[[ SPECIAL–EXTRA LONG–PLAYOFF EDITION ]]
GAME TIME 3:30
GAME TEMP 17 (wind chill 0 to –5)
This was awesome.
We can’t describe how nervous we were. Excited? Definitely. But let’s not confuse excitement with nervousness. Where excitement is a type of anxiety you feel when something good is about to happen, nervousness is the type of anxiety you feel right before you step into an unknown. Every Sunday for any fan of an NFL team has a lot of excitement and nervousness, we felt both a hundredfold.
If you are reading this article, you know about the previous three years’ NFC Championship Games. We’re sure many of you look back on those games with great fondness. Well, we don’t. Not to go into great detail, but the fact that they got there versus the Rams and almost won was actually a great surprise for we Eagles fans. The next two years were miserable.
We knew we should have won the game against Tampa. After all, it was the last game at the Vet. Also, Tampa had never won a post season game in cold weather. The Eagles had earned home-field advantage, they had to win. We chose to overlook the following:
McNabb was hurt
Levon Kirkland was the MLB
A very injured Blaine Bishop was a starting safety
John Gruden is a pretty good coach
Yeah, we also couldn’t know that Andy Reid would be more conservative than a bunch of Rush Limbaugh fans at a gun show. The Eagles lost, they lost badly. We were crushed.
The next year, in the Linc, we knew we would win. After all, it was the first NFC Championship game at the Linc. After what happened last year, we deserved a win. Who was Carolina anyway? The Eagles had earned home field advantage, they had to win. We chose to overlook the following:
McNabb was hurt
Brian Westbrook was hurt
Carlos Emmons was hurt
Mark Simoneou was the MLB
John Fox is a pretty good coach
We also couldn’t know that Andy Reid would be more conservative than Karl Rove’s…you get the point. He didn’t take any chances. We lost again, and were crushed again. That loss hurt, very bad.
So we approached this week with some mutant butterflies in our stomach. All week the stories in Philadelphia revolved around the Eagles. Well, 60% revolved around the Eagles, the other 40% revolved around a winter storm that was supposed to hit the weekend of the game. As we got closer to the weekend, the stories kind of melded. The weather people talked about how the storm was going to affect people going to the game. The sports anchors talked about how the storm either would or wouldn’t affect the game. Unfortunately, the weather forecasters finally got one right. The Philadelphia area got between 12-16” of snow the day before the game. The only thing they didn’t get right was the timing. Thankfully the storm moved from a Sunday storm, to a Saturday storm. You get the point though, all the city talked about was the Eagles, the heartaches they have delivered, and snow.
Sunday finally arrived with your faithful correspondents taking two different tacks for tailgating time. Dolfi would brave the roads and weather and drive to the Linc to tailgate with another couple of guys we go to the games with. While Walls wussed out, stayed at home, had other people over and took the train into the game. In the end, both paid dearly for the decision they made.
Tom’s girlfriend was kind enough to cook breakfast for him and his guests, and they stayed warm, drank screwdrivers and beer and watched pre-game shows all morning. It was very nice. There was one troubling thing about this. We watched ‘Outside the Lines’ that morning, and learned that someone we taunt is most likely a priest. You faithful readers (The Apostles…all 12 of you) may remember us complaining about someone named ‘Short Bus’ who sits in the section over from us, who we are constantly making fun of…Well, he’s a priest. We’re pretty sure. Yikes, we knew we were going to Hell, but they may add a level for us.
The train crowd caught a 12:45 train that got us to the stadium just in time for kick-off. It would have been nice to get there earlier, but we were pretty comfortable when we did get there.
Dolfi’s day started out quite a bit differently from Tom’s which he spent basking in the warming glow of his TV’s warming glowing warmth. (shameless Simpson’s reference) Dolfi rolled out from underneath his covers at 7am on game day to pack up the car with tailgating supplies. Portable TV, portable power source, shrimp cocktail, bacon-wrapped steaks, breaded chicken patties, Velveeta, beer, spices, grill, potato(e) rolls, beef jerky, propane, paper towels, and about 114 various pieces of clothing in which he planned to wrap himself in a vain attempt to stave of the wind and cold of the frozen tundra of south Philly.
