Trading Tribes

Los Angeles Rams
Philadelphia Eagles

I became an Eagles fan on October 5th, 1992, when Philadelphia hosted the Dallas Cowboys on Monday Night Football. I stopped being a fan on October 19th, 2015, when the Eagles hosted the New York Giants on Monday Night Football. The story of my fan journey is filled with football highs and lows, love and hate, heroes and heartache, Ja Rule getting booed, the failed “Dream Team”, and ultimately, I’m left still searching for a Super Bowl to call my own. The upside though, is that I didn’t eat horse sh*t. I’ll explain that later…


Days before my 11th birthday, I fell in love with Randall Cunningham. The Eagles were 5-0 and Randall was back. A lot of people today forget that he only played one game in 1991, due to a devastating injury in the first game of the season. In ’92, he would go on to win Comeback Player of The Year, and I remember staying up late on a school night early in the season and being transfixed—‘Who was this dude?’ He was THE MAN, that’s who.  He scored the first touchdown of the game, rocking the clean all white uniforms, running all over the Cowboys…and who doesn’t love to watch Dallas get their ass kicked on national television? I was all in. Fly Eagles Fly. Randall was my guy…

None of this would be surprising except for the fact that I grew up in the heart of New York City. The Giants were fresh off of two Super Bowl victories in the last five years at the time, and my Dad is as “Old School” a Giants fan as there can be. To this day, he’ll tell stories of training with the team when he was in high school, back when they practiced at The Polo Grounds. His father, famed New York Post columnist Leonard Lyons, arranged for my Dad to kick field goals with Pat Summeral. To his credit, my Dad was a great kicker, never missing an extra point in high school and playing D-1 at The University of Pennsylvania. Years later, when we watched Scott Norwood miss a field goal for the Buffalo Bills at the end of Super Bowl XXV, I remember knowing in my heart that my Dad would have drilled it. What a great feeling for a kid to have. “Never soccer-style, always straight ahead!”—his kicking words to live by. That’s one of my first sports memories, and despite the deep family and geographical connections, I never could bring myself to rooting for the Giants.


In fact, it’s BECAUSE of my father, that I adopted a hated out-of-town rival as my own when I started rooting for the Birds in ’92. My Dad, the consummate New Yorker, happens to be one of the biggest Boston Red Sox fans on planet Earth. He quotes a French philosopher named Blaise Pascal when trying to explain his allegiance to the Red Sox, being that he’s lived his entire life in Manhattan.

“The heart has its reasons which reason knows nothing of.”

- Blaise Pascal

My Dad left my high school graduation early to see Pedro pitch in the Bronx and he wears his Sox cap with pride as he takes the D-train up to Yankee Stadium when Boston is in town, despite the entire subway cars chanting, “Lyons Sucks! Lyons Sucks!” on sight. I’m not original when I say that my Dad is my sports hero, so rooting for the out-of-town team was something I aspired to, like a badge of honor.


As I began to fall in love with the game, despite never formally playing it like he did, I was afforded some outstanding football and memorable moments over the years as a fan because I rooted for the E-A-G-L-E-S Eagles! Once the Cowboys dynasty of the 90’s came to an end, the Birds were seemingly in it every year, thanks to star players like Randall, a lot of guys named Brian—like Dawkins, Westbrook, and Mitchell—and of course, Donovan and T.O. There was “4th and 26” and Vick on Monday Night. There were NFC East titles and primetime wins. But looking back, there was always an air of darkness and sadness around my love of the Eagles, and not just because they couldn’t win it all. Before games were readily available on mobile and the Sunday Ticket, I remember sitting in many a sports bar alone, rocking my lime green Ricky Watters jersey amidst evil stares from New Yorkers and Cowboys fans as I sat in the corner watching a random Eagles vs. Jaguars game. Cowboys fans are everywhere.


I spent $400 I didn’t have in 2003 for upper deck seats for the last game at Veteran’s Stadium. The 700 section, Bucs vs. Eagles for the NFC Championship. It was grey and cold and I wore five layers and was still frozen. I drank nine beers and after Brian Mitchell almost ran back a kick to start the game, the Birds shat the bed in one of the most crushing losses in franchise history. Joe Jurevicius scored two touchdowns and Ronde Barber had a big pick late. Ja Rule performed at half time and got booed. It was awful. I think there’s footage of Warren Sapp rocking a Ron Jaworski jersey or something walking off the flight back to Tampa. I was too hungover to remember. Glad there’s no footage of that.

When the Eagles did finally win an NFC title game to go to a Super Bowl after losing 3 in a row, they were matched up with the New England Patriots. Tom Fuck*ng Brady. We knew how this movie was going to end, but watched T.O. try and save the day anyway.  I was living with my friends from high school in our first apartment out of college—an abandoned jeans factory beneath a brothel in Koreatown. They had always tolerated my Eagles fandom, but never really understood it or supported it. Watching Donovan struggle to play hurry-up in the 4th when the Birds were down late was agonizing, and I remember them not really knowing what to say. What a sh*tty and forgettable night.


Another 10 years went by, including a move to Los Angeles, where I originally stuck with them, and would wake up early to catch the 10am kickoff for Eagles games. I traveled up to the old Candlestick Park with my friend Mustafa, a die hard Eagles fan, to see them destroy the 49ers once. That was fun, I guess. Then there was that a**hole Riley Cooper. F*ck Riley Cooper. I remember watching the Birds lose to the Cardinals in another NFC title game they should have won, while sitting next to Jamie Kennedy and Ron Jeremy in a media lounge at Sundance. Again, being an Eagles fan was always depressing for all those years, despite the team’s success.


