I was fortunate enough to be at Sunday's game in Philadelphia, Redskins-Eagles games being something of a hobby for me for more than a decade. And just when I thought I had seen everything there, those fans surprised me.
But before we get into the experience of being in Philadelphia draped in burgundy, let us review some key football takeaways from this game before the jump and you can decide whether to join me after, for it is all reflection on more than a decade of annual travel to the City of Brotherly Love for the rivalry game.
Sunday's game was all about the Redskins playing a physical game against the Eagles, in the secondary, Washington started the game in a two deep zone, a coverage set not frequently played this season, and kept the Eagles receiving threats well in check all night, if you trolled any Eagles blog or media outlet leading up to the game, the scouting of the Redskins for this game was simple: THEY ARE SOFT IN TEH MIDDLE and that turned out to be true, look at LeShon McCoys' numbers for the day.
Michael Vick or no Michael Vick the Redskins gameplan was to challenge the receivers at the line, take away the sideline and deep routes and make Philadelphia earn their yards on possession plays. Looking at the numbers it worked, DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin combined to grab four receptions totaling 34 yards. Michael Vick was sandwiched on a long run by DeAngelo Hall and Kareem Moore, and that next to last play when a visibly exhausted DeSean Jackson pulled up instead of stretching out for the pass and getting clobbered by LaRon Landry happened right in front of me.
Toss in solid performances by Clinton Portis, Ryan Torain and the offensive line in run block and you have a game that made cheer my ass off for the Redskins -- on the inside.
Back in 1999 when I was in my twenties, barely married and kids still three years in the future, a college friend invited me to join him at the Redskins at Eagles game at the Vet in Philadelphia in November, a certain rookie quarterback named Donovan McNabb was eight for twenty passing for sixty (!) yards and no TDs or INTs, tailback Duce Staley carried the load for the Eagles that day as the Redskins lost 35-28.
So much fun we had that day that I scraped and scammed two tickets to the Eagles at Redskins game two weeks later, a thrilling match featuring a late game touchdown pass from Donovan McNabb to Luther Broughton to tie the game with less than two minutes in regulation, then a Brett Conway field goal in overtime to seal the victory 20-17 for the Redskins.
And thus The Streak was born.
Since that season more than a decade ago, that college friend, who would later become known as lifetime Eagles fan, season ticket holder and Curly R reader/lurker Wilbert Montgomery, and I have been to 22 of a possible 23 Eagles-Redskins games played at any location, a streak covering seven Redskins head coaches, two Eagles stadiums, and until this week, one undisputed Eagles starting quarterback. Sunday was my twentieth rivalry game in a row (my only miss in this series is 2000 at Eagles, a Redskins victory) and my eleventh trip to Philadelphia. So I know a little about that crowd.
A particularly unfortunate experience at a Capitals at Flyers game with Wilbert Montgomery in 1992 during Eric Lindros' rookie season informed my standards of conduct when rooting for an opposing team at a Philadelphia home game and I took this to heart as I became a fixture in Wilbert Montgomery's seats for Redskins games.
The games at the Vet from 1999 to 2002 were the scariest, that entire crowd bordered on psychotic, I never wore more than a Redskins ballcap and to his credit, Wilbert Montgomery never sold me out to the crowd or to prank inducing team mascots -- unless it was expedient for him to do so, once they installed Diamond Vision big screens in the Vet finding and humiliating opposing teams' fans for the crowd's pleasure became de rigeur.
Since Lincoln Financial Field, aka the Linc opened in 2003, I have observed that the crowd has mellowed, partly due to economics, there is a personal seat license at the Linc and tickets are much more expensive, partly because the team and the league have taken fan hooliganism more seriously and partly because it is just such a damn nice stadium that it is harder to get pissed off there. But not impossible.
