So I went to the Super Bowl.
Obviously, it all worked out in the end (more on that in a bit), but I can’t pretend that choosing to attend the game wasn’t among the more stressful decisions I’ve made in a while. And we all know why. I’m sure you looked. Of course you looked. How could you not look? The ticket numbers were horrifying. Frightening. Staggering. The flight details, for me? Not as bad. I’m coming from EWR and was able to get that part locked down the Monday after the NFCCG. All good. But the ticket? The ticket situation was not good.
I had a trusty travel companion (my buddy with whom I share my seats at the Linc), and for 10 days after the Minnesota game we both anxiously pushed refresh on every ticket site we could find, sent a gazillion texts, and generally started to panic when the prices on Monday and Tuesday of last week zigged instead of zagged. That is, our research led us to believe Tuesday would be a smart day to buy tickets. That's what the line charts on the ticket sites said should happen! Instead, prices spiked substantially and we were left in a spot where we might need to pay ~60 percent more than we would have paid just 48 hours before.
This did not feel amazing.
We knew going in that this was going to be a big expense. It felt selfish, and silly, and frivolous. This trip would cost real money, and for what? So I could be there for some goofy football game where the Eagles wouldn’t even have their best player? In Minnesota? My wife, who is and has always been amazing, especially about my dumb football feelings, to her credit, told me to do it. I had her permission. If anything, she was just worried about how I might feel if I went all the way there, spent all this money, and they lost.
Rationally, I knew that was a real and distinct possibility. And I had enough experience with the Eagles to be able to anticipate the magnitude of the potential sports-feeling disappointment. So when we caught a break late Tuesday and had an angle on a good price, we had a big decision to make. Still a big number, sure, but I summoned up all my powers of rationalization and here’s where I landed:
- Despite me talking nonsense about a new era of Eagles football where Carson Wentz would appear in five of the next six Super Bowls, I’m not so crazy as to take this for granted;
- Was I really going to spend all of this time, energy and money on the Eagles and live my entire life without seeing them play in a Super Bowl? This was an important step in amortizing the expense until the end of time;
- Sure, they could lose, and I would have spent all that money, and taken all that trouble, to travel to a frozen location on goofy overnight flights just to be profoundly disappointed, but if they win.
- But if they win.
- BUT IF THEY WIN.
Now let’s tell some stories about the Super Bowl.
That Time I Went To Minnesota With a Gallon Plastic Bag And A Latex Dog Mask. My flights were 845p on Saturday (landing at 1040p in Minneapolis) and then 130a Monday night. There’s no such thing as bag check at the Super Bowl, you’re only allowed to enter the building with a gallon plastic bag, we weren’t staying close to the stadium, and given post-game transportation options, I knew I’d be heading directly to the airport from the game. But I was only going to be there for 28 hours; what did I really need? So I jammed my glasses, toothbrush and phone charger in the plastic bag, stuffed an extra t-shirt, pair of socks and underwear in my coat pockets, jammed the dog mask in my sleeve, and away we went.
An Extremely Economical Trip, You Know, Once You Ignore The Price Of The Tickets And The Amount Of Money I’ll Undoubtedly Spend On Dumb Gear Over The Next Few Days. Apart from some drinks, we didn’t really buy anything in the stadium. I was too nervous to buy something with a Super Bowl logo on it before the game (I’m really going to buy some overpriced item that I’ll end up hating with all of my soul if we don’t get the right result?) and couldn’t be bothered afterwards. Also didn’t eat anything from 2p through to midnight (too nervous). Don’t worry, though, I’ve since stuffed my face a couple times (#emotionaleating) and will most surely make a number of silly purchases from the Eagles Pro Shop over the next few days.
Rob GronBullSurf. You’ll hardly be surprised to discover that Eagles’ fans swag and gear game is obviously and profoundly stronger than Pats’ fans, though I will tip my dog mask to the fellow in the Marriott City Center lobby with the Pats #87 jersey and a hat with a few tiny plastic bulls on it riding a surfboard. I complimented this gentleman on his festive surfboard-themed headgear and he tried to explain that it was a ski and those were cows, and that it was some sort of clever play on the name of some guy on the Pats. I corrected him and let him know that they were bulls and that was a surfboard on his head, and assured him that he’d still done a clever job with it and should be proud of his cool surfboard hat.
