This morning in South Philly, one of the time-honored traditions that accompanies the annual gridiron classic was held: Wingbowl 20. And since I can’t stomach the thought of Kobayashi eating three-hundred-some-odd wings at 8 in the morning, I’m going to reflect on some of my favorite Super Bowls.
The Super Bowl is one of those events that can’t be described. The magnitude can’t be described. My coworkers in England asked me one day over lunch if the Super Bowl was the biggest sports event in the States. I explained that calling it a “national holiday” wouldn’t do it justice. They tried explaining to me that the FA Cup, England’s football playoff, was something of a national holiday, too. I nodded in agreement, but knew you couldn’t compare the two.
Last year was one of the most bizarre Super Bowls I’d ever watched. My roommate and I trekked four blocks in above-average temperatures to the Student Center. Temple threw us a Super Bowl party in the Reel, our on-campus movie theater, and it remains an anecdote I consistently tell on tour. We scarfed down free pizza, popcorn, and had the surreal experience of watching the nation’s largest event on a movie theater screen. All the pregame, all the commericals, all the plays seemed larger than life. It was one of the most unique events I’d attended on campus.
In 7th grade, I moved in the middle of the school year to Houston, a month and a half before the city hosted the Super Bowl. We went to the NFL Experience that year, the huge block party in the week leading up to the big game, decked out in Eagles green, sticking out like sore thumbs. My siblings and I tried on full NFL uniforms, pretended to be play-by-play announcers, and I’ll swear to this day that being a block away from Tom Brady and Jake Delhomme’s hotel was close enough to say I saw them. You should be aware I have very questionable eyesight. Watching the game, knowing the teams, the stadium, were 18 miles away, was a surreal feeling.
My all-time favorite Super Bowl was when the Eagles played, but I have a feeling my experience was different than most Eagles fans. I was living in Houston, Texas, at the time, and getting ready to move back up to Philadelphia. After the Birds won the NFC Championship Game, my grandmother mailed us the champions t-shirts, all four sizes too large, because she was in such a haste to get them to us for the big game two weeks later. The day that package came, my brother, sister, and I could hardly contain our excitement, and seeing the Super Bowl XXXIX logo in the middle for the first time made the whole thing real. Removed from the chaos of Philadelphia, it hadn’t felt real. My mom got “cheesesteaks” (of course, you can’t really make a true cheesesteak in Houston…), Eagles cupcakes, and I don’t think I took off a shade of Eagles green for weeks.
What felt like moments before kickoff, our realtor called warning us that a couple would be coming to look at our house. Accustomed to the usual drill of dropping everything and leaving, I began to panic. I refused to miss the kickoff of the most important football game I’d ever watch. Of course, we returned to the house with moments to spare before kickoff. While I’m sure I was much more consumed with the game than anyone in my family, it was the one thing that, in that moment, linked me to everyone back in Philadelphia. The whole city was doing the exact same thing. Donovan McNabb threw up in the huddle and we lost the game, but it was still the most incredible Super Bowl. The five of us, crowded around our television, scared to use the bathroom lest we miss anything. We did a lot of family bonding living by ourselves in Houston, and that was one of the cooler moments.
The Eagles might (fingers crossed) make the Super Bowl again. Luck might even have the Birds play that Super Bowl in Jacksonville again. But it’ll never be so perfect again. Maybe it’s better that they lost that game all those years ago. I hated being away from Philly that Sunday, but I would have really hated to miss the ticker-tape parade.
So this weekend, when the Giants play the Patriots, I won’t be cheering for either of them. You won’t see me cheering on the Manning family or rekindling my middle-school crush for Tom Brady. Nope. I’ll still be wearing my ratty, old Eagles sweatshirt, enjoying the food, the friends, the fun, and, of course, the football. It’s a religion of sorts, and each year is special, different than the last. But it’s finally Super Weekend; it’ll be Super Bowl Sunday, one of my favorite days of the year. That, and it’s technically homework.