So, I’m lying around in another hotel room on the night before the big game in Philadelphia, enjoying the spicy, go-go-go life of a sportswriter. And what should appear on the television but a retrospective on the Philadelphia Eagles march to the Super Bowl. Should have flipped to another channel. Should have closed my eyes, plugged my ears and begun humming the “1812 Overture” very loudly. But didn’t.
Because, inevitably, it is 4th-and-goal on the Eagles 2-yard line and Matt Ryan is rolling right as the Falcons season is melting away like a sandcastle at high tide.
Then here comes the testimony of various Philadelphia players and coaches, all of them telling how they knew what the Falcons were going to run as if they had bugged their huddle. How they were so comfortable and confident in that dramatic moment. How certain they were that this divisional playoff game was theirs, so have a nice flight home, Falcons.
What’s that sound? Oh, it’s my teeth grinding – again.
The Falcons had been summoned back to the scene of their painful Jan. 13 defeat, to play the foil to the grand opening of a new season for the defending Super Bowl titlist. They were on scene to provide the necessary filler for a nationally televised and locally overdone celebration of a champion.
Hey, if you don’t want to be in that position, if you don’t want to have to get on a plane just to have your nose rubbed in old defeats and someone else’s glories, then go win something large.
If nothing else, this return to Philly was instructive for both the Falcons and their fans as to the many benefits of winning a Super Bowl. All parties can gain valuable insight and incentive just by sharing the scene.
So, this is what it’s like when you win big. The Falcons might want to file away the experience just in case any of those preseason predictions of a hometown Super Bowl in 2019 hold a thimble-full of water.
Winning a Super Bowl is about the only event that would make you think, for just a moment, it might be kinda nice to live in Philadelphia.
Winning a Super Bowl means you get to unfurl a championship banner on opening day, and wave it in the face of the world, like a red cape before a bull. You spell out such accomplishment large and immodestly, not on a cocktail napkin.
You get a good, solid seven months of commemoration out of winning a Super Bowl. In Philadelphia they’ve already handed out rings – each one featuring 219 diamonds and 17 sapphires. They even added a statue of coach Doug Pederson and quarterback Nick Foles hatching the “Philly Special” trick play that helped seal the Super Bowl. That’s one more than any statue of Dwight Eisenhower planning D-Day.
Never having won a Super Bowl means not owning the one single play that will stand up over generations and come to be shorthand for pure joy. The Falcons come to another season, their 53rd, still seeking their version, their “A-T-L Special.”
So, when you win a Super Bowl, coaches take on the patina of genius. Leaving the likes of Dan Quinn and his highly targeted offensive coordinator to try to prove themselves not overmatched on a big stage Thursday night.
Winning a Super Bowl meant that Pederson had to spend an offseason building walls between his team and overconfidence, constantly issuing warnings that images in the rear view mirror aren’t as large as they appear.
As recently as this week the coach was setting this scene for the Philly media, getting out his message: “The fans that are in attendance are going to be crazy and they're going to be excited. It's going to be great for the banner to be dropped. It's going to be a great atmosphere. I think with this football team, though, they understand this is a different season, it's a new team, new year. We're sitting here 0-0 with a great opportunity against a great opponent – a playoff, Super Bowl-caliber team coming in here. Quite honestly, that's their focus. They have moved on.”
All that is such a better problem than spending months trying to bind the wounds of squandering a 25-point lead with your last game of one season and coming up two yards short during the final gasp of another. Imagine, needing to only explain away success.
You win a Super Bowl, you’re a really big deal. Such a big deal that they choose your opening game as the platform to debut Colin Kaepernick as the apparel pitchman who might change the world. Who, then, will be the second most talked-about quarterback Friday morning – Matt Ryan or Nick Foles?
Winning a Super Bowl means the first minutes of the season’s first game is all about you. It’s up to those other birds on the other side of the field to insert themselves into the script.
Winning a Super Bowl means you are the envy of all others, especially those who have to share a building with you on opening night and feel like they might have something to say about who is this season’s “it” team.