Hello, Philadelphia. It's time we talk about what's keeping us apart.
It's time that I, a Brooklyn-born man who has spent nearly his entire adult life here, and who makes a living exploring the ties that bind our fair city, address the one thing that's kept me, for nearly two decades, from feeling like a real Philadelphian.
The Eagles. Or, rather, my complete ignorance of them.
Even as I've come to embrace this city as my own, I've never hid my allegiance to New York teams. (Or as a pal from the Great Northeast recently put it: "Your inexplicable, debilitating support of trash people from a trash town who play trash baseball.") I once had the temerity to publish a column about my beloved Mets in The Inquirer.
But that's baseball. I don't follow football that much anymore — aside from brief bouts of interest with my hapless Jets.
So as I've watched the Eagles' meteoric rise, I've felt more and more like a stranger here. It's hard to be a voice of the common man when I had to be reminded Sunday night that we were playing the Cowboys.
To bridge this divide, and in the spirit of Thanksgiving, I've endeavored, for this column, at least, to become an Eagles fan. The quarterback is Carson Wentz. Malcolm Jenkins is the name of a player on defense. I know that much. I turned to Eagles Twitter for further insights, which was not much help.
Everyone seemed to be talking about…Jeff Garcia?
Two of Philly Twitter's more eminent voices, @Cranekicker and @ZooWith Roy, spent some time Tuesday guiding me through the obscurer reaches of the faith.
We talked about the Larry Poff video — in their eyes, as pure as an expression of Eagles fandom as there ever was. You may remember Larry — I don't — from a video taken in 2006 in which he boozily informs the world that the quarterback Garcia, then filling in for Donovan McNabb, was Philadelphia's baby.
You may also know — I had no idea — that the video had become a rallying cry this season for the Eagles.
"The beauty in it is that we grew up with our dad and uncles being that drunk guy who was WAY too excited about Jeff Garcia," Zoo With Roy texted.
No rational human ever should have thought Jeff Garcia would get to a Super Bowl. But Poff and Philly did, because that's what fans here do. "We care too much for logic to interfere," ZooWithRoy said.
Plus, ZooWithRoy observed of the 53-year-old union carpenter and season ticket holder, he has a mustache.
Also, the guys around him in that video are 1000% serious, ZooWithRoy added.
And so is Cranekicker. The unwavering, unlikely optimism in that 10-year-old video is no longer a joke, he said.
"Are we going to win a Super Bowl?" Cranekicker asked. "I say yes. Because Carson Wentz is our baby."
Still, I needed the hard sell, so I turned to the very Voice of the Eagles, Merrill Reese.
"If I were a New Yorker, there wouldn't be too much to be thankful for this year," the veteran announcer said politely reminding me in his soothing, familiar baritone, that both Jets and Giants stink.
The unabashed hometown fan, who has been calling play-by-play for 40 seasons, made a case:
A complete team. Franchise quarterback. Locker room of likable players with outstanding chemistry. After so much disappointment, an exhilarating season, and the possibility, finally, of a Super Bowl, "Why not enjoy it if you're in Philadelphia?" he asked.
It was hard to argue. I tried. All the endless E-A-G-L-E-S chants? Even at weddings?
"Music to my ears," he said.
Look, it would be nice to contribute one informed thought to the Eagles conversation at Mike & Matt's Italian Market when I stop in this week for Thanksgiving pies. I used to find common ground there. Brothers Mike and Matt Silvano grew up in Philly, but Mike sometimes wears his five replica Niners Super Bowl rings to work — and there's Big Geno Cat, another regular, who pulls for the Jets.
But these days the deli crowd is all Eagles.
"We want to see a Super Bowl," Mike said. "Don't you?"
Maybe it won't be such an uphill battle for me. As Cranekicker pointed out, both the Jets and Eagles both wear green and white and play to victory-starved fans in stadiums just off the highway.
"Welcome aboard," he said, before adding, for good measure:
"Mike Newall is our baby."