RKITN here! This week’s NFC Championship game has sparked a ton of memories regarding our Eagles. That includes my thoughts this past weekend of the first game I ever attended.
It was a dismal season for our Birds, even though they finished 6-7-1. The era of “Waterbucket Joe” Kuharich had followed Nick Scorich’s brief run as head coach behind the Eagles 1960 championship. After three down seasons, they went 9-5 in ’66, and hopes were high for 1967. It was not to be, but on the final game of that season, my Pop and Uncle Bob took me to Franklin Field on the coldest day I’d ever experienced, for the final game of the season against the playoff-bound Cleveland Browns. The Browns sat their star QB, Frank Ryan, and somehow the Eagles pulled off the W, after being hammered by Dallas and New York in previous weeks.
The trip to Franklin Field started off well enough, as we caught the El. Being young and excited, I raced ahead, ran down the platform and hopped on the train ahead of Dad and Unc. At that moment, as they approached, the doors closed. Here I was, 9 years old on my first El trip to see my Eagles, and alone.
A nice man sitting nearby, explained to me what my Dad tried to yell to me through the closed doors. He told me that if I got off at the next stop, and stayed in the same place, that my father would be on the next train, and stop in the same spot. Damn if he wasn’t spot on! My first mass transit learning experience.
It was after we arrived and began walking to our seats in the lower bowl that I realized how cold it was. Vendors back then carried hot little cans of hot chocolate, which they would pour into a cup for the fans. Dad must have bought me 5 of them.
I remember it being a loud and raucous afternoon, punctuated by insults towards the coach and team. That game might be where I first learned to use compound curse words! A year later, as the team scraped bottom, snow balls would be hurled at the worst stadium-Santa ever…
My favorite young Eagles, the late Ben Hawkins, chin strap flying, caught a 60 yard touchdown, and my Dad’s fave Tom Woodeshick caught a 43 yard TD, from Norm Snead, the bum they traded Sonny Jurgensen for! (That’s how “the guys” referred to him.) Snead almost looked like Sonny that day…
It’d be years before I’d go to my next game in person, at The Vet, but I never forgot the crowd, the cold, the W (28-24), and getting “lost” on the El.
After one more year of Kuharich. the team fired him, and began the descent into fan hell that would last until Dick Vermeil arrived years later. And despite some down times over the years. Our Eagles were always better than those dark years of the mid-60s through the mid-70s! If you followed the team, or went to games, back to those days, you know what I mean.
Maybe lessons learned in that era of the team made me more appreciative of the teams led by Vermeil, Ryan, Rhodes, Reid, and now Pederson. So, here we sit again, one win away from the Super Bowl, again. But somehow, even with Wentz healing on the sideline, this feels different, right.
So let’s get set for Sunday! I’ll bring The Championship Chili!