‘We did it!’. I’ll never forget that moment. I was sat on FaceTime to someone who had followed my work closely from day one and had become a friend. I was bawling my eyes out while he and his family were jubilated, jumping around the room in complete euphoria. That one moment will stay with me forever as it showed me, a then 22-year old writer who spent four years covering the team from England, just how much it meant to those living in the City of Brotherly Love.
Twelve months ago today, the Philadelphia Eagles were crowned Super Bowl champions. The most miraculous ‘underdog’ story in sporting history had been completed and a city starved of a Super Bowl for 52 years was finally allowed to feast.
When that Hail Mary fell incomplete and the nail-biting thrill ride came to an end, I simply broke down into tears. It took me a solid five minutes to calm myself down, and a further ten to work out why. I was given a piece of advice when I was 16-years old and trying to break into Motorsport commentary. ‘The love you have for the sport will turn into a love for the craft because it has to.’
For four years, I worked my ass off day in and day out to build Philly Sports Network up to the humbling place it is today. I’d be up until 5 AM researching, writing, spitballing ideas, all before going to work a regular job. When I got home, I’d work deep into the night before doing it all over again. I loved it. When I first started, nobody really gave me a chance. I was too young, British, had no credibility, no reputation, no audience, no chance…and that lit a fire so intense that it burned down a very anxious and self-doubting shell and revealed this Hungry side of me that just wasn’t going to stop until I got to where I want to be.
I fell in love with the Philadelphia Eagles to begin with because of that ‘underdog’ mentality. That gritty, blue-collar, ‘everyone hates us but we’ll prove you all wrong’ mindset. And in covering the team through the rise of the Doug Pederson era, in talking to players instrumental in its early success, to those around the NFL witnessing this special team being crafted, I resonated even more.
I felt as though I was on a journey with that team, not as a fan, not as a writer, but as a Man. As a Man who was finding himself through adversity, doubt, a battle with mental health and the idea of chasing a dream so blindly because you believe with everything you have that it will come true, regardless of what anyone says or whatever happens.
That’s why I broke down. Because that group of men, that group of underdogs who were doubted by the world, ripped away a chunk of one of the sport’s greatest dynasties and that can never be erased. They did it. It was the most surreal feeling possible. I felt like I had, in many ways, embarked on that journey with the team…and my inner fan bled out uncontrollably.
I sat in my Living room at 5 AM, trying to write up a game report I never thought I’d write. I didn’t want to sleep, I couldn’t. I didn’t want to wake up from this impossible dream. I’d never really supported a sports team that won anything of relevance before but to spend as many hours as humanly possible during my most important years going all-in on Philly Sports Network,I was convinced I would now truly bleed green…well, at least my hair was Green for a few weeks after. But the less said about that, the better.
I felt part of that family. For just one night, I wasn’t a writer who had to withhold all emotion due to bias, I wasn’t a fan for those same reasons, I was just me. I was Liam Jenkins, a kid who after years of mockery, hate and disrespect, was slowly beginning to be accepted by the most passionate fanbase in the world…and I felt so close to everyone that night. I felt spiritually connected to everyone in that City, I could almost hear the fight song echoing in my head, feel the pounding of celebratory Drums in my heart and see the masses of Midnight Green flooding the streets.
What the Philadelphia Eagles did that night was something special. Something that will never be repeated and never be forgotten. And for myself, for fans around the world, we felt as though we did it together. It didn’t matter if you’d just bought your first jersey or if you’d been around for all 52 years, we did this together, all of us. Through the good times and the trying, this fanbase, this team, this City, this dream…is unbreakable.
AP Photo/Frank Franklin II