Does it seem a bit surreal that the Eagles are playing in the NFC Championship game on Sunday?
To me, it does. Maybe because they were 5-5-1 after tying the Bengals. Maybe because, just over a month ago, we had all resigned ourselves the Kevin Kolb Era beginning in Philadelphia. Maybe because they need multiple miracles in Week 17 just to get into the playoffs. Maybe because the Vikings win was somewhat expected, and the Giants win seemed more about what the Giants couldn’t do then it was about what the Eagles could do (which is a total mirage because this defense is playing as well as anyone right now–more on that in a later post). Maybe because they play the Arizona Cardinals on Sunday, so it does not have the feel of an NFC Championship game. I don’t know why, but it just doesn’t seem real. And, trust me, I’m not complaining.
The 3 straight losses in NFC Championship games were devastating. There are six sports defeats in my lifetime that really rocked me to the core of my existence. And, two of them were in consecutive years–the losses to Tampa Bay and Carolina. Those games were done-deals. Those games were just stepping stones to the Super Bowl. And, those games were both lost in devastating fashion.
I was out of the country for 2004. The only game I saw all year in English was the Championship game against the Falcons. I followed the season online, got to a computer to watch the gamecast of the Vikings divisional round game, saw the Falcons game on Armed Forces network, and had to watch the Super Bowl in a rural African hotel that just happened to get the Super Bowl on French TV. I was not as invested in that Super Bowl as most of you reading this right now, so it did not hurt me like some of the others.
This game coming up against the Cardinals is like nothing I’ve ever experienced in my sports fandom. It is a game that, because of the circumstances and the happenings of the season, I never, EVER expected. And, if it were any other year, it would be nice just to get here. But, this year gives us the Arizona Cardinals. So, with my feeling of the proverbial “playing with house money” is a strange combination of “there’s no way we lose this, right?” I have never had a “no way we lose this, right?” at the same time as “how did we ever get here?”
It is just all so surreal, and honestly, it kind of scares me because a loss will not be the same devastation as those awful, awful days against Tampa and Carolina, but it will be a totally different devastation–one for which I may or may not be prepared. Let’s hope it’s a moot point.