When the Philadelphia Eagles almost beat the evil New England Patriots two weeks ago, a surprising number of people congratulated me on the Eagles performance as if I had been responsible for the noble failure. I can’t tell you how irritating this was. Some of these people didn’t have a stake in the game. They just assumed that, like a normal, healthy human, unencumbered by an Eagles addiction, I could appreciate a well-played game, win or lose. (I can’t.) A few were Eagles fans. They weren’t happy with the loss, but they were suddenly, again, hopeful. They thought, maybe our boys aren’t so bad. (They are.) Lastly, there were victorious Patriots fans (our own Stefan Tornquist, for example) serving up back-handed complements with a characteristic New English smugness. “Great effort,” they said. (F**k off.)
Words that express feelings – even simple, well-meaning phrases like “Good game” or “I love you” — often conceal hidden meanings like “You couldn’t possibly win no matter how hard you tried” or “I am worried about this relationship and need reassurance” or “I need you to cope with 17 weeks of moody outbursts, plus playoffs, and still want to sleep with me.” I have come to understand these hidden meanings better as I’ve tried to battle the force that once took over my life, the force that drove me to such deceitful distortions, the Philadelphia Eagles. In step 8 of my ongoing therapeutic journey away from the shackles of the NFL, I made a list of people whom I’d harmed in my Eagles addiction. Now I am faced with Step 9 in which I must make “direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.”
I planned some of these reparations as I watched Eagles fall behind the Seahawks on Sunday. I could call up my friend Gabe, a Redskins fan whom I’ve mocked, buy him a few beers, tell him it’s cool if he likes the Redskins. Whatever. I don’t even care any more. I could call another friend whose son’s christening I had missed because I had to watch a playoff game, and admit, no, I wasn’t in Europe. I had a problem, an Eagles problem. Maybe I could send his son a gift, a Giants T-shirt or something, just to show that I’ve grown.
Then I thought about calling that ex-girlfriend, X, to apologize for my Eagles-related evasions and my outright lies. I could tell her how I really felt. “X,” I’d say, “some of those times when you asked me a question, and I said, ‘Huh?’ I was pretending not to hear you, even though I heard perfectly well what you were asking. By ‘huh’ I actually meant, how can you ask such an inane question when Andy Reid used all his timeouts in the third quarter and Donovan McNabb threw another five-yard pass on third and eight? I realize this wasn’t fair.”
I almost dialed X’s number. Then backup quarterback AJ Feeley threw his third interception. I realized that if I said, “Hi, X, how are you?” I would mean, “Who the hell paid Feeley to throw three interceptions to a person named Lofu Tatupu? He was clearly trying to throw the ball to Tatupa. Was offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg in on it? There’s no other explanation for putting Feeley in the shotgun over and over when Brian Westbrook — who, by the way, almost single-handedly saved the game and the season (again!) — should have touched the ball on 90 percent of the plays. And how could you, X, leave me to suffer through this team alone?”
I didn’t call. I wasn’t sure if it would “injure them or others.” I’m still stuck on step 9. The Eagles, meanwhile, are 5-7.