Once I started dating Mariah, who I would eventually marry, I started to really question this part of my life. My relationship, not with Mariah, that was easy, but with football, and specifically, being an Eagles fan. I was embarrassed in front of her when I would explain to people my loyalty to the Eagles. The energy was too heavy, and she could tell this wasn’t who I really was. So could I. The partners we choose in life have a way of doing that for us, they help us become who we are meant to be. Eagles fans pride themselves on a sense of lawlessness that just doesn’t speak to who I was at this stage of my life. It was the fall of 2014. What was I still chasing or trying to prove?

The Birds would go on to win 10 games that season, yet still not make the playoffs. Chip Kelly was giving out smoothies in practice, and that was supposed to be the difference. The next year was no better, and it was during that forgettable campaign, that I was officially done with this part of my life. Being an Eagles fan became a dark cloud over my soul, and it all came to a head one fateful night in Philly at ‘The Linc’.


I went to a Monday Night game vs. the Giants with some co-workers from The Players’ Tribune. We took the train from the city and then a cab from the station in Philly, already a terrible few hours, and when we arrived in the parking lot of the stadium, I could have sworn we were on the set of ‘Mad Max.’ Trash cans were on fire. People were smashing glass on the ground for no reason. It was horrifying. During the game, I saw a woman throw a beer in another woman’s face, despite both rooting for the home team. The crab fries don’t even have crab and everybody is angry, even when the Eagles are winning.


An hour looking for the car service in the parking lot after, plus another hour in traffic before the two hours back into the city made for another terrible experience pledging my allegiance to a team I no longer cared about.


I was done.

When I went back to LA, the news broke that the Rams were finally going to be returning to California after a generation in St. Louis. This was my out. I could be free! I didn’t care that all the suffering, all the playoff losses and blown NFC title games and failed expectations had left me with nothing. I didn’t care, because I didn’t see it that way. I saw it that I now had everything. I had a team coming to the city where I lived, broadcasting it’s games on the radio station where I worked. They had the #1 pick in the draft, and as fate would have it, the Eagles had pick #2. It was destiny. They had Todd Gurley too and that guy was pretty sweet. This was my moment to bounce…and I did.


I remember driving to the beach in early August. It was a surprisingly cool evening for that time of year, and I brought nothing but a blanket and my Eagles bucket hat. I set up my place on the sand and I sat in silence. I don’t know if it was for an hour or 10 minutes, but I cleared the heavy and dark energy, breathed deep into my existence as a man, fought the evil forces that had captured my football soul, and blacked out.


The courthouse and jail cell in the basement of the old stadium. Reggie White leaving for Green Bay. The antics of DeShaun Jackson. All of this was released. I wept. As I dove into the ocean and submerged myself beneath the water, I knew that when I would reach the surface again, grasping for breath, I would be entering a new world, with clarity and hope. I was no longer an Eagles fan. It was a new chapter in my life…

It was the perfect time too for the Football Gods to orchestrate this shift in the cosmos as the first play in the first pre-season game vs. the still hated Dallas Cowboys, was a kickoff return to the house from ‘Lucky Whitehead.’ How “unlucky” is that?!?!


But I got in at rock bottom, which reaffirmed my lifestyle change, and it felt good that there was nowhere to go but up. I’m happy they went 4-12 the year after Jeff Fisher said on Hard Knocks that he wasn’t trying to go 8-8. Once they brought in McVay, it was party time and it’s been a hell of a ride ever since. Except, I couldn’t have a clean break—no that would have been too easy. I was tempted to see if my new love is true by an improbable Super Bowl run for the Birds only 2 years into my new life as a Rams fan. This was a test from a higher power.

So many people texted me, congratulating me, not knowing of my ceremony at the beach and rebirth at sea. It was a challenge. I even bet the Patriots so there would be no doubt as to where my heart lied. (Tom F*ck*ing Brady crushes me even when I bet on him.) I felt like Hulk Hogan going to the WCW and the NWO. Was there a part of me, that when the Birds ran onto the field to Meek Mill’s “Intro”, that I felt maybe I made the wrong move? I would be dishonest if I said I didn’t. But then after the game, when I saw on my timeline an Eagles fan eat horse sh*t in Philly during the celebrations in the street that I knew in my heart once again, that these were not my people. Just google, “Eagles Super Bowl Horse Sh*t” and see what comes up. If the Rams win a Super Bowl one day, I know I’ll be happy, but I also know that I won’t eat poop.


In some ways I’m even glad the Rams lost the Super Bowl two years ago (again, Tom Fuck*ng Brady) because it’s building character with the fan base out here. Jared Goff wants it more now. If they had just shown up back in town and won a Super Bowl before even moving into the new stadium, I think Angelenos would have taken it for granted. Now Rams fans are settling in for the long haul, and thanks to my friends like Dr. Klapper, I’ve gotten to go to a few games and experience what football is like in LA. It’s the ultimate unifier in a city that is often divided and spread apart for so many reasons. Going to a Rams game is like visiting the “United Nations of LA”, as all walks of life come together to celebrate the city and root for the Rams…and hate on the Chargers. Why they left San Diego I’ll never understand…


I’m proud of the years I put in as an Eagles fan and hold near and dear the relationships and friendships and memories made. Richie B, Miles T, Mr. Best, Camper Z, Segal, and all the other Philly faithful that toughed it out—you have my respect and admiration. It’s a life I’m not cut out for and no longer a part of. And that’s ok. Because now it’s Rams all day…and Jalen Ramsey is the man and those new uni’s are fresh, so we’ll see you at SoFi. Bring it…


(01) by NFL

(02) by AP

(03) by Los Angeles Rams

(04) by Los Angeles Rams

(05) Courtesy of Ben Lyons