The Eagle has Landed


 

My son finds fandom with Philadelphia. 

By Luke Robinson

The Super Bowl has never meant that much to me. Like many of you, I am a college football guy. I prefer to root for teams whose players only allegedly get paid rather than those who get taxed on their earnings.

My ambivalence towards “The Big Game” doesn’t mean I don’t watch it. I am glued to the TV like the rest of you. It is, after all, the greatest spectacle in American sports. Hell, I’d watch for the commercials alone. However, rarely have I ever had a fanatical attachment to any team in the NFL.

Geography tells me to be a fan of the Falcons or support the Saints. Success has me occasionally pulling for the Patriots. Sympathy often leads me to root for the Raiders or dream for Detroit.

2018 will be a different story, though. This year, I was cheering—and cheering hard—for the Philadelphia Eagles.

My newfound Eagle-allegiance had nothing to do with some misplaced hatred for Patriots’ coach Bill Belichick or understandable jealously of New England QB Tom Brady. I was not sick of the Patriots’ success or upset about some questionable calls that may go in their favor more often than not. Neither “Deflategate” nor “Spygate” opened any wounds for me.

My Philly fandom really had nothing to do with Philadelphia. I like the city (try the cheesesteaks!), but I have never had anything tying me to it. That is until my oldest son, Truitt, became an Eagles fan.

To my knowledge there was no impetus for his Philly fandom. Oh, he will claim he became an “Eagle-for-life” because I merely took him through Philadelphia on the way to the Alabama-Penn State game in 2010, but he was only six at the time and in such a rush, I doubt he had time to notice the Liberty Bell’s crack, much less become enamored with the city’s “brotherly love.” We practically had to get our Geno’s orders “to go” just to make kick off!

The reasons are not important though. I only care that he is emotionally invested in a team. I was hoping it would be the Crimson Tide, but I would take almost anyone.

You see, Truitt has Asperger’s Syndrome. A lesser-discussed developmental disorder on the autism spectrum.

Symptoms include difficulties in social interaction and nonverbal communication. Obviously, Truitt’s situation could be worse. Asperger’s is labeled as a “high-functioning” type of autism. By no means am I looking to pull a sympathy card here. In fact, if anything, Truitt would probably be less than thrilled I am writing this.

Occasionally, Asperger’s can lead to failures in shared enjoyment, too. That’s where being a “fan” of something can be tricky. Especially when your father is a certified, well-documented “Bammer” of the highest order. Truitt will accompany me (and his siblings) to Alabama games, but he doesn’t so much immerse himself in the moment as tolerate my UA obsessiveness. In other words, Truitt can be rather disconnected from fandom in general.

Where Alabama losses have sometimes ruined my weekends (if not weeks…months… years…), Truitt never so much as batted an eye during the Kick Six. Luckily, my angst is generally enough for both of us.

I doubt many psychologists would agree, but I think there are a lot of life lessons to be learned when you entrust your heart to a team over which you have no control. You experience joy and anguish and how to deal with each respectively. When you are devoted enough, you somehow believe your presence at a game or your power of prayer can affect its very outcome. I mean, if you can’t commit to staying in the kitchen because Auburn or Alabama started playing better while you were in there getting a drink, how can you call yourself a true fan? I once asked my mom to sit in the car and listen to the radio in lieu of watching the game on TV because the Tide rolled while she was in the vehicle and ebbed when she came inside. And she did it. (‘Bama won that game, by the way).

Truitt, however, has never had deep feelings for a team before. It’s possible he saw my behavior during Alabama football games and thought, “That doesn’t seem normal.” More likely, though, his previous detachment was due to his Asperger’s.

Don’t get me wrong; Truitt is not such a fan he can recite the Eagles’ roster. He shows his adoration with much less flair than your average SEC supporter. Truitt’s wearing a Philadelphia T-shirt is the equivalent to another fan’s covering themselves in body paint of the team’s colors. His fanaticism will always have strict limits and a lower ceiling than most die-hard fans.

However, he does, in fact, wear an Eagles’ jersey now and he is focused in tightly to the TV during their games. The way he bought into the Eagles is surprising to say the least. But I find it awesome.

Truitt found his team. And, as fate would have it, his team was on the biggest stage in sports this year. And it won. The freaking Eagles won the Super Bowl at the exact right time for my boy.

One day, he’ll feel the heartbreak we have all felt as Alabama or Auburn fans. That feeling that made Van Tiffin and Chris Davis household names in the most hated of ways for some.

But, for now, Truitt and his Eagles rule the NFL’s roost.

Fly, Eagles, fly. You have no bigger fans than Truitt and me.

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