Meek Mill Versus Crazy Train. I assume this point has been made many times over, but I felt like we learned everything we needed to know about the Eagles and the Pats from their intro music. The Pats came out to a classic rock fave (extremely #relevant and #authentic with the young people, I’m told), and the Birds ran out to Dreams and Nightmares. I’ll let you guess which was better:
Dreams and Nightmares redux pic.twitter.com/q5FiItSyKZ— BountyBowl (@bountybowl) February 5, 2018
New Ways To Greet Friendly Strangers Regarding The Eagles. Related to those obnoxious jackasses shouting in the video above, one of the most delightful parts of this season has been the emergence of a new way to Eagles-greet a stranger (at the stadium, wearing gear on the street). That is, in addition to the venerable “Go Birds,” we can now add, “We all we got,” which sets the stage for your new friend to respond, “We all we need.” Try it; I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised.
XL Isn’t What It Used To Be. We were seated near a large group from the Starter apparel brand. We learned this because they were delighted to see the kelly green throwback satin Eagles Starter jacket I was wearing. Quick pause: if I were looking for a sign that the universe was on the good guys’ side yesterday, then putting me, obsessive eBay stalker of 30-year-old Starter gear, directly behind a group of people who worked at said company really feels like (a) there is a higher power and (b) said power is down with sweet Birds attire. They noted that the jacket I was wearing was a newly issued retro design, and I explained to them that I had previously acquired an actual original jacket on eBay, but ended up re-selling it because, um, well, XL from 1988 doesn’t quite fit the same way as XL from 2018. That is, the original didn’t quite make it all the way over my midsection. They literally all laughed at me and assured me that yes, in fact, XL is very different today than it was in 1988.
Easy With The T-Word In A Crowded Stadium. The Malcolm Jenkins hit on Brandin Cooks was a reminder that this is a brutal blood sport, and even though it was a clean hit by the rules of the game, it was a crime against a human body. Our section was appropriately horrified. A few minutes later, prompted by another Jenkins play, the Patriots-gear-clad woman sitting in front of us turned around, looked at my #27 jersey, and shouted “Malcolm Jenkins is a f*cking terrorist!” I think she meant it in the nicest/footballest/non-politicallest way possible.
The Greatest Play Call in Eagles History And A Reminder That It’s a TV Show More Than A Live Event. We had amazing seats for this game, right at the goal line, 3 rows back. The Burton pass to Foles happened right in front of us. As is custom, I pulled out my phone to take a video of the fourth-down play and ostensibly captured the most amazing/gutsy/awesome/life-affirming play call in Eagles history. Or at least the parts of said play that weren’t blocked by NBC’s camera rig:
Here's the best play call in Eagles history but with a camera stand in the way pic.twitter.com/EZIfYuxvrS— BountyBowl (@bountybowl) February 5, 2018
Let Us Endeavor To Avoid Gaslighting A Global TV Audience Regarding The Definition Of A Catch. In the stands, there were definitely a few nervy moments with respect to replays on Eagles TDs/turnovers. Trained to expect the worst, discouraged by the absence of video replay on a few questionable moments already, and well aware of the penalty differential in the game, we all assumed that we would be surprised by a horrifying overturn that took away Eagles points that would hinge on millimeter-level tolerances and exotic readings of the NFL rule book. Instead, balls that were caught and ruled touchdowns remained touchdowns. Balls that were knocked out of famous quarterback’s hands were ruled fumbles, despite the pathetically theatrical -- yet entirely understandable, given his prior experiences with game-defining fumbles that were mysteriously redefined to his advantage -- pantomimes of said famous quarterback. It was almost as if the content owner wanted the product to make sense to the audience.
I Thought The Pats Might Get One More Play Off. What I will never, ever forget about the final play was that I expected the Pats to get more than one play off. I wasn’t ready for that to be the end. Brady chucked it toward the end zone where we were sitting. It wasn’t a bad pass! And it really did all slow down as it came down, pinballed around and fell to the ground. On TV, you get the clock on-screen as the play is in progress, but our eyes were locked on the ball. I was still in full-on panic mode as my head swung to the right to locate the time remaining on the scoreboard at the far end of the stadium, and then I saw the zeroes, and I honestly couldn’t believe it. I wasn’t ready. We weren’t ready. I thought there would be another moment of suffering. But no. That was it. It was over and we all paused a moment and then we commenced with the ceremonial hugging of friends and strangers alike and I’ll never forget how those moments went.
