Buddy Ryan dressed me in kelly green. Andy Reid pulled me into a wild sea that rolled over the NFL like a ferocious midnight green wave. Kansas City, if you’re lucky, Reid will take you on a journey like he did for us.
Growing up surrounded by frontrunnin’, bandwagon jumpin’ Cowboys and 49ers fans who obviously had little quality parenting, the days in the scholarly hallways of Audubon, NJ, were far from fun during fall Mondays in the mid 1980s to-mid 1990s.
Reid changed that. He created a generation of Eagles fans who expect the best and don’t understand or tolerate average, let alone bad, football. He united a family of hundreds of thousands in the region by building a tradition of pride and excellence only two or three other franchises matched or exceeded over the last decade-plus.
Consider the fact that a child who was five years old during Reid’s first season in 1999 is now 19. This is only the second double-digit losing season this century, and the first not to follow a Super Bowl appearance.
Imagine being 19 or 20 and this is the first truly putrid season in your memory. That is a blessed childhood in these parts and Reid delivered that gift like a fat man in a red suit.
No sane person can argue against Reid’s body of work as a whole.
The fan base can lament the lack of the running game. Time management experts can use game tapes as case studies of clock misuse. The repetition of “time’s yours” and “do a better job” stick in our heads like annoying song hooks from Justin Bieber.
However, when distance takes the stink off of Reid’s last two years, we will pine for these days.
We’ll remember the frigid January days spent in the 700 Level of the Vet and upper reaches of The Linc losing our voices on the road to playoff wins.
We’ll recall the January rite of passage that was the NFC Championship Game being held in South Philly annually and the weekend-long party/tailgate that went with it.
We’ll revel in the visions and euphoria of Brain Dawkins lifting the George Halas Trophy in the middle of the Linc the day after a snowstorm en route to the Super Bowl in Janaury 2005.
We’ll teach the next generation what it means to be an Eagles fan and speak of Reid, Brian Dawkins, Jeremiah Trotter, Donovan McNabb, Jon Runyan and Brian Westbrook the way our fathers and grandfathers schooled us on Chuck Bednarik, Tommy McDonald, Tom Brookshier, Dick Vermeil, Wilbert Montgomery, Ron Jaworski and Bill Bergey.
Under Reid’s direction, the Eagles evolved from laughingstock to the Liberty Bell version of the Gold Standard. The team transformed into the center of our second family, this “thing of ours.” Social calendars revolved around Eagles games and Christenings were scheduled during bye weeks.
Booking an annual road trip with our green brethren became en vogue. Eagle Nation, comprised of the “geeked up fans” Reid covertly admired and loved, seized control of cities during fall weekends under Reid.
In 2004, Eagles faithful traveled to Chicago to watch the Birds beat down the Bears in the new “million dollar abomination” the locals called the refurbished Solider Field.
In the bar of local icon Harry Caray’s restaurant, a Bears fan walked in on Saturday night, was greeted with a chant usually reserved for opposing fans in South Philly, turned around and walked out. Harold Carmichael heard the fans chanting his name from the street, walked in, took a look around, said “you all are crazy,” and left.
At the Braves-Cubs game earlier that day, impromptu E-A-G-L-E-S chants broke out across Sheffield Avenue between a group of fans in the Bleachers and a guy in an Eagles jersey among the few people on the rooftops. Eagle Nation took over Wrigley Field!
That provides but one instance of midnight green infiltrating cities around the NFL during Big Red’s tenure. There are plenty more examples from Washington and New York, to New Orleans and Pittsburgh, to the Super Bowl in Jacksonville.
Reid created this culture of winning and pride. Sure, others have had successful runs. Dick Vermeil took the team to the Super Bowl. Buddy Ryan got the team to the playoffs. Rich Kotite and Ray Rhodes won playoff games.
Nobody in the history of the franchise – and few in the annals of the NFL – have had a run that parallels Reid’s 14-year career in Philly. Reid built a tradition of pride and excellence.
As Andy Dufresne said in The Shawshank Redemption, “there are places in this world that aren’t made out of stone. That there’s something inside… that they can’t get to, that they can’t touch. That’s yours.”
Nothing will ever rob us of the memories Reid gifted us through the years. Nothing can snatch us out of the midnight green sea Reid pulled us into together.
Eagle Nation, we’re lucky we got to surf those waves with Andy.
Editor’s Note: This was originally written as a submission for possible inclusion in an area newspaper. However, it didn’t make the cut, hence we are running it now in a seemingly untimely manner.