On the morning before the Philadelphia Eagles won their first Super Bowl in franchise history, Catholics at Mass on the fifth Sunday in ordinary Time, Feb. 4, heard the story of Job.
How fitting for this long-suffering Eagles’ fan base.
Recall how Job was blessed with a wealth of talent but through one misfortune after another, lost everything, time after time.
He could have become indignant and given up from one heartbreaking loss after another, or during endless debates with friends, or even trials sent by the devil. But eventually, throughout the long time thinking about all that was lost, he kept his trust in God and ascended a new height of glory.
Job is a model of persistence. Eagles’ fans can relate. Like Job, they’ve seen losses season after season. There have been some bad Eagles teams over a span of 85 years to be sure, but mostly good teams and some very good teams. There have been outstanding players beloved by fans. But the Eagles always came up one play short of the pinnacle.
No longer. As the final seconds of Super Bowl LII ticked down to zero Sunday night, the Eagles had captured the greatest glory in American sports: their first Super Bowl in franchise history and first football championship in more than a half-century.
Fans’ persistence over all those years finally had paid off. The biblical lament “How long, O Lord, must I cry for help” finally had been answered. That it was delivered by a team wracked by key injuries, lifted by improbable performances on the sport’s biggest stage and delivered against the steepest odds — the Eagles were said to be underdogs in every one of the three playoff games they won this year — has the poetic ring of a psalmist.
Implausible as it seemed, the “Cinderella Team,” as Philadelphia Archbishop Charles J. Chaput called them in a statement Feb. 5, has become recognized as an “organization of character, courage and refusal to quit. God bless them all, and their families, and the wonderful city — our city — they call home. Congratulations to the Philadelphia Eagles on their incredible victory in Super Bowl LII!”
The Eagles have shown fans casual or committed the value of unity — without shame I say, brotherly love — and of working together selflessly and purposely toward one lofty goal.
The joy that began pouring out on the field in Minnesota’s gleaming stadium Sunday night after the Eagles clinched the win continued by the tens of thousands of residents on the slick streets of Philadelphia neighborhoods and across our region. It will continue on Thursday, Feb. 8, with a parade in the city that may be unprecedented in its scope and emotion.
Few other experiences in American culture can produce the unbridled joy like that of a sports championship. That this one was almost 60 years in the making should remind us to savor the moment, give thanks to God for it and to remember that persistence, eventually, does pay off.