With the game on the line, beloved quarterback Nick Foles dropped back, his eyes locked onto wide receiver Alshon Jeffery, and released the ball. In what seemed like a moment from "The Matrix", the pigskin passed through the fingertips of Jeffery and ended up in the hands of the Saints defense. The score was Saints 20, Eagles 14, and the Saints would run off the remainder of the clock, sealing the fate and the season of the Eagles. Many may view this moment as a dark time for Eagles players and fans alike--however, the effect that this gritty, hard-nosed squad has had on the city is nothing less than impeccable.
Historically, Philadelphia sports were not considered a force to be reckoned with. The Sixers, largely considered a joke of a franchise, haven't won a championship since 1983. Mind you, this roster featured Hall of Famers Julius Erving, Moses Malone, and Maurice Cheeks. Before the current "Trust the Process" Era, they were barely relevant since the Allen Iverson days and subsequent trip to the Finals in 2001. The Phillies, aside from their powerhouse years of 2007-2011, have only captured 2 World Series rings in their 136-year existence. Since their World Series loss in 1983, they've reached the playoffs a whopping 6 times. The Flyers won 2 Stanley Cups total, dating back to 1974 and 1975. Since the 2010-11 season, they have missed playoffs 3 times and only gotten as far as the Conference Semifinals in other years, getting battered each time. While each team has slightly improved over recent years, most notably the Sixers and emerging Phillies, fans didn't have much to look forward to.
A defining moment in the history of Philadelphia was when the Eagles defeated the Patriots, 41-33, to win Super Bowl LII. Eagles fans will never forget the day, February 4th, 2018. The birds were considered a massive underdog to the dominant New England Patriots and all-time great Tom Brady. Eagles sensation Carson Wentz was injured before the playoffs began, catapulting backup Nick Foles into the driver's seat. All momentum built during the season was gone, and the Birds now had a snowball's chance in hell at advancing to the big stage. Miraculously, Foles pioneered the team to a high-flying, shootout victory in Minneapolis. The key moment of the game was a gutsy play call by coach Doug Pederson, named the "Philly Special" or "Philly Philly". The ball was snapped to running back Corey Clement, pitched to tight end Trey Burton, and thrown to Foles for a tricky touchdown. It's the first and only Super Bowl title that the Birds delivered to the City of Brotherly Love.
As someone who witnessed the historic march from Broad and Pattison Street to the Art Museum, it was a once-in-a-lifetime experience. For fans that hold such a distasteful reputation nationwide, I have never seen so many people, young to old, small to large, in such a state of pure bliss. Citizens that would normally walk on the opposite side of the street to avoid each other--were embracing and hugging each other. Diehard fans cracked open bottles and were on Broad Street at six o'clock in the morning. Tears were gushing out of the eyes of the Philly faithful. Masses of students skipped classes and adults did the same for work. Philadelphia schools were shut down for the celebration. The Eagles unified those in a manner that would forever be impossible to replicate.
It is now commonplace in Philly and surrounding areas to say "Go Birds", which can translate to just about anything. "Thank you", "you're welcome", "be safe", "I love you". The Eagles, after years of mediocrity and low expectations, have invigorated their fans again. There is a noticeable difference in the air, and if you live in Philly or surrounding counties, you can feel it. The future of Philly sports teams is beaming with promise. The Phillies are quickly rebuilding their roster and looking to add major offseason acquisitions in sluggers Bryce Harper and Manny Machado. The Sixers have a "Big 3" and a bright, young core in Joel Embiid, Ben Simmons, and Jimmy Butler. The Flyers, no doubt about it, will follow suit. The Eagles, even after the devastating loss, are in prime position for years to come.
Most importantly, don't forget how we got here. A heartfelt thank you to the Philadelphia Eagles for sparking life back into its fans and believers, and making Philadelphia truly the City of Brotherly Love again.