles fans, in particular is unique. I really believe that.
Pittsburgh fans are similar. They love their Steelers. Green Bay fans are a rabid bunch, too, and when those teams play on the road, they have a lot of fans in the stands as well.
We see the Terrible Towels and the Cheeseheads.
But heres the difference: The Steelers have won six Super Bowls. The Packers have won four. The Dallas Cowboys, who also have a big fan following, have won five. Those fans are traveling the NFL circuit in a pretty luxurious bandwagon.
Eagles fans are traveling on hope, nothing more.
Eagles fans dont have any Lombardi Trophies in their knapsacks. They dont have any championship patches on their jackets. But they are out there just the same. They were in Miami over the weekend, in the final month of a 4-8 season, doing the Eagles chant and keeping the faith.
You could hear them cheering throughout the game. You could hear them cheering as the Eagles walked up the tunnel to the locker room following the 26-10 win. Andy Reid said it sounded like a home game, but thats not really true. With the way the Eagles played at home this season, losing five of six games at the Linc, this was a lot more festive.
I know most fans bought their tickets for this game when the schedule first came out and hopes were high. And no doubt the chance to escape the winter chill at home and spend a weekend in Miami was part of the attraction. But if you know Eagles fans, you know they would have been there in numbers, even if the game was played in Cincinnati or Buffalo.
Eagles fans are fiercely loyal by nature, but this particular team has put that loyalty to the test. It is not just the losing, although that is disappointing enough. It is a head coach who wont give a straight answer to a question. It is Jason Avant telling fans after the Dallas win not to get on the bandwagon. It is Casey Matthews saying, I dont think anyone will ever understand these fans.
Well, Casey, youve been here all of four months, Ive been here my whole life so I think I understand these fans pretty well. I sat among them for years before moving to the press box. I made the long journey from Connie Mack Stadium to Franklin Field to the Vet and now the Linc. Ive been through the good times and the bad and what Ive seen over a life time is a fan base that endures.
Through winning seasons, losing seasons, highs, lows, the Eagles fans endure. They stay the course. Thats not the case in every NFL city, but it is true in Philadelphia.
They get frustrated, they boo and sometimes they walk out when they cant take anymore as they did in the fourth quarter of the New England loss. It doesnt make them bad fans. If they were bad fans, they wouldnt have been there in the first place. Here the fans turn out year after year, win or lose, and they have done so for generations.
Thats the fans part of the pact. They buy the tickets, they fill the stadium, theyve done their part. If the team goes out and plays lousy, thats on the coaches and players. It is the team thats letting down the fans, not the other way around. Got that, Casey? It is not that hard to understand, is it?
Ive described the relationship between the Eagles and their fans as one of family. We love our family members, but that doesnt mean we dont get mad at them occasionally. If one of your relatives screws up and disappoints you, if your uncle knocks over a lamp or your nephew throws a football through the window, chances are you would get upset and let him know it. But it doesnt mean you dont still love him. I mean, he is family.
Thats how it is with the Eagles. The fans get angry, they get loud, they complain. Oh, how they complain. But even in the waning days of a lousy season like this one, there they are, chanting E-a-g-l-e-s into the Miami night. Did Jeff Lurie hear it? Did Casey Matthews? I hope so.
E-mail Ray Didinger at email@example.com.