WHILE I wanted to talk football, I wasn’t looking for an X’s and O’s discussion. I needed to get some outside perspective on the Eagles. I needed to make sure that my vision was still clear, and that my judgment hadn’t become corrupted. I know plenty, but I can always stand to learn more. I also had an important question that I needed to ask. So, I went to the bar, to see my guru, P.W. Rhodes. Or Rhodie, as he’s affectionately known.
He was sitting at a table facing away from the bar, so he saw me come in from Sunday’s cold. The second he did, the codgers eyes lit up. He leaned back, got the bartender’s attention and gestured towards me. Just like that, I had a drink being made.
I got my coat off, grabbed my whiskey, and of course we made a toast to the Eagles. I got my tape recorder out, sat down, and I asked Rhodie my burning question “So, is this the year?” He smiles and says “I don’t know, kid. You gotta ask the players that.”
Normally when I talk to Rhodie, it’s just him and me, gabbing at each other. This time, like 9 people had moved in closer, sort of sit along the bar on one side of us, and at tables on the other side of us. One guy sat on a table with his feet in a chair. Who even does that? I didn’t recognize him, so I can’t vouch for where or how he was raised.
With a crowd gathered, I realized that how I responded to questions, and how I phrased a question (not just the question itself), would be subject to dissection. So I needed to measure my words. Getting a Philadelphian to measure our words is like telling a cat to hold it’s breath. It can be done, but it’s a rare occurrence.
I tried another tack and asked him “What do you think of us being underdogs? You think it helps?” Rhodie snorted derisively and said “Are you serious? What good does that do? The Browns is underdogs every week, and what it get them? Besides, underdogs and favorites…that’s just Vegas talk. It’s got nothin’ to do with actual football. Speaking of which, we beat the Falcons for the same reasons you said we would. We’re deeper, and we got better players. Don’t get sucked in on that underdog shit. It’s horse shit is what it is. People runnin’ around buying dog masks. What the hell for?!”
I explained why I think the Eagles will beat the Vikings, and there some murmurs of disagreement from the crowd, but not from Rhodie. He nodded slowly, then he began “The Ritual”. He wiped his tongue on his napkin, raised his glass in a silent toast, and took a drink. I settled in and waited for him to once again, hand me a pearl of wisdom.
“You made some good football points kid, but you overlooked fear. Minnesota is the most scared team in the playoffs, and you wanna know why? I’ll tell ya. You saw how they came apart after the Saints came back? You saw how amazed they were when they won? That team knows in their gut, that they don’t belong. They ain’t built for a playoff fight. All season long they been in just one game where they come back in the second half. One game! You know who they beat? They beat the Browns. The Browns!! The Vikings ain’t no team to fear. They’re paper tigers is what they are.”
(For the record, the Eagles have only had two second half comebacks this season (NYG, DAL), and one in the playoffs.)
He continued. “That’s not a team that can scrape and claw. They don’t have a fighter’s heart. We need to push ‘em into a corner and let their fear come out. Let it consume that team! That’s how we beat them. We gotta make them afraid.”
Then something weird happened. Rhodie asked me a question. Not like a probing, set-up question. This was a real question. He asked “So what do you think? You think that this is our year, finally?” My answer came back so fast, that you’d think I’d been waiting for him to ask me that.
I’ve re-played the tape over 20 times already, just to hear the lack of space between his question, and my response. My answer was “Let’s make sure we beat the Vikings first. Then we can plot on how we beat the Patriots.” It was out of my mouth without a second’s thought, but somehow, it just felt right.
Holy crap. I think this could be our year.