This column is about a Philadelphia phenomenon, "Angry Greg Ryan."
And by "Philadelphia Phenomenon," I mean something that could only happen in our city, like, for example, the Wing Bowl. (Could projectile vomiting become the rage in any other city?)
For those of you who don't know who Angry Greg Ryan is, he is a regular at P.J. Whelihan's in Downingtown where Comcast SportsNet interviews fans during the "Eagles Postgame Live" shows.
For years, our on-site reporter always had picked a different fan to interview for their reaction after each game. But this year, after the Birds' painful loss to the Giants, Marshall Harris interviewed a man named Greg Ryan, and he was pissed.
During the interview, Greg held a mug of beer in one hand and appeared to clinch the mug tighter and tighter as he became more enraged. I was afraid it might literally shatter in his hand. As we listened back in the studio, my "Postgame Live" colleagues and I were taken aback. Greg's passion, honesty, knowledge of the game, and particularly his unbridled rage, blew us away.
Greg's first interview was great TV and after the Eagles' next loss, Marshall sought him out again. Greg hit it out of the park again. So each week, as the Birds continued to disappoint, our panel kept asking for Greg, and he kept delivering fiery rants.
Things got even more amusing when Meredith Marakovits took over for Marshall Harris some weeks, and the 6-foot-plus blonde towered over Greg as he unleashed his fury. It didn't matter much to Greg, who was undaunted by Meredith and was totally focused on the collapse of his beloved Eagles and how angry it was making him each week.
After just a few weeks, "Angry Greg" became a star. He started a Twitter account and instantaneously had hundreds of followers (@angrygregryan, if you'd like to follow him, too). Comcast SportsNet has invited him to participate on its online show "Lunch Break Live" with Rhea Hughes on multiple occasions. He was even recognized by a passer-by at his gym as he sat sweating and breathing heavily after an intense racquetball game.
So I decided that the time had come for me to meet the star who I had helped give birth to, and I invited Greg to meet with me in my office in Center City.
After talking to Greg for only a few minutes, I discovered the secret to his success - he's just like all of us! He might be smarter and more colorful than some, but his passion is our passion, his pain is our pain, and his raw anger and pure frustration are the embodiment of ours. And if one thing's for sure, it's that his emotion is real - after the God-awful loss to the Cardinals, Greg started to tear up as a result of his immense frustration and sense of loss over what could have been.
Greg is one heck of nice guy, too. As soon as we said hello, Greg told me that he had voted for me twice when I was running for governor (always a good icebreaker with a politician).
When I asked Greg about the nature of his success, he explained: "A lot of people out there are as angry as I am. People have told me, 'Thanks for saying that.' I believe I represent hundreds of thousands of Eagles fans in the Delaware Valley. I say what they feel."
There's no question that Angry Greg Ryan is one of many angry Eagles fans, but I'm not sure there are as many who would be willing to let it rip in front of the camera like Greg does.
Greg is a native Pennsylvanian having grown up in Scranton, but has always been an Eagles fan, even when he attended Slippery Rock University in the greater Pittsburgh area. During college, he interned in Philadelphia and was amazed by the passion with which we support our sports teams. After graduating in 1980, he moved to Philadelphia and worked as a reporter for a handful of local suburban newspapers (not covering sports, although he did cover sports for his college paper).
In 1986, he took a PR job that paid a little bit better than reporting so he and a few buddies got Eagles season tickets. Fast-forward to last year when Greg took a job with an IT startup, and decided that the tickets were no longer in the budget. It was then that he and eight or so of his friends began religiously watching Eagles games at P.J.'s.
Greg knows his stuff and is not afraid to express his opinion:
* "We should fire Andy."
* "DeSean has attitude problems, but the organization helped create the monster. We should re-sign him, though, unless he insists on Larry Fitzgerald money."
* "Vick is talented but may not be our long-term answer. We need to take a QB with one of our second-round picks and a linebacker in the first round."
* "We still have the talent to win next year."
* "We should never have let B-Dawk go."
* "Dallas? Let's not go there. I have to drive home."
Much like myself, Greg's greatest strength is that his words and opinions come out totally unfiltered and straight from the heart. And also much like myself, this transparency can quickly become his greatest weakness.
When asked, after the entire NFC East went down this past weekend, about the Eagles' slim playoff chances he said, well, angrily, "The Eagles are cooked. They're cooked better than my Thanksgiving turkey!"
Greg's wonderful wife Deb apparently wasn't too happy with the notion that he might have given all of our Postgame viewers the impression that she had undercooked the Thanksgiving turkey.
Hey Greg, even celebrities have to live and learn! At least you didn't call her a simpleton.