If you’re an upperclassman at Penn, you’ve been asked some form of the question, “Where do you see yourself finally ending up?”
As recently as three weeks ago, I’d always say I didn’t know. That I was torn between my lifelong home of Los Angeles and my adopted college home of Philly, and that I’d be thrilled to end up in either place for the rest of my life.
But that was three weeks ago. That was before the magic started. And after going through this Eagles playoff ride that has been so emotional, so gritty, so against-the-odds — just so Philly — alongside the best fans in the world, I’ve finally come to my senses.
So, Mom and Dad, though I’m sure you’ve been suspecting it for a while now, it’s time for me to admit it: Philadelphia is where I want to be.
To suggest that a football team is the sole reason one would want to live in a city is ridiculous, but this past month has personified what this city is about as well as anything could.
Let’s start out with that first playoff game. Tailgating there, it was immediately obvious that this fanbase was unlike any other. Of course I primarily hung out with my own friends, but interacting with the other fans in the Lincoln Financial Field parking lot, there was a sense of family that would be impossible to recreate elsewhere in such a short time.
When you’re talking to that middle-aged guy in the Porta-Potty line and he vents about how he wishes he could watch just one more game in person with his now-adult son, you find yourself thinking you’d kill for him to get that chance.
When a magician/hustler plays your friend into a $100 deficit by tricking him with some “ball-in-cup” games, you’re somehow not even mad at him for it — based on the mutual jersey you and him are wearing, you can’t be.
When one of your own friends tests the limits of the human body by breaking a metal table after jumping from a car, and he’s embraced upon landing by a series of strangers as if he were a god, it’s impossible to not look around and think, “These are my people.”
A week later, the unparalleled community of this fan base only amplified. Being on Broad Street after the NFC Championship's conclusion, there are no words that could fairly sum up the experience.
You can look around at dozens of people you’ve never seen before, and you don’t even know how this starts, but somehow you’re chanting “Big Dick Nick! Big Dick Nick!” in perfect unison until your voice can’t do it anymore. Ditto for chants of “Foles! Foles! Foles!” or “F*ck Tom Brady!” Or somebody 20 yards away can start yelling out “E, A …” and you know with 100 percent certainty that you, that person, and anyone in between you two will finish out the “G-L-E-S, Eagles!” as loud as you’ve ever yelled anything before.
These fellow rioters could be the people you’re competing for internships with. They could be students at your most hated rival colleges. They could even be Penn employees whose single job is to make sure you and your friends can’t throw parties. But it doesn’t matter. Looking around at these people, aware of the decades of suffering you’ve endured and the passion you share that’s unmatched by any other fan base in the world, you feel like you would take a bullet for them, and they for you.
The Eagles have been my team since I started watching football. Elementary school me could tell you all about Donovan McNabb’s stats, or Andy Reid’s horrendous clock management, or how rigged our playoff game versus the Saints was right after Hurricane Katrina — but I didn’t get it. I watched the games, paying the same amount of attention that I do now, but I didn’t understand what it meant to these people.
I’ve only been here two-plus years, but it’s clear even to me how important this team is to this city. When you walk into a Wawa on a Sunday, look into another person’s eyes wearing the same apparel as you, and you have the mutual understanding that no matter what else is going in your lives, your day — no, your whole week — is going to be made or broken by how 53 people in green jerseys that you’ll almost assuredly never meet execute their jobs, it’s a bond that doesn’t even need words.
Fans of other teams might call us “trashy” or “classless,” but they’re just jealous. They know in the back of their minds that they don’t care about their respective teams a fraction as much as Bird Gang cares about ours, so they look for ways to insult us as a coping mechanism for it.
Other cities want their teams to win. This city needs its team to win.
And even if a couple not-that-funny-anymore jokes about throwing snowballs at Santa pop up every now and then, I’ll take the fans that will ride or die with their team to the last minute over the fans that leave early to beat the traffic any day of the week. Put in most basic terms, they hate us ‘cause they ain’t us.
Ahead of Sunday, does this passion guarantee a win? Obviously not: even though we unequivocally want it more than the Pats fans do, we’re not the ones on the field.
But win or lose, this ride has been one of the most thrilling experiences I’ve ever seen. There’s no group of fans on the planet I’d rather have gone through it with, and I’d be honored to call that group “my people” for the rest of my life.
In the meantime, though, let’s stick to Sunday. The nation doubts us again, but that only makes us stronger.
We’re all we got, and we’re all we need. Now let’s f*cking fly.
Cole Jacobson is a College junior from Los Angeles, Calif., and is a Sports Editor for The Daily Pennsylvanian. He can be reached at email@example.com.