Roughly two weeks ago, I realized my (very early) bus ride back to Philadelphia for Christmas directly clashed with the Eagles/Giants game, a match-up that would ostensibly decide the NFC East champion.
This, obviously, was not good. Unfortunately, due to time constraints (and the fact that I was traveling with Queen Myno), changing to another bus wasn't an option. Luckily, I have a generous (and handsome) friend with access to NFL Sunday Ticket, and he was happy to donate his password so that I could stream it to my iPhone. Success! It would be an entertaining bus ride after all.
But when I settled down at 1 PM and clicked over to the game, it refused to play. I had forgotten about the NFL's archaic blackout rules; it was the national game, so it had to be watched on FOX. I was in trouble.
I considered shelling out $25 for the NFL Audio Pass, but the form was too hard to navigate on my phone and the bus's Internet was down. And as I was fumbling around and cursing, I started getting texts. The Eagles couldn't move the ball, nor could they stop the Giants on third down. Mario Manningham was torching Dimitri Patterson, and before you knew it, New York had built a huge lead.
I certainly wasn't happy, but I have to admit, I wasn't that sad. It sounded like an awful game, the kind you consider turning off midway through the third quarter. Definitely not the kind you shell out money to watch, let alone just listen to. It looked like the only game of the 2010 season I'd miss would turn out to be the worst; I had gotten lucky.
So I contently sat on the bus with my girlfriend, reading the occasional text update and following fans and beat writers on Twitter. Everyone was frustrated, especially when Andy Reid chose not to challenge an obvious non-fumble by DeSean Jackson. That should have been the nail in the coffin. It was 31-10 with 8:17 left.
But then my phone starts buzzing. My friend Jon Cifuentes is bombarding me with updates. My ESPN ScoreCenter app is freaking out, constantly informing me of Eagles touchdowns. Even non-Eagles fans are texting me, saying either "Wow!" or the more popular "VIIIIIIICKKKK!" Michael Vick, the new face of the Eagles organization (and, coincidentally, of my fantasy football team), was taking over the game.
I'm going nuts in my seat, getting excited over a game I can't even see. I'm starting to believe that maybe they can come back. I'm picturing Tom Coughlin's head turning red and exploding, praying for the Eagles D to finally step up and make a few big stops, imagining this perfect-sounding onside kick falling into Riley Cooper's hands.
Finally, the dust settles. It's somehow 31-31 with about a minute left. If they hold the Giants here, it's overtime. I can't believe it; I've missed the best comeback in recent Eagles history. Even if the Giants win, those final few minutes were obviously incredible. "Man," I think, "I can't wait to watch this when I get back home."
And then, all at once, I receive 30 texts in giant capital letters. My Twitter feed goes nuts. It's all unintelligible gibberish, cheering and carrying on; all the bells and whistles that come with a game-changing, and maybe season-changing, play. The only constant word? "DeSean."
So I didn't see DeSean Jackson's life-altering punt return. I didn't see the Giants fans sobbing, the Eagles fans going insane, the suddenly wobbly 2010 playoff run being immediately righted by a player that most "experts" had bashed all last week for "showboating." Notice that you didn't hear many negative comments over his pre-TD sideline-to-sideline celebratory jog. Like I said, when you're a true game-changer, you can show all the swagger you want.
If I had pushed our bus back a day, to Monday, we'd have been caught in a big Boston snowstorm. If we had left on Saturday, we'd have skipped a party at my friend's house. Are these reasonable excuses? Not exactly; I'm still fuming about missing the game.
But regular season wins, no matter how thrilling, come and go. It's what happens in the game, not the win, that really matters. And what we should all take away is that this is a special team with an aura around it, one not felt since the early days of Donovan McNabb. They can do it all, and if they overcome a recent rash of defensive injuries, well, you can be sure I won't miss a snap of postseason football.