For fans, it isn't easy being green

Reaction: The Eagles' backers have their hopes dashed. Again.

PATRIOT'S LEAGUE: New England wins its third Super Bowl in four years, holding off Eagles, 24-21

In Philadelphia

February 07, 2005|By Sandra McKee | Sandra McKee,SUN STAFF

PHILADELPHIA - Joan Lynch, whose husband, Joe, has been an avid Philadelphia Eagles fan for more than 70 years, spent yesterday cooking. The morning began with green pancakes. Then green brownies. And, for the evening's meal? Green-tipped New Zealand mussels with a green wine from Portugal.

"And," she said, "my husband didn't want anyone to join us because he wants to give his full attention to the game."

In this city of longing hearts, it was like that everywhere. In bars, hospitals, senior citizens homes, restaurants and private residences all over the greater Philadelphia area, people gave their full attention, their full support to the Eagles.

No U.S. city with the four major team sports - football, basketball, baseball and hockey - has gone longer without a championship. Everyone here hoped it would end last night.

But last night, the Eagles didn't win. After staying even through three quarters, the Patriots edged ahead, expanded their lead and then held on for a 24-21 victory.

It is the Patriots' third Super Bowl victory in four years and puts them in the company of dynasties such as the Green Bay Packers of the 1960s, the Pittsburgh Steelers of the 1970s, the San Francisco 49ers of the 1980s and the Dallas Cowboys of the 1990s.

But in Philly, there was no joy.

"If we'd won, I'd be crying, and now that we've lost, I'm gonna cry," said Kevin Rochford, 19 a University of Pennsylvania English major who had been partying all day at a friend's apartment.

Crowds all over the city were breaking up and heading for home. Along Frankford Avenue, thousands of fans made police momentarily nervous but did little more than chant "E-A-G-L-E-S!" while milling on the sidewalks.

"We lost again - and again and again," said Dave Anthony, a Villanova University law student whose enthusiasm had driven him to wear his Eagles jersey to church yesterday morning before coming to Cavanaugh's Restaurant on 39th Street in the early afternoon. "We always lose in the big game. It's depressing being out here now."

It was left to one of the rare children in the midst of adults at Chickie and Pete's on Packer Street to give the night perspective.

"Well, we're just going to have to hope for better next year," said Brandon Granberg, 12. "But win or lose, they had a great season."

It was a season that brought hope to a city that hasn't celebrated a national title since Moses Malone's 76ers won the 1983 NBA championship 22 years ago. It hasn't felt the thrill the Boston Red Sox fans enjoyed last fall, since the Phillies won the 1980 World Series. The Flyers haven't won the Stanley Cup since 1975.

The Eagles, who had been to only one previous Super Bowl, losing to the Oakland Raiders in January 1981, hadn't won a league championship since 1960. That was before the NFL and the AFL merged. So long ago, few of the city's oldest residents even remembered it.

Alfred Arizzio, 87, who lives at The Fountains at Logan Square and was enjoying a party at the senior facility, watching the game on a huge screen, couldn't recall any great celebration in 1960.

"But this one would have meant so much for the city," he said. "It's wonderful the way the citizens have reacted to this team."

All over Philadelphia yesterday, fans enjoyed the prospect of what might be.

"I know we're going to win," said Kelly Auer, 42, an avid Eagles fan since her dad took her to her first Eagles game as a 7-year-old. "If we win - when we win - this will be the happiest day in Philadelphia sports history."

"If the Eagles win, it will be a life-changing experience," said George Heckert, 24, from Wilmington, Del., who had come to Cavanaugh's with three of his cousins and three other friends. "If we win, we'll no longer be the City of Losing."

What if the Eagles don't win? Heckert's cousin Jeff, 30, answered.

"Then," said the lifelong Eagles fan who now lives in Montgomery County, "it will be just another day."

Some fans didn't expect to win. Though Lynch, 75, was still wearing his Eagles cap at the end of the day, he had mapped out his response early in the day.

"It would be such a delight if they won," Lynch said. "But I had decided while I was out running this morning that I better start organizing my mental health in case they didn't win. I resigned myself, so that as long as they played a presentable game, that they had played with such great spirit all season - even [Terrell] Owens has turned into a first-class guy - that win or lose, we'll still remember this team fondly for a long time."

Yesterday was mostly a spontaneous day. Football games broke out in the streets. People saw other people dressed in green or waving a team flag, smiled and started conversations.

"It's been so long," said Anthony, who wound up so sad. "There has been so much losing - the Sixers, the Flyers, the Eagles. My dad was 12 when the Eagles won their only championship in 1960. He passed on four years ago. I know my dad's here with me, and it would mean so much if they could win today."

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