Yesterday afternoon, watching Andy Reid’s Kansas City Chiefs punch their ticket to the Super Bowl was one of those moments that took me back 20-plus years.
When it comes to watching team sports, I’m a homer. If I don’t have a horse in the race, I’m not watching.
With one exception, I’m a Philadelphia fan through and through. If the Phillies, Eagles, Flyers or Sixers aren’t in the playoffs, my interest drops to less than nil. So when my Eagles lost to Seattle a couple of weeks ago, the NFL was dead to me for this season.
Except for the Chiefs.
You see, once upon a long ago, Andy Reid was a rookie coach for those beloved Eagles of mine.
We weren’t enamored with his hiring. He had been a quarterbacks’ coach for the Green Bay Packers under the celebrated Mike Holmgren, but for those of us hoping for a way out of the late-90s wilderness the Birds were lost in, he wasn’t the experienced hand we were looking for.
Neither was drafting Syracuse QB Donovan McNabb — the home crowd wanted running back Ricky Williams and a busload of fans who made the trip to the draft made their displeasure known in the best Philadelphia tradition by booing the pick on the draft floor.
Handing the keys to the offense to a no-name third string QB named Doug Pederson was the icing on the cake, and the Eagles floundered about that year. finally handing the ball to McNabb about two thirds of the way through the season.
Little did we know that Reid would last 14 years in Philadelphia, McNabb would be there many of those years, and the team would have unparalleled success. Perhaps not the “gold standard” the ownership claimed to be — that would suggest Super Bowl wins, and while the Eagles were several times the bridesmaid, they were never the bride — but losing, for the most part, was a long distant memory.
That all came to an end, as it often does in Philadelphia, when we ran “Big Red” out of town for something brighter and shinier in Chip Kelly, who preceded to dismantle the club in a couple of short years.
Reid landed alright, as head coach of the Kansas City Chiefs. Meanwhile, the Eagles saw the error of their ways and sent Chip packing, finally winning that elusive Lombardi trophy. The head coach? That same little-loved third string quarterback, Doug Pederson.
Watching that Chiefs game brought all that back — that first year, when I was a young an confident journalist living out his dream of working for a daily newspaper — a whole life out in front of me full of twists and turns I could not possibly imagine.
Time passes quickly, and 20 years in a flash. For many of them, Coach Reid was a constant. For tried-and-true Philadelphia fan, particularly we ex-pats, the follies of our sports teams are the ties that bind. Reid gave us a lot of great games, a lot of great memories, a lot of good times.
Andy Reid is one of the longest serving coaches in the NFL, perhaps Hall of Fame caliber, with the only black mark against him being the lack of a Super Bowl win. So, this year, I’ll have a horse in the big game — a reason to watch beyond the ads and snacks.
I’ll be rooting for “Big Red.” It’s the least I can do.