Dolfi arrived at the Phillies lot at a crisp 9:30am in order to meet the other 2 idiots…err…friends waiting to tailgate together. The cars were parked, the grill set up, and the first beers drank. Well, not exactly drank as much as they were slurped – since the bitter cold had actually turned the beer into beer-slushies. Then the eating commenced.
Oh sure, you might not think 3 guys standing in the cold couldn’t possibly eat an entire shrimp cocktail ring, some bacon-wrapped steaks, about ¾ of a pound each of Old-Bay shrimp, 4 hot sausage patties, and innumerable Doritos and Gibble’s chips. Oh, and a bunch more of those delightful beer-slushies.
After an entire morning and afternoon of tailgating, no matter at home like Walls, or in the parking lot like Dolfi, the time had come for the Battle of the Birds – and everyone rushed headlong into the mobs surrounding the Linc.
The game wasn’t nearly the battle so many around the country had predicted, it was another one of those games where you really didn’t sweat very much. Oh sure, there was the odd moment of trepidation, like when the Falcons scored their lone TD to make it 14-10, but they were few and far between.
The atmosphere was everything you could have wanted in Philly, though. The wind chill below zero, 3 straight NFC Championship losses, the media trying to fill everyone’s heads with spooky stories of how Michael Vick could win the game all by himself – they all didn’t matter. The entire stadium stood for the entire game, in the freezing cold and yelled their lungs out on every play. For many of the fans, it was a catharsis of the frustration they had been carrying around with them since the Super Bowl in 1980.
We could go on and on about the game – but you all saw it. Vick couldn’t get outside of the containment. The Falcons receivers couldn’t get open. The Eagles D-line put pressure on Vick and only blitzed about 4 times the entire game – still managing 4 sacks with just D-line pressure. The Falcons rushing attack managed just 99 yards on 26 carries. (We told you so.) The Falcons Special Teams play well on returns, but their punter is abysmal with punts of 8, 17, and 18 yards.
The Eagles offense was decent even without the presence of T.O. – Westbrook looked great, and the WRs stepped in up a little. (Greg Lewis looks more and more like the best option of a deep threat if T.O. doesn’t play in the Super Bowl.) The O-line was great against Atlanta’s D-line, who were heard fearsome tales about, and surrendered only 2 sacks during the content. And Akers, as always, was simply… money.
But the day belonged to the Eagles Defense. D-Coordinator Jim Johnson had a perfect plan for keeping Vick at bay, and his players executed it perfectly. They simply would not allow him to get outside the containment, thus limiting one of Atlanta’s biggest weapons. Why were they able to do that? Well, it was easy when you have one of the NFL’s most talented secondaries lining up against the Falcons WR corps. They simply could not get open fast enough for Vick to find them before the Eagles D-line closed in and forced a throw. The D-line was spectacular, generating sacks and pressure without any assistance of a blitz. Truly magnificaent outing by the boys in green.
We stayed ‘til the end. The bitter end, when the game was so over that the Eagles were kneeling on the ball. So over that the teams flooded the field and congratulated each other on fine seasons. But everyone in the stadium stayed put. We all knew we hadn’t come there just to see a game, but rather be part of an experience. And that experience wasn’t over yet.
We watched as the NFC Championship trophy was award to Jeffrey Lurie, owner of the Eagles. It was passed to Coach Andy Reed. And finally we saw what we had waited for since 1980 – Donovan McNabb to hoist the trophy above his head amidst the cheers of the Philly faithful. We watched other do the same – Dawkins, Kearse – they all took a turn. We could try to describe to you exactly how we felt at that moment, but words wouldn’t do it justice.
The game won, the prize in hand, we all piled out the stadium, some laughing, some crying, some cheering – but the entire mass of Philadelphia Eagles fans reads to return to the big game – and this time were sure it won’t slip away from us.
The train ride back (for the Walls contingent) was kind of a nightmare. It was really crowded and the second train we had to take home broke down before we ever got onto it. So, we ended up going far out of our way, stopped in a bar, and caught a taxi the rest of the way home…but it was worth it. Every cold, painful, inconvenient second was worth it. We got to see the Eagles win the NFC Championship game – with 68,000 of our best friends.
SPECIAL REPORT – What Actually Happens When You Win the Ticket Lottery and Get a Chance to Buy Super Bowl Tickets
(guest author: Joe Petrizzi with some editing by The Last Row)
What actually happens when you win the ticket lottery, and are given the opportunity to buy Super Bowl tickets? Well, first off, you plunk down $520 a ticket and then the REAL fun begins. This is a tale of one man’s struggle against the odds, and the Eagles ticket office.
