A few days ago, while he was still trying to catch his breath, DeSean Jackson searched for the right words to describe the New Miracle at the New Meadowlands. It wasn't an easy task. Stunning and dramatic and improbable and almost every other adjective would have felt flat given the weight of what happened.
"That," Jackson said, "was a dream come true."
The sentiment was simple and perfect. He was talking about the comeback and his punt return - the only one in NFL history to win a game as time expired - but his remarks could just have easily been applied to what's happening in Philly. The city is the envy of the sports world right now, and people are noticing. Sports Illustrated proclaimed, "There's no better place to be a fan right now than Philadelphia," and Bob Costas wrote and read an ode to the city on NBC about that very thing.
It's a special time in our sports history, and it's worth pausing to appreciate. Philadelphia is home to several teams that might be the best in their respective sports. At the least, they're the most exciting and entertaining.
Not long ago, we would have settled for one team that didn't make us want to hop off the bandwagon and suck in the exhaust. Now we're suddenly treated to three squads that could secure championships thanks to dazzling players and mesmerizing moments.
The Eagles and Flyers are in first place, and by re-signing Cliff Lee and keeping him from the previously all-powerful Yankees, the Phils pulled off the biggest coup since Fidel Castro claimed an island 90 miles from Miami for himself. There isn't too much more you'd put on your sports wish list.
First, the Flyers: Since stumbling through the regular season last year, Peter Laviolette's crew has been excellent. The dramatic comeback against the Boston Bruins. The trip to the Stanley Cup Finals. The fact that they have the most points in the league this season and are 7-2-1 in their last 10 games. Even those who aren't hardcore hockey heads have noticed and marveled.
The Phils, meanwhile, have obviously been good for a while even though the 2010 NLCS didn't unfold as planned. Despite that, and despite Jayson Werth's decamping for D.C., Vegas has installed the Phils as the favorites to win it all in 2011. And why not? Lee is back in town, and the roster remains formidable. Is there any team in the league more frightening than the Fightin's? And is there any team in baseball anyone would rather watch?
And, finally, there are the Eagles. Maybe this season wasn't supposed to be entirely about rebuilding, but it wasn't supposed to be a never-ending NFL Films highlight reel, either. The preseason predictions, from "experts" and fans, were largely in the 7-9 to 9-7 range. Even the most overly optimistic didn't forecast much more than a quick trip to the playoffs and another early exit. To be sure, before the season, no one sane trumpeted them as legit Super Bowl contenders.
The expectations for this team shifted as quickly as Andy Reid's decision to scrap the Kevin Kolb experiment and turn to Michael Vick. Since Vick became the starter, the Birds have been the most dynamic, dramatic team in the NFL. They have the best offense in the league and two of the most exciting players in any sport in Jackson and Vick. That has a lot to do with why they've already played a host of nationally televised games, all of which have earned huge ratings.
As Jackson said after his Nestea plunge into the end zone against the Cowboys, athletes are in the entertainment business, and the ones who play in Philly have earned rave reviews.
For decades between championships, Philadelphia was a sort of sports purgatory for the fans, a place to do penance and suffer openly. Now the opposite is true. We're no longer put-upon or pitied. Instead, we exist in a strange world in which even the Sixers are surging.
The role of the crushed and humiliated has been passed to other cities, places where being a fan is almost too grim a fate to contemplate. Cleveland. Detroit. D.C. New York. Especially New York. After what Jackson did there, after the way he stomped on the team and the town, the waiting list to jump from the Brooklyn Bridge has to be longer than the one for Giants season tickets.
"That wasn't just a win; that was something that could catapult the Eagles to great things in the playoffs," Herm Edwards told Page 2. The original author of the original miracle would know. "Things are going really well in Philly right now. The fans have to be thrilled. They get to puff their chests out."
Jackson was right. It is a dream.