SportsProf

(Hopefully) good sports essays and observations for good sports by a guy who tries (and can sometimes fail) to be a good sport.

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Sunday, October 02, 2005

Character Is Fate

If there was ever any doubt, consider the following:

The kick returner fumbled the ball; the other team recovered.

The punt returned botched a return, the ball went behind him, and he recovered his fumble for a five-yard loss.

The new kicker had his first FG attempt blocked.

Then his team scored a much-needed TD when trailing 17-0, only to have the long-snapper mess up the snap, causing the holder to throw a desperate pass for the conversion. It fell incomplete.

On the ensuing kickoff, the other team's kick returner returned the kick for a TD. 24-6, the home team.

In the heat.

The visiting team's QB should be the principal patient in a M*A*S*H unit. A DT had to be carted off on a stretcher. The leader of the defense tweaked his ankle and then played with an ankle so heavily taped it looked like it was borrowed from a mummy.

So what happened?

The visiting team, in a game few expected them to win, reeled off 31 straight points and won the game, 37-31.

Sure, the teams in their division have improved. True, they've been analogized more to the Buffalo Bills of about 10 years ago or the Atlanta Braves, bridemaids and not brides. Yes, many had said they'd slip back this year, that others are closing the gap. That still may be true. Only time will tell.

But today this tough band of veteran football players, battered and bruised, stood together and staged one of the all-time stands, upping their record to 3-1. It could well be that they finish at about 10-6, getting a wild-card berth, and then winning one game in the playoffs before bowing out. After all, the NY Giants are a bit hot right now, and there's no one more optimistic (or patronizing) than a Giants fan, because, after all, everything in NY automatically is better than anything in Philadelphia.

But if the Eagles do get to the NFC Championship Game, or even to the Super Bowl, they will look back on this day and draw heavily from it. I had thrown my hands up in frustration with about 4:30 before halftime, virtually incredulous that somehow Dante Hall managed to shatter their momentum by returning the ensuring kickoff for a TD after the Eagles had scored their first TD. I had shut off the TV for a while.

And I was wrong. Tired from a bunch of things, I had said to myself, "well, this just isn't their day, and, yes, with Donovan McNabb hurting, they just won't go 13-3 or so as they did last year." And I was bummed, still smarting from the disappointment that the Phillies couldn't have at least forced a playoff for the wildcard with Houston. When I turned the game on again, it was 24-16, and the Eagles were driving with about 6 minutes to go in the third quarter. Then all of a sudden the game was tied.

Dawkins. McNabb. Sheldon Brown (2 picks, including 1 for a TD). Jeremiah Trotter. T.O. (a monster day). An O-line that treated the Chiefs in the second half as though they were rag dolls.

The football Giants play about 90 miles to the north, and they won in a romp today.

But it says here that the real giants today were about 1500 miles from home, wearing their road white jerseys, standing about as tall as any football team can.

If character, as Oscar Wilde wrote, is fate, then the Eagles should be playing well into the post-season.

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