On Oct. 15, a few days after the Eagles had lost to the Pittsburgh Steelers in what was probably his best game this season, Carson Wentz was interviewed on a podcast to which probably few people in the Philadelphia area subscribe.
The podcast is The Fowl Life, a companion to a TV show of the same name on The Outdoor Channel, both of which are hosted by hunter/outdoorsman Chad Belding.
His interview with Wentz, which went online on Nov. 3, lasted 39 minutes, and if you follow the Eagles, and particularly if you follow them with such zealousness that their fortunes are one of the primary concerns in your life, it’s a worthwhile listen. Because Belding focused mostly on and framed the interview around Wentz’s love of hunting, Wentz seemed more relaxed in answering Belding’s questions than he usually is during his news conferences. Here are some of the more interesting exchanges between them.
BELDING: I’ve heard rumors of the fans in Philadelphia being some of the most passionate football fans in the world. You’ve got Rocky Balboa. There’s a big chicken wing-eating contest that takes place called Wing Fest, I believe. I don’t know if they still have it. But there’s what they call fanatics in that area, very passionate Americans. Do you see that? Do you appreciate that passion when you’re in that huddle? And is the Philadelphia audience and fan base different from what you’re used to?
WENTZ: To answer your last question, yes, definitely different than what I’m used to, and definitely as passionate as any fan base I’ve ever seen. It’s pretty special. It’s really special when you’re winning and things are going great. When you’re losing or you’re struggling, obviously it makes it a little tougher, but I support and I think we all love the passion that they bring. Right now, it’s obviously unfortunate because they’re not in the stadium as much. They’re allowing a couple in the stadium. But it is a different environment. It’s a different culture up here. Football is everything out here, and people’s weeks are either good or bad whether the Eagles win or lose. So we’ve got a lot at stake for the city of Philadelphia every time we go out there on Sunday, but I wouldn’t have it any other way.
BELDING: There aren’t a lot of people in your position who show their love of outdoors. I’ve seen [social-media] posts of yours of deer camp, trail cameras hung. Why are you so unapologetic about your upbringing, your lifestyle, your culture, and your love of being a hunter, fisher, gatherer?
WENTZ: For me, it’s just being authentic, being authentic to who I am. My faith is number one in my life, and obviously football is my job and I love it and my family. But hunting is a serious passion of mine. For me, it’s just about being myself, being authentic, and not letting what the world says or maybe the naysayers – sometimes people don’t want to hear about hunting and what goes into that. But for me, if I’m not talking about it, I’m not being me. So it’s something I enjoy, something I’m passionate about, and I’ll never apologize for being passionate about it.
BELDING: Do you ever take criticism in the media, and do you respect the other point of views? Being a starting quarterback in the NFL comes with enough stress and responsibility as is. How do you manage it? Do you stay as tactful and legitimate as far as the ethics of hunting? Do you educate people on “Here’s why we hunt. Here’s how we cook a deer backstrap. Here’s how we cook a mallard breast?” Do you go that far, or do you just shrug it off?
WENTZ: It’s a little bit of both. If things are being said in the media, to be honest, I’ve learned to not listen to the media, because they’re always talking one way or another. Whether it’s positive or negative about football, about life, it’s something I just try to stay away from and not get caught up in. But as far as educating, there is a time and a place, and it’s something that I don’t back down from.
[Belding then asks Wentz about the value of learning from failure.]
WENTZ: Nobody likes failing. You don’t grow up [saying], “I can’t wait to fail.” But I think, through athletics, I’ve learned that it’s OK. It’s OK and, quite frankly, your successes and your victories, you appreciate them so much more when you have failed. … You learn a lot about yourself and your character when you fail, whether that’s hunting, whether that’s football, whether that’s life in general. You’ve got to be willing to make mistakes and be honest and say, “Hey, I screwed up. I messed that one up. But I’m going to get it the next time.”
BELDING: When you do come off the field when you throw a pick, are you of the mindset, “Hurry up, defense. Get a three-and-out, and get me back in there"?
WENTZ: Absolutely. As a competitor, I’ve thrown plenty of picks in my life, since I was a kid. You learn that if you dwell on it, if you sit on it, if you let it stay in your mind, you’re just going to be worse. You’ve got to go out with the same attack mentality and confidence in yourself that you’re going to get it done. That’s how I’ve been wired, and that’s the approach I have to take in football and in everything.
[Wentz says that, during the pandemic, he has done more cooking than he ever had before, especially of the wild game that he has hunted.]
BELDING: Does the word pride come to mind when you do serve that bounty at camp? Does your wife enjoy wild game? Do you love putting down that platter of elk backstrap or a big old roast from a moose or whatever the game is? Do you take a lot of pride in that, just like you do your approach to football?
WENTZ: I definitely do. I probably take more pride in that just because it’s special and it’s new to me, and it’s something I enjoy. My wife usually doesn’t enjoy it quite the same way I do, but that’s why I’ve got to keep getting better, so that I find something that tastes good to everybody.
BELDING: Are you too busy dreaming about hunts to put it into the coming game? How does it work out for a guy who loves hunting so much to have to be on the football field at the same time you’re supposed to be in the duck blind or the deer woods?
WENTZ: Football is my job, and I take it very seriously. When I’m at work, I’m here at the facility, I’m locked in. I’m all in on football. Maybe a meeting will end, and my brother will send me a trail camera picture or something. “Hey, the deer we’ve been targeting, he was out last night.” That’s good to get your mind off football here and there.
[Belding closes by asking Wentz to deliver a message about the value of work ethic.]
WENTZ: I wouldn’t be here without the work ethic that was instilled in me as a kid. I wouldn’t be in this position. Believe me, I’ve been gifted. God’s blessed me with an ability to throw the football, but without the work ethic, I would not be here. And I think it is sad sometimes to see the younger generations and the social media, the cellphones, the technology and how that kind of takes away from work ethic and people really trying to pursue their dreams sometimes and coming up short because they lack that work ethic.
Your passion, his job
The potential flashpoints in and reactions to that interview are pretty obvious if you’ve spent any time in Philadelphia or around Eagles fans. There’s Wentz’s defense of hunting, which likely doesn’t resonate as much in an urban culture like Philadelphia’s as it does in other regions of the country. There’s his assertion that he doesn’t listen to the media. There’s his admission that it’s “OK” to fail. There’s his suggestion that he takes more pride in preparing a meal for himself and his wife than he does in playing football. There’s his lamentation of the influence of social media.
Make of his answers what you will. To me, the interview serves as a timely reminder that an athlete doesn’t necessarily view his or her successes or failures through the same prism that fans do. The Eagles might be your passion. They’re Carson Wentz’s job. There’s a difference, even when he turns the ball over four times against the Cowboys. Keep that in mind before you freak out over what Brett Favre thinks.