The Choice of Colors

When I was born, I was black. When I grew up, I was black. When I get hot, I am black. When I get cold, I am black. When I am sick, I am black. When I die, I am black. When you were born, You were pink. When you grew up, You were white. When you get hot, You go red. When you get cold, You go blue. When you are sick, You go purple… When you die, You go green. AND YET YOU HAVE THE CHEEK TO CALL ME COLOURED!!!

(“Coloured” written by an Anonymous pupil of King Edward VI School, Birmingham, UK; found in The Children’s book of poems, prayers and meditations ed. Liz Attenborough, Element Books, 1989)

The phrase “wild card” was designed to denote the X factor in a situation that is perceived to have a certain outcome.

In pro football, the wild card has symbolized excitement and reaped rewards; the team on a roll parlaying their walk with destiny into a run for the ultimate team prize.

Since the age of six, my colors of choice have been the Kelly Green, Silver & White of the Philadelphia Eagles; and they were champions when I walked in the door, having beaten Vince Lombardi’s Green Bay Packers 17-13.

To this day those Eagles were the only team to beat a Lombardi – coached team in a National Football League championship game and this year will recognize the 50th anniversary of that feat.

I have enjoyed watching Pete Retzlaff, Tim Brown, Tom “Wild Man” Woodeshick, Chuck Bednarik, Ted Dean, Clarence Peaks, Tommy McDonald and my cousin, number #24, Nate Ramsey, a mainstay of the Eagles’ defense in the 1960s.

From Eric Allen to Don Zimmerman, I have been there for the highs and the lows; and like all true fans, remained so win, lose or draw.

When the final whistle was sounded in the 34 -14 ass whuppin’ the Dallas Cowboys laid on the Eagles in the playoffs, the drums immediately began to beat for the ouster of quarterback Donovan McNabb. Headlines like “McNabb came up small” “Fair or not, McNabb to be judged heavily” and “Time for McNabb to move on” were slapped down faster than it takes to order a cheese steak at Pat’s.

What’s Love Got to Do With It?

In those 50 years, the line at quarterback for the “Iggles” has been fragile for long stretches of time. When stable, however, the rewards were worth the wait: Sonny Jurgensen, Roman Gabriel, Ron Jaworski, Randall Cunningham and Donovan McNabb.

The last 11 of those 50 years have been in McNabb’s hands, and as much as the mainstream media desires to depict him as anything but an elite quarterback, facts have never gotten in the way of what McNabb has accomplished – in spite of all the poison sent his way.

Here are the facts: since being booed on Draft Day in 1999, McNabb has emerged as the Eagles all-time passing leader (32,873 yards and counting, a 216 -100 TD to INT ratio, 93 – 50 – 1 as regular season starter, 9-7 in playoffs).  Of the 22 playoff appearances ever earned by the Eagles franchise, eight of them (almost 40%) have been with McNabb under center, more than any other Philly QB.

McNabb is a five time Pro Bowl selection, and NFC Offensive Player of the Year (2004).

Over the entire history of the league, McNabb was the first quarterback to ever throw for 30 touchdowns and less than 10 interceptions in a season; so much for questions of ball security, accuracy and passing percentage.

Of the 11 Division Championships throughout the Eagles history, five were with McNabb as their field general, more than any other. Think Norm van Brocklin, Jaworski or Cunningham, and you’re not even close.

Of the three conference championships, McNabb has one, along with Jaworski and the tandem of van Brocklin/Jurgensen.

And of their two Super Bowl appearances, McNabb has one (SB XXXIX).

When the Eagles 75th Anniversary All-Time Team was presented, the player under center on that team was not van Brocklin, Jurgensen, Jaworski or Cunningham – it was Donovan Jamal McNabb.

Compare the stability and level of excellence served to spoiled Eagles fans to other teams in the league, and you will find maybe four or five teams who have had the luxury of similar stability. In the rough-and-tumble NFC Beast, the Eagles, under McNabb, have more Division Championships in the past decade than the New York Giants, Dallas Cowboys or laughable Washington.

Once you get past Peyton Manning, Tom Brady and Brett Favre, McNabb, along with Ben Roethlisberger and Phillip Rivers is one of the league’s elite passers. Consider that in the same time frame, he has had only one All-Pro receiver (Terrell Owens) to work with (for one season!) puts more iron in the argument of McNabb’s being a franchise, and yes, a Hall of Fame quarterback.

Manning (with Marvin Harrison, Reggie Wayne & Dallas Clark, all long term and multiple selections) Brady (with Randy Moss & Wes Welker, long term, multiple selections) and Favre (Donald Driver, Antonio Freeman & Greg Jennings, long term, multiple selections while with Green Bay) by hook, crook, free agency or Draft, have clearly been blessed with better talent in which to achieve their respective goals.

Yet in spite of this, the desire to give McNabb the hook and have him go elsewhere seems predicated by the color of his skin rather than the content of his results on and off the field of play.

Why do I say this? As I casually scanned the headlines of all the weekend’s Wild Card results, none of those I saw implied that Brady had choked when the Baltimore Ravens put a beat down on the New England Patriots’ ass; or that Carson Palmer was an overrated choke artist after the 24-14 loss to the New York Jets.

Kurt Warner and Aaron Rodgers were both praised for their performances in the 51-45 shootout in the desert, but only McNabb was the designated target in the ignominious defeat by Dallas.

Sadly, McNabb’s standing affects the other Black quarterbacks in the league as well. It doesn’t matter if Jacksonville’s David Garrard once led the league in passing efficiency and TD/INT ratio; Tim Tebow has all but been signed if you believe the squeaking of The Mouse (ESPIN).

It also doesn’t matter that Tennessee Titans fans got screwed out of a playoff appearance (and who knows what else?) because head coach Jeff Fisher looked to jerk Vince Young by keeping him on the bench in a 0-6 start. Since Young finished the season 8-2 as a starter (26-13 career; far superior to draft alums Jay Cutler and that lame-ass Matt Leinart) had Young been in the lineup and won even two games, the whole playoff landscape is changed.

Seneca Wallace & Michael Vick struggle to avoid being thrown into the Wildcat Ghetto of “athletic” quarterbacks (you know, those Niggers can really run!) Brad Smith gets discovered (finally), Pat White gets noise from the “experts” implying he was drafted too high, and Dennis Dixon shows flashes of ability.

Jason Campbell gets similarly jerked by his now former head coach and is once again thrown into uncertainty with Mike Shanahan’s ascension to head man in Washington; while JaMarcus Russell’s survival may depend on Al Davis’ faith in his becoming a star player (if only Davis had shown this kind of loyalty to Eldridge Dickey!)

So, Rush Limbaugh’s bullshit notwithstanding, McNabb’s fortunes course throughout the rest of the league; and if Philly fans are so quick to let this go, they may well regret what they wished for.

After all – Hall of Fame quarterbacks come in every color.

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