Editor’s Note: Every year when the Eagles report for training camp, we publish a column. Sometimes said column discusses actual football matters, but in other instances it may offer a more high level or metaphorical look at the state of the franchise or where my head is at on things. This might be the best — and weirdest — one yet.
“How the fuck is this happening?”, you say to yourself as your hand bangs once more on the worn-down steering wheel.
You turn the keys again in a last-ditch effort. The engine whimpers softly but still won’t start. “Son of a bitch, am I really gonna have to Uber from San Francisco to Philadelphia? Is that even possible? What driver would accept that?” you mutter in a concerned voice.
What a difference a calendar year makes.
Let’s step back for a second.
This is typically the time of year where your annual road trip begins. You remember — the one where you rode shotgun with Chip in the driver’s seat. The glory days of 2013 where Nick jumped in the car and navigated you through some initial traffic. You were flying, faster than nearly all of the competition. Chip drove with this aura of confidence you hadn’t seen in years. He was out of control and simultaneously in complete control.
There was that magical night in Dallas where the three of you stayed up late celebrating a division title, blasting the fight song while doing laps around Jerry World. Six days later, the trip ended, a little shorter than it should have, but you knew that you were bound for greatness.
2014 was supposed to be even better until your muffler broke halfway through the season. You tried to replace it, but it wasn’t the same. Your rivals caught you down the stretch and celebrated what was yours the year before.
This bothered Chip to no end. He was dead set on making sure it never happened again but went about it completely the wrong way. Last year’s trip never stood much of a chance. There was the early fender-bender in Atlanta. Then a pit stop at home where Chip looked asleep at the wheel.
All the while, you hopped back in the passenger seat of the car every week desperately wanting to believe that it — whatever it was — would click.
Then the crash happened, and holy shit was it a fiery one. It was so bad that Chip had to leave town and moved across the country.
No more road trips speeding by the police. No more no-huddle offenses.
You never really got to say goodbye, and that’s what led you to embark on your own cross-country drive. A chance to get the closure that you desperately need.
It was a lonely journey. It’s different flying solo, but you made it.
‘People weren’t lying. San Francisco looks pretty damn cool,’ you think to yourself as you hit the brakes with a traffic light approaching. Chip was never good with the brakes. You always thought that if he could do away with rear-view mirrors, he would have. They weren’t a safety device to Chip but rather a symbol of inefficiency.
That is, until several other cars have passed you, and there’s no one to stare back at anymore.
‘Damn, the Golden Gate bridge is beautiful,’ you say as you lock the door and make your way over to Chip’s car. Your moment of marvel at the scenery of a different city is quickly interrupted.
“Why are we meeting like this?” Chip says to you, not making eye contact as you make your way into the passenger seat.
He was never the best at impromptu greetings.
You had rehearsed your opening line probably 272 times throughout the drive. There was even that awkward moment where you accidentally said it to a Burger King drive-through employee, and she looked pretty confused when you told her that you were breaking up with her.
You thought you were ready, but it turns out, you’re not so you try making small talk.
“So this is your new car after the crash, huh? How’s Marissa doing at Tennessee? Do you two still text? I know it was impossible, but I told you at the beginning of last year’s trip that we should have gone and saw her. Imagine how different things would be.”
Chip is now irritated. “This is a completely inefficient use of my time. What do you want?” he says now raising his voice.
“I…I…I…I…drove out here to tell you that I’m breaki…”
Chip cuts you off. ‘I was so damn close’ you say in your head. Dammit, Chip.
“I know exactly why you’re here. You’re here because you sense something wrong with how NFL football has been coached for years now. The old-school methods, the slow and plodding offenses. The elongated play calls.”
“Yes but no,” you chime back in. “I’m here to tell you that I’m breaking u…,”
Chip goes to cuts you off again. He was also never good about letting people talk during press conferences.
“You’re here because you believed that I was different. You believed that we could do something great together, and you’re here, you’re here, because you miss me. You never asked for me to be fired. You miss me.”
“Of course I miss you,” you respond. “But that’s not why I’m here.”
You take a deep breath.
“I’m here to tell you that I’m breaking up wit…”
“Sorry, hang on a second,” Chip says as he reaches for his phone.
“Broncos calling asking about Colin,” Chip says to you.
“Okay,” you say back, visibly frustrated now.
“Now where were we?” Chip responds.
You decide you need to take a different approach this time.
“Chip, do you realize what you could have had? You could have had the entire city eating out of the palm of your hand. Everyone wanted to love you, and those who didn’t were fucking stupid. You were going to win a Super Bowl, multiple Super Bowls, and you threw all of that away last offseason.”
“I would do it again,” Kelly snaps back. “I was trying to win.”