Brutal Bill Simmons-Style Movie Reference That I Will Try To Keep As Brief As Possible. My brother and I are terribly fond of the 1989 Richard Dreyfuss film Let It Ride, in which a deadbeat gambler, Jay Trotter, has a magical day at the track. That’s pretty much the entire plot of the film. Yes yes, there are many colorful characters and hilarious hijinks throughout. And as Trotter turns an illegally acquired tip and $50 into larger and larger sums of cash, the conceit of the film is the audience’s expectation of an eventual loss and Bigger Lesson: that it’s the people you meet along the way that matter, that it’s only money, that he can resist the temptations that his winnings bring him and stay true to his wife. But that’s not what happens, at all. SPOILER ALERT: he just keeps winning. And winning. The film ends with a colossal victory and a raucous crowd and his confused wife asking him, “Why are they cheering?” “I’m having a very good day.” That was us! The horse f*cking winked at us and it all went our way! We had a very good day!
I Never Understood the 2018 Eagles, and That’s a Me Problem, Not A Them Problem. I’m usually optimistic about an Eagles season, each September welcoming the opportunity to convince myself that this is the year that, if just a few things break the Eagles’ way, they can sneak into the playoffs, get a few bounces, and who knows. Facci sognare! Still, as well as this season was going, it took me a while to actually believe in the 2017 Eagles. All of the old anxieties (Donovan McNabb! Andy Reid!) primed me for impending tragedy; I was sure that anything good was just part of the long con to destroy my soul come January. Thus did the Wentz injury feel on brand. The Eagles have a generational quarterback and are rolling through the NFC, and of course he blows out his knee.
Weeks later, as the Eagles clinched the one seed in the conference, I was still more stressed about Wentz’s September 2018 form than the Eagles’ playoff chances. Sure, Pederson and the players were making all the right noises about the injuries that had clipped a full complement of top players, but that’s just coachspeak nonsense. Nick Foles wasn’t winning a playoff game! I’d seen Nick Foles lose a playoff game at home, I knew this drill. And Vegas agreed. What’s worse, they were going to roll Wentz, the franchise messiah, out as a captain before the game? What a distraction! That’s like a built-in excuse! But an errant pass from Matt Ryan earned them a shot at the Vikings. Again, the Vikings were favored, justifiably I thought, but the Eagles could get a bounce or two, maybe they can sneak into the Super Bowl. And maybe I was wrong about the Wentz thing? Maybe he wasn’t a distraction. Maybe it’s the mark of the strength of this team that they didn’t just blow their injured guys out the airlock. Maybe all the talk about family isn’t just nonsense?
Of course, even before the NFCCG, my number-one fear was that they’d win the game and set up a Super Bowl appearance against the Pats, where I would end up wasting a ton of money for the privilege of listening to smug Pats fans lecture me on why I never should have expected my guys to handle the Patriot Way. So of course the Eagles rolled the Vikings in what was the most amazing Eagles game I’d seen in my life prior to Sunday.
Thus did I make myself insane perseverating about the ticket purchase. Was I really going to subject myself to this? Could I handle that redeye home after Brady and Belichick hoisted another Lombardi trophy? Something changed when I bought the ticket, though. I was at peace. I was going to see the Eagles in the Super Bowl, and I thought the Eagles were going to win. I told everyone I talked to that I thought they were going to win. Obviously, part of that is just me (and anyone reading this). I mean, we all thought they were going to win, right? We wouldn’t be the lunatics we are if we didn’t. And then Brian Dawkins was named a Hall of Famer on Saturday, and it was all sort of happening. And yeah, in other years, that sort of thing is just part of the long con, and Ronde Barber catches the ball and we’re all completely miserable. But this year?
Here’s the big secret: the 2017 Eagles don’t actually care about any of our bullshit. There’s no magic. We just were blessed with a fearless team led by a fearless coach that looked the bad guys in the eye and didn’t back down -- again and again and again. They were here to win, and they weren’t afraid. And as the fourth quarter clock ticked down, and I was tensing up in the stands, convinced that this was the moment that Tom Brady would do a Tom Brady thing, Brandon Graham did a 2017 Eagles thing. And here we are.
Here’s what I know after the Super Bowl: that was the best Eagles game I will ever see, and this is the best Eagles team I will ever root for. I loved the way they played, I loved the way they talked, I loved the way they danced. I loved their politics and their music and their catchphrases and their celebrations and their jokes and their t-shirts. This season was joy, and we’re smart enough to know that we don’t get seasons like this very often. I am so happy I went, and I feel so grateful I was able to do it.
We all we got.
We all we need.
We all we need. pic.twitter.com/un2CFfb46o— BountyBowl (@bountybowl) February 5, 2018