OUT OF LEFT FIELD
THE ANGST OF VICTORY? Suffering Along With A Fan
Who Can't Believe His Team
Is Really Winning
An Eagle Fan Worries
His Team to Victory
By STAN ISAACS
I watched the telecast of Philadelphia Eagles vs. New York/New Jersey playoff game Sunday with my friend Sayre Schatz, an Eagle fan.
Schatz is not the usual Eagle fan. He has a special way of watching their games. He doesnt watch a game live. No, he tapes the game and then when it is over, he reviews the tape. He speeds through bad Eagles action, re-runs outstanding Eagles plays and watches them again and again.
Sometimes, he is too impatient to wait for the entire game to be completed. So he tapes the first half, then watches that action while the second half is taping. He then reverses that tape and watches the remainder of the game.
There is a danger to that kind of hocus-pocus. More often than he has desired, he has messed up the taping. (Havent we all?) And at times he has even gotten calls from friends who provided him with the final score even while he was still watching a tape. They did this inadvertently though he sometimes wonders about some of those calls.
In most instances, Schatz, 86, is a thoughtful, serious man with an endearing self-deprecatory sense of humor. A Philadelphia native, he is a retired economist who has taught at Temple, Hofstra, Brooklyn College and Lincoln University. He spent several years as an economics adviser to the Republic of Nigeria.
His first recollection of seeing the Eagles was in 1939 at Shibe Park when little Davey OBrien was their quarterback. OBrien came up from Texas Christian U. where he made All American honors after replacing Sammy Baugh.
Schatz said, I remember OBrien playing safety on defense--they played both ways in those days as you know--and a big guy ran over him on the way to a touchdown.
On this day Schatz gave me the pleasure of his company by forsaking tape and watching the game live with me. Right off he provided a little tidbit he had picked up on a telecast. Michael Strahan, the retired Giants defensive worthy, said he had noticed in his many battles against Eagles offensive lineman Jon Runyan that Runyan tipped off a forthcoming pass play by shifting a toe a few inches to the side.
First off, I hustled him for a prediction on the game. He picked the Eagles, 17-10. I had the Giants, 23-17. Soon it was evident that Schatz was a worrier. Early in the game, though the Eagles led, 7-3, he said, So far I would say the Giants are outplaying the Eagles.
When the Giants moved to 7-5, he worriedly asked me, Whats your prediction now? And later when the Eagles had a first down on the Giants one-yard line, he said, I still dont have confidence they will score a touchdown. [They did]. When the Eagles led, 20-11 in the fourth quarter, he said, There still are 10 minutes left.
The Eagles then pulled away to their 23-11 victory (Schatz was only seven points off on his prediction). He relaxed; he would have lit up a victory cigar in the last minute-if he smoked cigars.
Giants quarterback Eli Manning was the face of the telecast. Time and again, the camera focused on the dejected face of Manning after throwing wobbly, incomplete passes in the wind. To me he began to look like a kid who had been told he had been deprived of his weeks allowance. Schatz thought he looked like a scared rabbit.
Some other tidbits.
Pennsylvanis Gov. Ed Rendell, came up big on the Eagles pre-game show; his prediction of the Eagles: 23-14, was only three points off the final score I was turned off as ever by athletes showboating; I did not appreciate the breast-beating of Eagles defensive back Asante Samuel after a big interception; nor did I thrill to the strutting of Giants defensive back Michael Johnson after making a good tackle Ah, for the return to the days of cool.
The ever-present NY on the Giants helmet underscored the hypocrisy of a team playing in New Jersey getting away with the scam of enjoying the marquee value of a New York identification It became increasingly evident that the Eagles couldnt gain by running the ball, so they resorted almost exclusively to Donovan McNabbs bullet passes through the wind and it worked--refutation of the wailing all season by Eagles fans (like Gov Rendell among others) that they didnt run enough
As usual TV analyst Troy Aikman twisted the language in his distinctive way, constantly inserting the word what into his phrasing, i.e. [The tackler] wanted to get him sooner than what he did. A constant thought of a Left Fielder who recalls the dazzlingly effective quick kicks of yore of Sammy Baugh and Glenn Dobbs: why no quick kicks these days at appropriate times?..
Several weeks ago when the Eagles seemed headed to oblivion, Gov. Rendell mentioned that he might still have a Pennsylvania team to root for when he was at the Super Bowl because the Steelers were one of the dominating teams in the league. Now, both Pennsylvania teams are much alive and need only one victory each to make the Super Bowl in Tampa, Feb. 1 an all-Pennsylvania affair.
Old Willie Penn would be proud.
©2009 by Stan Isaacs. The Stan Isaacs caricature is ©2001 by Jim Hummel. This column first posted Jan. 12, 2009.
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