The Power of the Player-Fan Connection

Recently a few of us here at BreakingT got into a discussion about what makes a fan a fan.  Is it the team?  Or is it the players on the team?  David argued that it's more about the individual players than the team.  He offered himself as proof.  Despite growing up in the DC area, his unbreakable draw to Randall Cunningham is what made him an Eagles fan. We don't hold it against him :)

The beginning of the play is pretty muddled, but about halfway through, he scrambles to his right, somehow eluding about 75 New York Giants, sprinting toward the end zone. There, two more defenders – big, brutish men in those stupid blue helmets – wait to stuff any touchdown dances before they begin.

And that’s when it happens. The most glorious, ridiculous thing I have ever seen happen on a football field. Randall Cunningham jumps – leaps 10 feet! – over both defenders, stepping on their shoulders and flipping into the end zone like some kind of Superman! 6 points, Eagles! The Giants players crumple, defeated, wishing they had never tried to stop Number 12.

Or at least that’s how I remember it.

In reality, that memory is probably a combination of memories – throughout his career, Cunningham had a litany of amazing touchdown runs, leaps into the end zone, and big moments against hated rivals:

And I was very young for most of those highlights. So plays against the Lions, Giants, Packers, Steelers, and other teams run together easily in my mind today. His mercurial talent made me an Eagles fan, and my own stubbornness only deepened my love for Kelly Green despite growing up in Redskins country amid some serious late-90s struggles.

My family still likes to remember me sprinting downstairs on Sunday mornings somewhere around 7 AM, asking my dad when football would start, then waiting impatiently for hours until the 1 PM games came on – usually a massively disappointing event, because the Eagles weren’t one of the two games being shown (It was always the Redskins. Ugh.).

Since those early days, I’ve grown and adapted with the Eagles: smash-mouth defense and Buddy Ryan or Jim Johnson; the weird mediocrity that was the Detmer brothers; screen passes and Cunningham-lite with McNabb, Westbrook, and Reid; flashes of brilliance with Vick or McCoy; sports science with Kelly. I’ve learned to temper expectations because nothing hurts like crushed hope (thanks, Patriots). I’ve traveled around the world, met all kinds of people, and know that very few things in life are 100%, set-in-stone, incontrovertible fact. Two of those are: Randall Cunningham is the best quarterback I’ve ever seen play, and I will be an Eagles fan until the day I die.

I’ve never even lived in Philadelphia, but I have an incredible connection with the city and its people through the Eagles and their people – the stars, the coaches, and the fans. That is the power that strong personalities, beloved traditions, and deep-seated hatred for the Redskins and Cowboys can do for a man.

I truly hope 2015 will finally be the season of hope fulfilled and a long-awaited Lombardi trophy. But either way, year after year, I’ll be back for more. E-A-G-L-E-S!