Finally in 2006, my seventh Redskins trip to Philadelphia, I got my courage up and wore my colors for the first time, my burgundy number 89 Santana Moss jersey... and was rewarded with a drunken Eagles fan outside the stadium cuffing me in the back of the head and stealing my Redskins ballcap and running off with it. In the last four seasons I have worn my colors to the game I have been physically accosted, spat on, cursed out hundreds of times, pushed and tripped in concourse crowds, told point blank to go the fuck home and even once had a Philadelphia police officer warn me to be careful because sometimes Redskins fans, you know, have accidents.
I learned to carry beers from the concession to the seats with arms outstretched and not tucked in for maneuverability because an Eagles fan will see you coming and give you an elbow and then you are wearing your beer. I have felt the vague sense of discomfort as frustrated Eagles fans start loudly pointing out the Redskins fans in the stands... just in case for later. You learn quickly to keep your head down and ignore because to respond, even with a simple football quip, is to challenge and I have seen it get REAL ugly in that stadium.
So what is the point of this walk down memory lane? Because I brought kids to Sunday's game. And it was a genuinely good experience.
Wilbert Montgomery had two extra tickets in his family set and graciously extended invitations to my two eight year old boys, budding Redskins fans who are well aware of The Streak, aware that their dad and godfather have been leaving certain Sundays for games since before they were born. I asked if they wanted to come to the game, their reaction is something I will always remember and I think they will as well. They totally knew what it meant to be elevated to the team.
Gameday came, we all had our jerseys packed, Wilbert Montgomery and I briefed them in terms they could understand about conduct and how to avoid conflict, we loaded out of the minivan (my social son chose not to wear his Brian Orakpo so he would quote fit in unquote while my hard head son said, well yeah dad I'm a Redskins fan of course I'm going to wear my Clinton Portis), within sight of the stadium the ASS... HOLE... ASS... HOLE chant started... then stopped immediately.
Wilbert Montgomery heard someone else in the crowd say, Hey, dude has kids, take it down. And they did. The whole day was this way.
On the concourse as we looked onto the field for warmups, a group of fans turned to me, with one of the boys on my shoulders, one started to give me shit and the others shushed him immediately and wished me a good day. One of those guys backed into me and spilled an entire beer on my boot, a transgression that normally would leave me with a wet shoe and an earful about standing in his space, the guy actually followed me, apologized, offered to buy me one and even took a second to tell my son to have fun.
In the first quarter an usher saw me and the boys coming back to seats with food and drink and pulled me aside and with a dead serious tone said, Hey, I see you have kids, anyone gives you any shit at all you tell me and I will take care of it. I said yeah thanks and he grabbed my shoulder and said, No I mean it, you have kids, you tell me if there is a problem.
Second quarter we take a bathroom break, drunken Eagles fan in a Michael Vick jersey spies me at the stall and starts to talk shit, We got a dickhead in a red McNabb jersey, etc. etc. His buddy elbows him and says in a voice loud enough for everyone in the head to hear, Dude has his kids in here... and the first dude apologized.
Third quarter, the boys insisted on an adventure up to the top of the stadium, while nothing like the 700 level at the Vet, there are ONLY Eagles fans in the top level, I got plenty of dirty stares, but with the kids no one said a word to me in my Donovan McNabb jersey. On the way down an obviously drunken Eagles fan courteously stopped the one that got too far ahead and asked if he knew where his father was.
Then on the way out of the stadium to the car, not a peep from the home crowd. The boys were asleep in five minutes for the ride home and are already telling the tall tales of their first Redskins-Eagles game.
They will not join us for every game, in fact it may be a while before they are with us again for a rivalry game, for all my misadventures in Philadelphia and all the indignities I have suffered at the hands of Eagles fans, when I took the biggest risk to date by bringing my kids, they showed me that deep down football is still entertainment.
Ben Folsom is ready for a 1:00 pm game and is editor of The Curly R, a blog covering the Redskins and the NFL since 2006. The Folsom Point appears Tuesdays on Hogs Haven.