For the second time in three years, there will be no hometown rooting interests for Philadelphians now that the playoffs have begun. But many if not most Eagles fans are NFL fans too, and we’ll watch pretty much any decent game. The problem is, with the Birds hitting golf balls or putting their houses on the market, which teams and players do we root for? Or more accurately, who we rootin’ against?
The bitter question in front of us is, would we rather see the rich get richer, or another never-been franchise pass us by on their way to join the ranks of the NFL’s Nouveau Riche? Would it be harder to watch the Colts and Patriots win more rings while we have only pre-Super Bowl National Championships, or see yet another team hoist the Lombardi Trophy before us. Is there no third option?
Let’s start with the teams playing this weekend.
Washington at Seattle
Obviously we go with the Seahawks here. I’d be hard pressed to conjure a scenario in which I’d root for an NFC East team, and Seattle’s just boring enough to not really hate. There may be some sentimental bandwagon jumping surrounding this game, as montages of Sean Taylor are bound to be part of the national coverage (and rightfully so—Taylor was a huge part of this team, and his murder was amazingly tragic).
Jacksonville at Pittsburgh
Boorrrrinnng. Don’tcha just hate how often we have to endure Steelers, Jets, Browns, and Ravens games in this market? We’ll take the Jags over our cross-state rivals, even though they’re bland as all get-out too. When it comes to sports, Philly natives have no PA pride. The Stillers? They went to the Promised Land with a rookie QB at the helm, while we’ve waited a nearly decade for our system to gel. The Jags are this year’s upstart team in the AFC, and they could make some noise, starting with this game. Jacksonville fans beware: this Eagles fan will be putting his cursed support behind your squad.
Tennessee at San Diego
After playing under Buddy Ryan in Chicago, Jeff Fisher became one of his coaching assistants. When Buddy brought the 46 to Philly, he brought Fisher with him as his D-backs coach. Fisher went on to become the Eagles defensive coordinator and achieve his career highlight, meeting me and playing Frisbee with us at a barbeque at Gootman’s house. So because of the Eagles/backyard connection, I’m backing the Titans and their possible PSU QB. Also, the Chargers deserve to get smoked for firing their coach after going 14-2 last season. What happens to the guy who took them to 11-5? Waterboarding?
New York Giants at Tampa Bay
Hmm lemme think about it. Tom Coughlin, Eli Manning, and Jeremy Shockey, or our ’06 hero (Carmella DeCesare) and our former OC with his loveable Chuckie Face? As much pain as we’ve felt from the NFC Championship loss, the ominous start to the Linc Era, and the longest ever game-winning field goal, there’s no way we root for the Giants. The only consolation in a Giants win would be that they did it without Tiki Barber, my least favorite NFC East personality this side of Michael Irvin.
And the Bye-Weekers…
Yes, I flew out to Green Bay just to have the pleasure of seeing the Eagles dive into this season’s downward spiral firsthand. But I don’t hate the Packers, especially not compared to the NFC’s other team with a first week bye. The Favre story is so overdone that I barely notice the networks playing him up anymore, and Ryan Grant has quickly become the team’s most watchable player. The Pack is the NFC team I support the most, primarily because I hate most of the others so goddamn much.
For many Patriots haters, the hardest thing about rooting against them is that it often means cheering for the Colts. Not me. Somewhere along the way, Dungy’s crew pulled me aboard. It started with Marvin Harrison, a Philly guy who is an elite receiver but comes with none of the regular baggage. Across the field, Reggie Wayne is cut from the same cloth, and he stepped up with Marvin missing much of the season. Peyton quieted the critics and Dungy handled unimaginable family tragedy when he finally won the big one last year, which has almost been forgotten since the Patriots began their tear. I’ll admit it. I actually like this team.
I hope they lose their bye week. I hope they lose the turnover battle. I hope they lose their car keys. I hope they lose that swagger like this group has actually won anything. I hope they lose a game-winning field goal snap. Nothing would be worse than Dallas returning to the Super Bowl, except if they got there and beat…
The psychological litmus test for NFL fans. Do you want to witness history so you can tell your kids and grandkids about it, or see the colossus toppled so you can point and laugh at its rubble (unless Dallas wins). Part of me wants to see another team win, but only because I’m an underdog guy. Despite the fact that the Eagles lost to the Pats in the Super Bowl, and again with me in attendance this year, and of course the dominance that is Boston sports in the modern era, I gotta admit, Belichick’s crew has made this NFL season far more interesting than it otherwise would have been. The Hoodie is easy to hate, but hard not to respect. Same with Brady. All he did was live all our dreams, becoming the best QB (maybe ever) and having a super model special lady friend. I have no advice on how to approach rooting for or against New England; this one’s just a visceral reaction.
So that’s my take. No love for any of the NFC teams, but I’ll root for Tampa Bay and Seattle in the Wild Card, with Green Bay as the team I’d like to see play in February. In the AFC we can’t really go wrong. I like the Titans because of Fisher, although they’re painful to watch, and I’d like to see Jacksonville be an upsetter, but there’s no show like the one New England and Indy can put on.
Who you rootin’ for?