Sunday, October 7, 2018

Worth the Wait

As published in The County Times (

By Ronald N. Guy Jr.

It was late September last year, Maggie, and we were already back to school.  The Philadelphia Eagles weren’t yet a quarter of the way into their season.  The Washington Capitals were a few weeks out from starting theirs.  Like the many to-be-determined semester grades, the football team from the nation’s one-time capital and the hockey team from its current one were mysteries yet to unfold.

Both teams were at a crossroads.  The Eagles were figuring out what they might become behind new franchise quarterback Carson Wentz.  The Caps, meanwhile, had completed an offseason of curious roster tweaks that, after a couple years of pushing hard for a Stanley Cup, appeared to leave the team farther away from the sport’s elusive summit.

Different sports.  Different towns.  Different (to be kind) fan bases.  Everything in common.

Last fall there were a scant few fans of any professional sport capable of understanding the plight of Eagles and Capitals supporters.  Despite the visceral rivalry between the cities, they had only each other - a long-suffering and inseparable party of two.  Misery indeed does love company, even if, for Caps fans, the company’s a little unrefined.

In 2017, the resumes of these two star-crossed franchises read like a never-ending tale of brutal medieval torture.  The Eagles, after several lean years, had considerable success under head coach Dick Vermeil in the late 70s and early 80s.  A decade later Philadelphia make four playoff appearances in five seasons behind defensive stalwarts Reggie White, Jerome Brown and Clyde Simmons. 

But Philly’s torment was just beginning.  Andy Reid and Donovan McNabb arrived in 1999 and together dominated the NFC East and, for several seasons, were the class of the NFC Conference.  It was a golden era in Eagles football.  It seemed inevitable that they would win…

Through all of these eras of winning Eagles football, the Caps were consistently killing it - playoff appearances in all but seven seasons since 1982, too-many-to-count division titles and three Presidents’ Trophies.  In the wild and unpredictable world of the NHL playoffs, statistical chance would indicate that the Caps would win…

The Super Bowl?  The Stanley Cup?  Yeah.  Neither happened.  Seemed neither ever would. 
For over three decades, the Eagles and Caps practically matched playoff collapses.  For every home NFC Championship loss by the Eagles, the Caps could offer two unconscionable Game 7 heartaches.  But perhaps worst of all, fans of these two ultimate teases endured championship seasons by arch rivals like the Cowboys, Giants and ‘Skins and the Penguins, Rangers and Devils.

Then the karmic forces shifted.  In 2016, after the Cavaliers brought Cleveland a championship and the Chicago Cubs won the World Series, I started to believe that the Caps winning a Stanley Cup was possible.  I trust there were Eagles fans thinking the same for their beloved birds.

And then it actually happened: the Philadelphia Eagles won the Super Bowl in February and four months later the Washington Capitals won the Stanley Cup.  Now both are embarking on victory lap seasons as reigning champs.  It’s still surreal.     

I’ve talked to a few Eagles fans in recent months.  They seem unburdened.  Validated.  Less, shall we say, goon-ish.  Most have mentioned on-going Super Bowl victory tears - uncontrollable emotion rooted in decades of pain.  Complete euphoria would succinctly described their victory parade.  I trust Eagles fans saw a mirror image of their post-Super Bowl selves as Caps fans celebrated their first Stanley Cup championship a few months later.  One-time brothers and sisters in misery are now brothers and sisters in sweet victory.

Life owes you nothing.  But for sanity’s sake, there has to be some semblance of fairness and equity.  Right?  Kindergarten taught us to share – to take turns!  Right?  From this Caps fans to all Eagles fans: we deserved this.  It was finally our turn.  It felt like the first time because, after so, so many years of suffering, it was.  Tom Petty once sang, “The waiting is the hardest part.”  True indeed.  It is also said that anything worth having is worth waiting for.  The Super Bowl title for Philadelphia and Stanley Cup championship for Washington certainty were. 

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