We get it.
The asker has always known the answer. You see, this question has never been a sincere one. It had always been asked by non-Eagles fans who know full-well that the Eagles, until early 2018, had won zero Lombardi Trophies. The question was asked only to end an argument, to bring about embarrassment, or to assert superiority. Regardless of how good a season the Eagles were having, or how badly the other team was doing, the Eagles had simply never won a championship in the Superbowl Era, making them inferior regardless of how they were doing at the time.
A full season and one preseason removed from the Eagles’ first Superbowl victory, I can say this in all sincerity: I never needed that trophy they kept asking about.
Hear me out on this, Eagles fans.
I’m in my forties. In my early memories of being a Birds fan, I am standing outside a lockerroom in West Chester, clutching a pen and a notebook, waiting for my heroes to emerge to sign autographs and pose for pictures after a hot August practice. My brothers and I got a few gems that day including an autograph from Andre Waters and a picture of my oldest brother posing with Mike Quick, which I still have.
A few years after that, as a teenager, I’m joyously watching as Byron Evans, my favorite member of the Gang Green Defense, does a touchdown dance as the 6-4 Eagles dismantle the 10-0 Giants. Final score: 31-13. That day remains one of the greatest of my youth, even though the Giants went on to win the Lombardi Trophy that season.
Less than a decade later, as a very young man, it’s shortly after midnight, and I’m running wind sprits through the darkness of an unlit football field of a local high school. Why? I’m trying to release the frustration I feel after watching Tommy Hutton somehow botch the hold on what should have been a game-winning chip shot against the Dallas Cowboys on Monday Night Football. I’m devastated beyond words.
That young man who had dreamed of his beloved team making a championship run has no way of knowing that it’s going to be exactly twenty more seasons until the Eagles finally win a Superbowl. Most of the players who will take them there are in elementary school. Like every other Eagles fan, he’s never heard of a little kid living in North Dakota who’s a few months from celebrating his fifth birthday.
This beer pong-playing bachelor has no idea that when the Eagles finally do win it all, he will not be watching it with his father, as has always been the practice; he will be watching with his own two children, his father’s spirit in heavy presence, but not there to embrace in celebration.
And what do these memories and so many others, even the agonizing ones, have to do with that annoying question of how many Lombardi Trophies? Here’s what: I wouldn’t trade any of them for a trophy of any kind. Not even the Lombardi.
You see, non-Eagles fans, my love for the Birds has never had anything to do with whether they won or lost. It was always much more than that to me. Eagles fans know what I mean.
So, to everyone who has ever asked me that question, or called in to talk radio to ask it of all Eagles fans, I say keep the trophy; it seems like you need it.
Eagles fans have stuck by their team through the best and (mostly) worst of times, and we never had any need to take inventory of how many trophies our team had won to gauge our loyalty.
How many Lombardi trophies have they won? The question has always come with the implication that my love of the Eagles, and their zero Superbowl rings, was at best fruitless, and at worst wasted. After all, how can one love a team with such a lack of success, while other teams have won so many trophies? To them, it makes no sense.
I’ve heard it all my life from Giants fans who always know exactly how to strike a nerve against their softer-accented friends and family in the Delaware valley. These are fans fortunate enough to watch their Giants somehow win a Lombardi Trophy once a decade.
These “fans” are also “loyal” enough to resort to attending Jets games when the Giants are having a down year. They cheer for the Jets. I've seen this.
Ever see a Jets fan cheer for the Giants? Me neither.
I’ve gotten that question from Redskins fans I’ve known, too. It’s a worthy rivalry that summons many, many memories. Randall’s Capitol City Comeback of 1989; The Body Bag Bowl on Monday Night Football. Memories I wouldn’t trade for anything. Now, it seems like every three years I have to hear Redskins fans screaming about how great they’re going to be this year (anyone remember the Fun and Gun? Give me a break!). This goes back to their last Superbowl in 1992. I’m glad I don’t need to hear from them much anymore.
Cowboys fans always loved to ask the question. I’m not ashamed to admit that I’ve even heard it at the Thanksgiving table (Most of us have one of them, don’t we?). I am sure there are worthy fans of the Cowboys who live way out in Texas, but I’ve never met one of them. The only Cowboys fans I’ve known are ones who live in the Delaware Valley, and they’re not even worth discussing any further.
The answer to that infamous question was always zero, and now the answer is one. But it still doesn’t matter. Like most Birds fans, I celebrated with my family that night, holding back tears. Like many others, I’m sure, I wept before I fell asleep recalling how I wished my dad and others had been there to experience it with us.
As great as that was, it was never about saying we got that trophy. The trophy was for the team. They hoisted it proudly. It belongs to them. The parade and the memories were for the fans.
If the Eagles had lost that Superbowl, if that parade had never happened, if we were still suffering the agony of coming so close with the likes of Jaws or McNabb or Wentz or Foles, we wouldn’t love the Eagles any less.
I don’t know if those other NFC East fans can make that same claim.
So, I’m glad that the question of trophies and rings and Superbowls has been put to rest (though knowing Cowboys fans, they’ll start challenging us to count them).
The night of February 4, 2018 was one of the greatest of my life. Does it define me as an Eagles fan? No way. We don’t count trophies in Philly. Loyal fans only need memories.