The Eagles don’t send you your tickets in the mail – oh no – that might be too convenient and far too easy. And if they had done so, I wouldn’t be able to tell you about my adventures in the Land of the Linc.
First I receive a registered letter telling me that we have won the rights to purchase 2 tickets to the Super Bowl – no more, no less. But in order to get them, I have to journey to South Philly on a Thursday at noon, armed with my proof of payment, a picture ID, and my registered letter telling me I was a lottery winner. So I set off to pick up the tickets, earning both the distain of my boss from having to take ½ a vacation day with no notice and the distain of my wife, who wants to know why I can’t just get the tickets mailed to me. (Silly woman, will she never understand the intricacies of Super Bowl ticket purchases?)
I arrive at the link and get in line for the ticket office. I slowly approach the counter, my hands slightly trembling in anticipation.
The flunkie behind the ticket counter photocopied my ID and I then had to sign a waiver saying these are the only printed copies of these tickets and can’t be replaced. Then he hands me a sealed envelope, which I had to open myself to verify that the tickets matched the seat information we were given. It all felt very official – somebody obviously trained these guys on “the proper way to hand over Super Bowl tickets”.
The tickets are about 2.5 regular tickets (total area) – they are about 2X as wide and a little taller. Nicest tickets I’ve ever seen – hologram on the front and maybe the back, glossy finish, not something you want to carry around in your pocket. In fact, I had trouble taking pictures of them because they reflect so much light.
From a collectible standpoint, I had to sign a waiver saying they can’t be replaced if lost or stolen – these are the only tickets ever printed with that particular seat combination you guys have, so that’s unique. Also, the Eagles reminded us scalping is illegal and we can lose our season tickets if we sell the tickets for more than face value.
I put the tickets in my breast pocket and went to the gift shop because, frankly (as the Betbot would say), I looked like a real mark holding my Super Bowl ticket paperwork and a pair of gloves.
I called Dolfi to see if he or Tom wanted an authentic NFC championship hat (the sticker on the hat says “Official locker room gear” – ewwww) for $30 and he said he’d rather pick up a knock-off on the streets of Jacksonville. (Dolf’s a huge Eagles fan, but he’s also as tight with his money as a Medium sweater is on Louie Anderson.) Dolfi did suggest grabbing a couple the ticket protectors, though – even the $8 price tag on those didn’t scare him.
The protectors don’t have any Eagles logos on them, but they do have the Super Bowl logo and the date/location. In addition they have a pin that says something like “I was there” which is probably a collectible – nice looking pin if you’re into that stuff. It’s attached to a lanyard so you can wear it around your neck, which is good because I hear that you can’t even get into the stadium parking lot without a ticket – so all of the pre-game events may require a ticket as well and like I said, this isn’t a ticket you keep in your pocket.
Just to be safe, I checked my pocket to make sure the tickets didn’t fall out. I also bought an NFC championship shot glass to weigh the bag down a bit and give the impression that I was just there to pick up some cool Eagles gear (at the overpriced gift shop at 4:00 on a Thursday).
Checked my pocket again to make sure the heavy wind in the gift shop didn’t blow the tickets away. I leave the gift shop and the 50 yard walk to the Linc gate gives me enough time to make sure I look tough.
Ok – betting time: How far did I get outside the Linc gate before I was approached by a scalper who wanted to buy our tickets? If you guessed, “about two feet”, you win (not the tickets you, goons, you just win my praise – sheesh).
You’d think the Eagles would understand the value of these tickets (since I signed a waiver and all). Plus they know scalping is illegal and made a point of telling me so. I understand the guys on Pattison Avenue with “need tickets” signs – the Eagles don’t run the city. But would it kill the Eagles to throw a security guard in their own parking lot?!
So now I’m cursing myself that I didn’t park right up front – if it was dark out I would have had to prep a key-punch. (You know, when you tuck a few of your keys between your fingers and make a fist, so that if you hit someone they get a face full of fist and keys all at once – giving you time to run like Ben Johnson on a double-dose of horse steroids. Seriously I haven’t looked over my shoulder this much since I won $2500 at the track and the cashier had to shout “Martha, this kid needs to fill out ANOTHER tax form!” while handing me a wad of $100 bills.
