Dissecting the stupid joy of football
Unbridled optimism heading into an Eagles season opener.
That’s the stuff of youth, and I’m not as young as I used to be.
Still, as I walked with my friends Brandon and Liam north on Morgan Boulevard toward FedEx Field, prime enemy territory, I was teeming with an irrational idealism about how the next four months would go for the Philadelphia Eagles.
Why was I feeling so positive?
Was it the talent the Eagles had stockpiled in the offseason (Alshon Jeffery, Torrey Smith, LeGarrette Blount, Ronald Darby)?
Come on now. I haven’t forgotten 2011 and the so-called Dream Team.
Was it the smooth play of the first-team unit in the preseason?
Nope. I won’t buy into that after what happened in 2015, when Sam Bradford and the Eagles shredded the Packers at Lambeau Field in an exhibition clinic that they would never replicate under Bradford and coach Chip Kelly.
Besides, the Eagles’ starters didn’t play much at all in this year’s preseason.
So what was it that had me thinking the Eagles would roll into FedEx Field, an uninspired slab of concrete that has aged like Robin Williams’ character in “Jack,” and leave with a two-touchdown victory?
Considering that the Eagles hadn’t beaten Washington since 2014 and hadn’t won at FedEx since Kelly’s NFL debut the prior fall, any good vibes about this game seemed out of touch with reality.
But football is not really about reality and common sense. It’s more than a little deranged. Why else would 80,000 people be so eager to spend hours driving and/or taking the train to a suburban void in Maryland, for an afternoon sitting among the increasingly intoxicated, while the bathroom queues grow like Soviet bread lines?
That’s football. None of us really know why we go through all that trouble to experience what amounts to 11 minutes of gladiatorial action. We just want to, and we’ll move heaven and earth, and rearrange our lives, to do it.
On Sunday afternoon, after I’d somehow gotten a sunburn on a day when the UV index was 1, 310-pound Eagles defensive tackle Fletcher Cox scooped up a fumble (or was it a pass?) and frolicked into the end zone. A river of burgundy and gold flowed out of the stadium, and “E-A-G-L-E-S” chants rang out amid the midnight green and kelly green.
My irrational optimism had been instantly validated. Two-touchdown victory? Check.
The Eagles will head to Kansas City next. Doug Pederson faces his former coach and mentor, Andy Reid. Arrowhead Stadium is always one of the most intimidating venues in the NFL, even when the Chiefs are bad. This year it appears they are not bad and perhaps quite good. Meanwhile, the Eagles have no kicker at the moment, and Darby is out after his ankle bent sharply in a way it’s not supposed to.
There’s little reason for optimism. But that’s exactly the point, isn’t it?