“And you lost a lot more than just games,” you quip back. “You blew up a good team. A team that won you the NFC East in your first year and gave you much of the clout that you had.
“You guys are ridiculous. You act like I got rid of a bunch of Super Bowl champions.”
This isn’t going quite as well as you had hoped.
“DeSean. LeSean. Jeremy. Nick. Do you realize what those guys meant to this team and this city?”
Chip doesn’t begin talking, so you jump in again.
“They were some of my really good friends. I trusted you with them.”
“Your good friends haven’t won a playoff game since 2008,” Chip says.
Remember that part about not making eye contact when you got in the car? Yeah, that’s no longer a thing. He’s now staring directly through you — pupils locked in a death stare.
This part you were ready for. In fact, you were hoping it would happen so you could use it.
“Your best friend Sam has never played in a playoff game and never will.”
If there was an audience watching as opposed to this being a private conversation, they might respond with an “OOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOHHHHHHHHH.”
That was the ultimate zinger. You were waiting to throw it for months, and Chip put it up on a tee for you.
He’s now rattled. You’re still not used to Chip being rattled even though you started to see it more and more late last year when you guys would hit bad traffic and Chip’s old tricks couldn’t find the shortcut any longer.
He’s still quiet.
“You fucked me. I believed in you. I stood up for you so many times, and you fucked me. You fucked me.”
You’re in a groove now. It’s time.
“And that’s why I drove here to tell you that I’m breaking up with y…”
“You want a smoothie? San Francisco has really good smoothies. We should get one,” Chip nonchalantly asks.
“No, Chip, I don’t want a fucking smoothie. See, this is the problem. You’ve evidently learned nothing from your mistakes. I was hoping you would, but you don’t listen to anyone. You’re getting in your own way constantly. You could be one of the greatest innovators the NFL has ever seen, and it won’t work if you keep doing this.”
You’ve now stepped out of the car. Darkness has fallen on this summer night in San Francisco. You used to like looking up at the sky on your trips when Chip would speed through the night, dreaming about what you could accomplish.
Nick was always quiet but would nod his head to the music in the backseat. No words needed to be spoken. The mission was clear. What you wouldn’t do to have those days back.
The touchdown passes. The fourth-quarter comebacks. Cranking the music even louder as Chip sped past another driver and left them in a dust while that cop car didn’t move.
You snap out of your moment of nostalgia and lock eyes with Chip once again, as you’re now both standing on opposite sides of the car.
You close your eyes for a second that feels like an eternity. Now you’re ready. Nothing can stop you as they flash open and your lips start to move.
“I’m breaking up with you.”
There it is.
Chip hasn’t reacted yet.
“I’m going back to Philadelphia. Long drive home and camp starts soon. Season will be here before we know it. Good luck, Chip.”
You begin walking back to your car. Chip follows closely behind you. You press your remote to unlock the door, but it doesn’t work. The second time it does, but the extra time let Chip get even closer. He’s not saying anything, but it’s almost as if he knows something you don’t.
You turn the key in the ignition, but nothing happens. Again. Nothing. Again. There’s that whimper, but it quickly fizzles out.
You knew this wouldn’t be easy. After all, the crash last year didn’t impact just Chip. There’s a mess for you to clean up too.
How the tables have turned. Brimming with confidence the minute prior, you’re now the one stressed again, and Chip sees this as his opportunity.
“Why don’t you stay?” he says.
“What are you talking about, Chip?”
“You know. Stay — in San Francisco. Spend the season with me.”
Now you’re really confused. ‘Didn’t I just tell him that I was breaking up with him. I did say that out loud, right?’
“Come on. I know you rooted for Nick in St. Louis last year. Plus, you don’t think you guys are actually gonna be any good without me, right? I left that offense in shambles.”
“Chip, I won’t do that. I grew up an Eagles fan, I’ve always been an Eagles fan, I’ll die an Eagles fan. I’m going back home — whether this car comes back with me or not.”
You pull out your phone. Outside of the sound of a dog barking in the distance, it’s dead silent.
“Uber will be here in seven minutes,” you casually say to Chip.
Your driver’s name is Ben. He’s wearing a Giants hat in his picture but comes with a 4.9 rating. At this point, it’s hard to be picky. Chip was your guy, and it will be difficult to give your heart away to another driver just like that.
Ben’s now two minutes away. Hopefully this will be easy.
You put your phone away for a second to look up at Chip one more time — examining your former hero who you still have feelings for deep down. This is it. This is really goodbye.
You look down at it again and can’t believe what you see. Ben cancelled. He’s picking up another rider.
You figured it was a long shot to make him travel that far but dammit, he looked like a good driver. Now Tom is on the way. Tom is old in his picture — Like old enough to be your great-grandfather old, but he has a 5.0 rating.
You hold the screen up and wave it at Chip. He breaks his nine minute silence.