But I made it. I think my gift shop bag threw everyone off. (Either that or my cologne.) When I woke up this morning, I checked the envelope one last time to make sure the tickets were still there.
Mission accomplished. Now the only thing standing between Dolfi, Tom, and an Eagles Super Bowl is any number of catastrophic events that would destroy these tickets.
Final Thoughts from the Last Row
- When people find out you have Super Bowl tickets, you get very popular. We haven’t had people ask us for tickets (they know they have no shot at them), but people have asked us what our plans are. Where are we staying? When are we getting down? Everyone around here is very pumped up about the Eagles and they want to share their enthusiasm.
A lot of media is covering our fair city. They are trying to do stories about the psyche of the Eagles fan. Well, we have tried in previous columns to do the same. We won’t go through it again. Our fingers still hurt from the bitter cold from the Championship Game. But, here is our take on…us, from way back in July. Hope you enjoy, and maybe, you’ll understand us just a little better. If not, go rot – who needs you?
We wrote in this first column about how the Eagles needed to kill Mr. Brownstone, the 86 year old SOB who has been haunting Philadelphia since 1983. (We were referring to the concept of Sporting Years…86 seasons since we have won a major sports championship). Well, we haven’t forgotten about you, Old Man!!
Die Mr. Brownstone!! DIE!!!
- You think our fair city isn’t pumped up for this event? Today we heard a commercial on a local Rock station. They will be doing a special series of shows starting Friday afternoon from Dave and Busters. They also detailed a special Eagle shot they will have during Happy Hour Friday.
The Dave and Busters they will be broadcasting from, along with the drink special are in Jacksonville. The Dave and Busters in Jacksonville is advertising a drink special in Philadelphia. Wow.
The Last Row’s Top Six List: Top Six Seven Wonders of the Ancient World
6) The Great Pyramid of Giza – The first…this is a true old school Wonder. Khufu knew what he was doing when he built the largest tomb of all time. It definitely got him remembered, the closest any of us can hope to get to immortality this side of the Egyptian Underworld.
5) The Statue of Zeus at Olympia – We’re more fans of Norse mythology, but you gotta give Zeus his props. This Wonder does so in a grandiose fashion. Good job, Greeks! Pheidias, the sculptor really outdid himself with the Z-Man.
4) The Temple of Artemis at Ephesus – 127 sixty foot Ionic columns in a temple to the Goddess of Hunting and Fertility? Sign us up! This temple/marketplace in modern day Turkey truly was a Wonder…of convenience!
3) The Lighthouse of Alexandria – The most useful of all the Wonders. This lighthouse made the seas safer for sailors, and was at one time the tallest building on Earth. The Lighthouse’s illumination could be sees for up to 35 miles off the Great Harbor in Alexandria. This would have been our number five Wonder, but the fact that it was completed under the rule of Mr. Ptolemy Philadelphus bumped it up a couple of spots. Nice name, my man, nice name!
2) The Hanging Gardens of Babylon – Nebuchadnezzar II built this bad boy, for his wife who didn’t like the surroundings of the seat of his government in what is now modern day Iraq. So he built her the legendary Hanging Gardens of Babylon. A bit of paradise about 35 miles south of Baghdad. Trees, fruit, exotic animals and waterfalls…no, it’s not a Siegfried and Roy show, it’s the second best Wonder on our list.
1) The Colossus of Rhodes – Any Wonder that has an X-Man named after it, is number one in our book! Above and Beyond this, the movie in Civilizations II for this Wonder was the best movie in that game (well, all those movies were good, but the Colossus is a Last Row favorite). Look, this statue was 100 feet tall and stood at the mouth of the harbor in the city of Rhodes, which is on an island near Greece. This statue was erected to celebrate the unification of three city-states where Rhodes was the capital. This huge statue inspired the Statue of Liberty, which in turn inspired a play in football…How can the Colossus of Rhodes not be our number one wonder?
P.S. – The Mausoleum at Halicarnassus shouldn’t even be called a Wonder. It stinks!! Please…If we had a Top Seven List instead of a Top Six list, it still wouldn’t make the list. That fine Cleopatra would have been our Seventh Wonder. To paraphrase the late, great Martin Lawrence, “Cleopatra, we here in the Last Row are well aware that milk does a body good, but damn girl, how much milk you been drinkin’ ?!?!”