THIS IS HOW the contract ends, not with a bang but a whimper. Chip Kelly leaves a city and a team that bore such goodwill toward him a few brief seasons ago, but that have long since eaten their hopes and drowned their bitter sorrows in several million cases of Budweiser (or, for the metro-wussials, pumpkin-spice craft beer.) Chip is now a memory, like the pathetic mess of a Bicentennial celebration wrecked by Frank Rizzo or the Gentleman's Agreement prohibiting buildings taller than William Penn's hat (which worked out so well, one measly sports championship later) or the mayoral bombing of an entire neighborhood or . . . well, you get the idea. Chip is in that august company.
I'm far from an expert on football, although I manage fairly well for a long-in-the-tooth girl. I can hold a conversation that doesn't send my interlocutor into paroxysms of laughter, except for those who don't know what paroxysm means and don't think women have any business talking about interceptions, holding calls and crotch protectors. Those fellows will laugh at pretty much anything I say about the gridiron, and then belch to emphasize their disdain.
But I know enough about the game that I adore to realize that it was destroyed by a college coach from New England (hint!!!!) by way of Oregon (huh?) who thought that he could march into the city of Brookshier and Bednarik and Retzlaff and McDonald and Carmichael, and school us on what good football really looks like, as if we were Birkenstock-wearing social workers from San Francisco who'd just gotten back from a stint in the Peace Corps and needed a blueprint for the game.
Excuse me, Joe College, but we breathe this game, feel it in our bones, and don't need some pretentious outsider making brash personnel moves. And then, to add insult to injury, telling us that we don't understand what's going on and to trust him.
This is Philadelphia. We barely trusted Pope Francis. Did you see him walking around the city, enjoying the sights, without an armed guard making sure he wouldn't pilfer anything from Macy's? No, neither did I.
I know that there are people, among them some of my Facebook friends, who think that Chip Kelly was a brilliant tactician. (Actually, they're on MySpace, so I rest my case about them.) There will always be those contrarians who just have to show how much smarter they are, or, in this case, how much nicer. When I posted some typically snarky commentary on my own social page about Kelly's demise ("What do you call a coach who loses his Jobs? A Commuter Chip!"), I got responses ranging from "I can't take pleasure in someone else's pain" to "I know about football and the man was a genius."
One guy even tore into me for calling Chip a "pudge." Next thing you know, some Quaker school is going to ban my column from its curriculum because I used the P word.
But I don't take any of this seriously, with all due respect to my overly compassionate friends. I never pretended to be Mother Teresa of Calcutta, and I'm not in the market for a halo. I, like most other Philadelphians, am in the market for a championship ring, and when I'm treated like some half-wit with a death wish (otherwise known as a season ticket-holder under Chip Kelly), I feel completely justified in lashing out.
I am not alone. In fact, I would surmise that the vast majority of Philadelphians who care about this stuff - which is any Philadelphian who has never uttered the phrase "half-caf, sugar-free skinny latte" - are rejoicing, much like the Munchkins after Dorothy did her number on the Wicked Witch of the East. And we shouldn't feel embarrassed about it, or shamed into feeling compassion for a man who never showed any sense of shame himself.
Anyone who knows me knows that I do not like Chip Kelly, and that since the day he axed D-Jax (which turned out to be one mean bastard getting rid of another mean bastard), he made me doubt his dedication to the town. Although one could argue that excising the poisonous personalities that infected the locker room was fully within the coach's right, his decisions were suspect because the targets of his ire were precisely the players who gave their heart and soul to the Eagles.
The way he treated the release of LeSean McCoy was disrespectful, and although Shady proved himself to be a classless piece of work, one has to wonder if some of that trash he served up at the Linc a few weeks ago didn't have its roots in some serious personal hurt. I'm not excusing bad behavior, but as someone who has felt lectured to while watching Kelly's news conferences after horrendous games (for which I've paid through the nose), I can understand core team players feeling they deserved better treatment at the hands of the new guy from out West.
So I don't mourn the professional passing of Chip Kelly. I don't know many Philadelphians who do. And I don't blame Jeff Lurie, who probably could sing castrato quite beautifully, because I think he wants to believe that the people he's surrounded himself with are in it for the good of the team. I never got that feeling about our ex-coach. To me, Kelly was all about Kelly, and his system and his dreams and his specific set of character criteria. Other coaches like that, Belichick and Coughlin and Landry, at least had Super Bowl rings to soften the sharp edges of their egos. Kelly didn't even have a winning season (at least not this year).
In closing, therefore, let me paraphrase Whitman, a neighboring native son who probably was thinking of the Eagles when he wrote the following (barely recognizable) lines:
O Chipster, my Chipster, our fearful trip is done
The team has weather'd every sack, the prize we sought, is gone
The door is here,
Prepare your rear,
To flee, fans are revolting
Get out, and brave the bitter jeers
Of allies, now a-bolting.
But oh, heart! Heart! Heart!
Oh the bleeding drops of green
Where, on the turf, my Chipster lies
Our tragic field of dreams.