“Tom, really? Didn’t I used to leave Tom in the dust on our trips together? You’re gonna get in a car with him?”
You don’t have time to answer because Tom cancels too. Still holding the screen towards him, Chip sees another person turn you down and smirks.
Is the third time a charm?
The app feels like it’s taking forever, the requesting screen processing and processing, but no drivers showing up.
‘Stay calm,’ you say to yourself. ‘We’ll figure it out.’
All of a sudden your phone vibrates, but something looks weird. You have a driver on the way. His name is Doug,. He doesn’t even have a rating, but he’s only a minute away.
“You sure you don’t want to cancel this trip and stay?” Chip tries once more.
He’s relentless. Tears begin streaming down your face. There’s still a few seconds left to cancel. You’re not good at saying goodbye even in situations like this.
Car lights flash in the distance. Doug drives a Lincoln Town Car. Talk about a boring car. This 45-hour drive home is going to suck.
At this point, the tears have intensified some as the car inches closer.
You do a quick check of the license plate and open the door to the backseat without saying anything. The backseat — this is different. Chip’s looking at you as you cry, nearly 3,000 miles from home.
Doug begins driving, and you stare back at Chip and your car for as long as you can, until it’s become physically impossible to tell that anyone or anything was there in the distance if you didn’t know better.
Doug looks like he’s about to say something. ‘Please no. Please don’t try to talk to me right now,’ you beg to yourself.
“Hey man,” he says turning around as he reaches a stoplight and pulls around to extend his hand.
“Pleasure to have you in the car. I’m just so excited to be driving Uber. I can’t tell you how grateful I am for the opportunity to have you as my first passenger. It’s just so awesome.”
You wipe a tear from your face and stare back at Doug, hoping he’ll take a hint. He doesn’t.
“You ever have Kansas City BBQ, man? My old boss, Andy — obsessed with it. I was thinking we stop on the way back if you’re up for it. My treat.
You don’t say anything.
“Of course if you’re not into it though, we don’t have to. Maybe it’s good if we don’t. Jeffrey and Howie will probably be upset at me for putting extra miles on the car now that I think about it.”
You’ve had enough.
“Hey man, not to be an asshole, but I just broke up with someone. I’m really not in the mood to talk right now. Just drive the damn car.”
Several hours have gone by where you’ve been asleep. It was never easy to sleep with Chip driving. He always wanted to go faster, but to your best knowledge, Doug hasn’t come close to an accident yet.
You wake up to unfamiliar sights. ‘Did I just see some exit sign for Mount Rushmore?’
“What’s going on?” you ask Doug.
“You didn’t seem too into the BBQ idea, but we gotta pick up another rider in North Dakota.”
“Whatever,” you say back. “I’m going back to sleep.”
Two hours later you’re awoken again as someone else gets in the car. He’s tall with red hair. So tall that you’re not sure how he’s going to sit in the backseat of Doug’s car for that long.
You’re in a little better mood now and if not taking the initiative to start one, at least willing to engage in a conversation.
You take a look at your phone and open up the app to figure out what’s going on.
“Hey man, I’m Carson. Where you headed?”
“Philadelphia,” you respond back. One-word isn’t much, but it’s progress.
“No way, me too,” he says. “You an Eagles fan by chance?”
“You could say that. What about you?”
“Well, I think I just became one,” Carson says. “I hear their fans are crazy. Super passionate. Is that true?”
‘Are you sure you’re ready to get into this?’ you ask yourself before answering.
“You bet, but the good ones are also reasonable. We care. There’s people who like to dismiss everything and mock the ones who care, retweeting stupid things on Twitter, acting as if life is meaningless. The good ones though, they’ll get on you, but if you show you want it even more than they do, they’ll also have your back.
“Hey man, that’s awesome,” Carson says. “I can’t wait to see it for myself. You into music by chance? Play any instruments?
“Played the trumpet for a couple years when I was younger. That’s pretty much it though. You? ”
Your mouth drops slightly, not having expected this. Carson takes your silence as an invitation to continue.
“There was this guy in my old band named Sam. Never played a sold out show in his life, and he thought he was better than me. I know I can beat him though.”
You want to say something back, but your phone buzzes.
“Hey man, you all good?” says Carson. “You seem a little distracted.”
You wait a few seconds to answer Carson, your face buried deep into your screen.
It’s Chip. He texted you. Of course he texted you.
There’s that sensation. Tears traveling through your inner-eyes, but you won’t cry this time.
Your finger shakes as you hit ‘Send.’ There it goes.
Doug is cruising. It will get more difficult as he hits rush hour traffic, but things are calm for now. The first highway sign for Philadelphia appears.
“Yeah man, I’m all good,” you say back to Carson. “Let’s fucking go.”