Outside of actual New England Patriots fans and of course the front-running posers who root for whichever flavor of the month tastes best at the time, everybody else in America couldn’t help but cheer for the Philadelphia Eagles on Sunday.
Well, almost everyone. One other group of people steadfastly refused. They would sooner undergo a root canal while watching a sneak peek of the new “Roseanne” reboot while an IRS accountant audits their books than ever see those despised Eagles win a game.
We’ll call this group Dallas Cowboys fans.
Yet, here’s the thing. Even Pats and Cowboys diehards should respect what Nick Foles and the Eagles did this season – because they are reflective of everything we love about sports.
Think about it. Remove the Eagles wings from the helmets if you must, Cowboys and Pats supporters. If someone had told you at the start of the season that the eventual Super Bowl champion would be (A) a franchise that had never won it before, (B) an underdog team that the pundits picked no better than third in their own division, and (C) would be quarterbacked by a 29-year-old journeyman backup, wouldn’t you be OK with that?
Of course, you never would have believed it, because it sounds like the hackneyed script for a cheesy, Disney sports movie.
Only this time it really happened.
Not only did it happen, but it unfolded in perhaps the most entertaining start-to-finish Super Bowl in the game’s 52-year history. I’m not a big halftime show guy, but I thought Justin Timberlake – replete in his retro Jordans — put together a rollicking mini-concert. And yet JT’s show paled in comparison to the jam session that the Eagles and Patriots delivered.
Consider this: Two years ago, Foles was on the verge of retirement. The Rams had just released the former high school star at Austin Westlake, and he thought about walking away.
Instead, he stuck it out. And now he’s the Super Bowl MVP who vanquished the GOAT in Tom Brady. (Isn’t it odd that the word goat used to be attached to someone who had screwed up in an extremely visible way? In 2018, it’s universally accepted as an acronym for the Greatest of All-Time. Language, man. It’s ever-evolving.)
How crazy was this game? It featured not one, but two trick-play passes where the QB turned receiver. Brady may be the greatest quarterback in history (his five Super Bowl rings and eight appearances certainly lend credence to that argument), but he’s not anywhere close to the best receiver. Naturally, his drop of Danny Amendola’s high pass instantly became an Internet meme as soon as the game ended, with the bobbling ball being replaced by the Vince Lombardi Trophy.
Then you had Foles, who not only secured the catch of Trey Burton’s toss, but scored a touchdown to boot. In the process, he became the first quarterback to produce a TD catch in a Super Bowl.
And those were just two crazy plays in a game that would have easily been declared legally insane by the courts. Remember Brandin Cooks making a weird reverse cut after a first-half catch, only to be leveled by the Eagles’ Malcolm Jenkins? Or any one of Rob Gronkowski’s nine catches? Not since Earl Campbell has anyone scored as many touchdowns while wearing defenders like a hoodie as Gronk.
Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy tweeted that it looked like a Big 12 game. (He meant it as a compliment, by the way.) The teams produced 1,151 total yards, which wasn’t just a Super Bowl record but an NFL single-game record.
If you were one of those football fans who boycotted the NFL in disgust over the national anthem controversy, this was the kind of game that could make you fall in love with the league all over again.
And Foles – a likeable 29-year-old Texan – was at the center of it all. Essentially, he was the Anti-Brady. The average NFL fan loves to hate Tom and the Patriots, for several sound reasons. One, Brady won’t go away. The guy is 40 years old and as good as ever. He’s a cockroach. You can’t kill Tom Brady. Crack him open, and you’d find that he’s made of batteries and smart-phone parts from old Super Bowl commercials.
Plus, he wins. Like, all the time. Seriously, when Brady and the Patriots got the ball back, down five points with a little more than two minutes to play, you expected him to lead another game-winning (and championship-winning) drive, didn’t you? Of course. We all did.
People also don’t like Brady because of the Patriots’ past rule-skirting dalliances, and – let’s face it — perhaps because of a little inherent jealousy over his supermodel wife.
Foles, meanwhile, is Everyman. We love Nick Foles because we think we could be Nick Foles, even though we really couldn’t be Nick Foles.
Foles demonstrated the everlasting worth of a good backup quarterback. We all know that quarterback is the most important position on the team, right? Right. Now, that doesn’t necessarily mean that the backup QB is the second-most important guy. Not at all. But given how often starters succumb to injury, he may be more important than some starting positions. (Somewhere Jeff Hostetler and Doug Williams are silently nodding).
Foles played with the poise of a Hall of Famer despite having the pedigree of Carson Wentz’s personal clipboard bodyguard. Plus, he just seems like a nice guy – affable, humble, faithful. Undoubtedly, some in the viewing audience and the media found their eyes glassing over when Foles started his postgame interview by giving “all glory to God.”
But that’s not just some autopilot response for Foles. His Twitter profile describes him as a “Believer in Jesus Christ, Husband, Father, Son, Brother.” Yep – that’s right. He doesn’t even mention that, oh, by the way, he’s also an NFL quarterback. Foles’ Christian faith is so much a part of who he is that he has even talked about becoming a pastor once his playing days are done.
How can you not cheer for a guy like that?
OK, I get it. New England and Dallas fans have a built-in excuse. Patriots fans greedily wanted to become the first back-to-back champion since the 2003-04 Pats. Cowboys fans can’t bring themselves to appreciate anything good that happens for any of their longtime NFC East rivals. Even if, in the case of Foles and the Eagles, it’s a beautifully inspiring story.
My message to those fan bases? Get over yourselves. You’ve got 10 Super Bowl titles between the two of you.
Sorry guys, nobody is going to throw you any telethons.
Fly, Eagles, fly.