by Kevin Franklin
It seems with all the talk about Donovan McNabb’s impending trade out of Philadelphia comes with it his lack of appreciation in this town. While it might be a foregone conclusion the franchise’s best quarterback of all time is on the slow boat to another organization, what is not such a certainty is how people in this town feel about him, from the media’s perspective.
As any sports fan knows, Philadelphia is a passionate town. We love you today and hate you tomorrow. However, the day after tomorrow comes equipped with some really cool rose-colored glasses as we opine about a Randall Cunningham scramble or million yard pass. We cite with savant-like powers Reggie White’s 21 sacks in 12 games yet gloss over how we felt he held us hostage before being carried by seraphims to Green Bay. We jealously hold on to Ron Jaworski as “one of our own” when he’s on national television, yet conveniently forget how lustily we booed him, especially in his later years.
Now let’s get one thing out of the way. For some idiotic reason, the media, both local and national, have this fetish with hanging the pulse of the Philadelphia fan on the most extreme elements of our fan base. Look, we have some yahoos among us, that I won’t deny. They are the same loud-mouthed, bellicose miscreants who call up the sports radio stations with something along the lines of:
Host: “And we have Tom from the Northeast. Go ahead, Tom.”
Caller: “Yeah, I just wanna call up and say McNabb sucks!”
Host: “Ok. Anything else?”
Caller: “Nah, I just wanted to say he sucks.”
Host: “Thanks for the call.”
Think about this for a moment. How often do you call over to the server to compliment the food versus how often you complain about it? How often do you criticize a co-worker behind their back instead of saying something nice? Do you honestly think people call into the sports radio programs to say something supportive? Hell no. Most of the time – an overwhelming most of the time, mind you – it’s to bitch and complain and offer uneducated ideas and philosophies that would be easily torn to shreds by a class of Kindergartners. With some exceptions, people who call into these shows are rock bottom idiots. But, they provide the fuel for these stations and are goaded on by the hosts, usually stirring them into such a frenzy that they will stay on hold for an hour to say things like our good friend Tom from the Northeast above.
In this town, there are people who do not like Donovan McNabb. No matter what you say, no matter what he does, they will never like him. If the Eagles won every NFC Championship game the Eagles played in his era and won the Super Bowl four of the five times, they would vilify him for the one “he” lost. There is no getting through to these people. You may as well argue religion with the Pope. You have to remove these people from the equation. They are not rational on this subject and chances are they will never be rational on ANY subject. Likewise the Donovan McNabb apologists. These folks will go down with the ship when it comes to #5. They will point to the fact he is the greatest quarterback in Eagles history – and they’d be right on that count – but yesterday’s triumphs do not equate with tomorrow’s victories. They will point to Kevin Kolb being a great “unknown” and the disrespect afforded McNabb for all of his accomplishments in midnight green. However, if you ask who is disrespecting him, the usual suspects are the same yahoos at the beginning of this paragraph. What’s the point? Blind hatred is one thing, but blind loyalty is just as dubious.
We’ve all seen the updates, read the stories, blogs and “Tweets.” We’ve followed on message boards, argued with relatives and heard the arguments over the radio. Chances are, you already have your opinions, but if you are not one of the yo-yos mentioned in the paragraph above, indulge me for what I think about this whole thing.
First of all, I admire Donovan McNabb. He has been a tremendous quarterback whose statistical accomplishments cannot be denied, both individually and team-wise. When “he” was booed on draft day, it wasn’t he himself being booed. It was the fact the Eagles did not choose Ricky Williams. Most everyone wanted Williams and ANYONE else who was selected was going to suffer the misguided cascade of anger and frustration. That is something the national sports media was too stupid to understand. But once he was on the field, we – all of us, including the Ricky Williams Booster Club – wanted him to do well. Why? Because we love our Eagles and we want them to win – and McNabb performed remarkably well. There are plenty of moments in his career we Eagles fans will cherish. On the flip side, there are plenty of instances where he came up short in crucial times that did not show up on the stat sheet except under “incompletions.” He may have gone 22 for 30 for 300 yards and two touchdowns, but that late fourth quarter series of incompletions where the ball was skipped off the turf at a receiver’s feet or thrown too high were the difference between winning the game or another frustrating loss. I know it takes more than one player to win a game. If the line doesn’t hold or the defense gets shredded or the kickers get the yips or a back fumbles or a receiver gets the dropsies, all of these things contribute to a loss. However, if all of that is behind you and you are in a position to tie or win the game and you are the one throwing worm-burners, the blame will rest squarely on your shoulders. That’s life in the NFL, regardless of who is under center.
If you ask a rational Eagles fan, and yes there are many of us out there, if the Eagles have what it takes to win the Super Bowl this year, chances are you’ll get a “probably not” response. There is a prevailing attitude that we have ridden this horse about as far as it is going to go. As Marsellus Wallace from Pulp Fiction said, “You came close, but you never made it, and if you were gonna make it, you woulda made it before now.” I don’t think there are many rational fans out there who believe Kevin Kolb gives the Eagles a better chance of winning this year than McNabb, but they may feel Kolb gives them a better chance of winning next year, and the only way he is going to be able to do that is to be the starter in 2010. It is a young team. Gone are Dawkins and Westbrook and Tra Thomas and Runyan. In are McCoy, Maclin, Celek, Bradley and DeSean Jackson. Many fans clamored for either Reid or McNabb to hit the highway, but since Big Red signed his extension, all eyes descended upon the quarterback.
I get McNabb, even his goofy air guitar dance last year. He was trying to keep it light, to have some fun, to slough off all the negative talk about him and the team. It didn’t work. If the Eagles had won, would there have been as much of an uproar about it? We cannot remake his image into what we think he should be. I have seen too many men try to wrap a woman around the word “girlfriend” (and vice-versa) instead of wrapping that title around the individual. it’s a recipe for failure when it comes to expectations.
It seems only a matter of time before Donovan McNabb is moved to another team. I will be sad when that happens, but I will also be excited by what this upcoming season holds. Don’t expect miracles or a playoff spot. We were patient with McNabb and although we never hosted a parade for this team, he did provide us with a decade’s worth of memorable football that we will remember far into our old ages. Kevin Kolb deserves the same patience this coming year.
And when Donovan McNabb does board that slow boat out of Philadelphia, he’ll leave in his wake not only the thoughts of what he never accomplished, but also the memories of what he did.
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