Philadelphia fans have no real hope this year. Which is why it’s time for us all to embrace the un-real.
In the dictionary, eagle is defined as “any of various large diurnal birds of prey (family Accipitridae) noted for their strength, size, keenness of vision, and powers of flight.”
In classical Greek mythology, the eagle was associated with the northern constellation, Aquila, and was believed to spend its time carrying Zeus’s thunderbolts. (Hey, ask the Greeks, not me.)
And in The Lord of the Rings, it’s the Eagles who pull off an astonishing last-minute save just when things seem utterly bleak.
Why do I know this stuff? Because (1) I don’t have many friends, and (2) I am an Eagles fan.
Through thick and (mostly) thin, I root for the Birds. But, like many other Philadelphians, the very word “eagle” conjures up some rough memories. It’s Todd Pinkston’s crippling fear of getting tackled, it’s Freddie “The People’s Champ” Mitchell’s failed comeback, it’s Nnamdi Asomugha, pretty much every time he stepped onto the field.
(For the record, I also have some good memories as an Eagles fan. There’s Donovan McNabb on 4th and 26, DeSean Jackson’s Miracle at the New Meadowlands, Mike Vick’s one-man demolition of the Redskins during that magical 2010 season.)
These past two years played out like some kind of bad horror movie, with the decline of Mike Vick coinciding with the decline of, well, pretty much everyone else on the Eagles roster. Like every good Philadelphia fan, I’ve kept the faith—but it’s gotten harder and harder to figure out how. Will Chip Kelly’s vaunted offense mask the team’s obvious defensive deficiencies? Will Riley Cooper step up for the injured Jeremy Maclin? Will Vick remember you’re actually supposed to throw the ball to players wearing the same color jersey?
With the team’s immediate future in such dire straits, I’ve been pounding my brain trying to find some sort of silver lining. I can’t. The reality is, this season is looking like a rebuilding year, should this season prove to be a rebuilding year, rather than one of reclamation.
And then it hit me: Reality, for Philadelphia fans, sucks. So let’s leave reality behind. This year, the best way to stay energized about the Eagles is to leap headfirst into the world of fantasy.
Fantasy football offers fans of even the least likely playoff contenders the perfect incentive to turn on the TV on a Sunday afternoon. After all, there’s no team in the NFL that doesn’t have at least a few fantasy assets. (Well, except the Jaguars.) That’s because real-world football success doesn’t always translate into fantasy success—nor do reality-based losses necessarily keep a team’s players from wielding impressive stats on the fantasy grid.
As an example, let’s look at two different quarterbacks, both of whom were injured during part of last year.
Who looks better? Player 1, right? Not so fast. Player 1, the Chiefs’ Alex Smith, is ranked twenty-fifth among starting quarterbacks on ESPN’s preseason fantasy football rankings. Player 2, Mike Vick, comes in at no. 15. Remember: fantasy firepower isn’t about a player’s surgical efficiency, it’s about their brute-force volume. Mike Vick runs. A lot. (Last year was a down year by all accounts for Vick. For his career, he averages 555 rushing yards per year. Expect him to take off with the ball more this year.) Sure, he might throw two picks—but hey, he’ll also run for 80 yards. Smith, on the other hand, posted a 70.2 completion percentage and guided his then-team to a 6-2-1 record. He’s won more playoff games than Cam Newton, Robert Griffin III, Matt Stafford and Carson Palmer—but in the fantasy world, they all outshine him. Alex Smith isn’t aggressive enough with the football to merit a starting spot in your lineup.
But Vick just might be. Go Eagles! Well—go Eagle.
I refuse to acknowledge this as a lost season. If I have to hyper-localize my fandom at the fantasy level, single player by single player, so be it. Some might call that a delusion. I, however, cite the wisdom of that great coach, Obi-Wan Kenobi: “Many of the truths we cling to depend greatly on our own point of view.”
Fantasy has taken over pop culture these days—and yet if you Google the word, four of the first five results won’t be about Harry Potter or The Hunger Games, they’re about fantasy football. So let’s roll with that this year and just enjoy the Eagles for their pure fantasy value. We’ll treat LeSean McCoy like Katniss Everdeen. Mike Vick like Legolas. Riley Cooper like Professor Snape.
Let’s see what Chapter One has in store…
As our helmet-clad heroes embark on their quest to Mount Fantasy, Vick looks to McCoy and wonders whether his running back will have a bounce-back year, too. Lumbering tight end Brent Celek, already wheezing from the half-mile start to their journey, reminds the group that their Week 1 matchup against the Redskins should provide plenty of opportunities for fantasy greatness—save for the defense, who are likely to feel the wrath of Robert Griffin III & Co. Meanwhile, DeSean Jackson texts pal Snoop Dogg about releasing another rap video.
Who’s Frodo? The guy I want carrying the ring in Week 1: Mike Vick. I know, I talked him up already. But seriously, he’s going up against a Redskins defense that’s ranked 24th going into the first game of the season. Vick has looked sharp for most of the preseason. I don’t see DeAngelo Hall and the Washington secondary posing much of a threat.
Savage Love: Sondheim is solace