Monday, December 9, 2013

THE SNOW BOWL

I didn't run a step this weekend.

But I still have some stories.

On Friday evening, through a torrential downpour, I ventured two hours south to the Ausherman farm, in Doylesburg, Pennsylvania, for another attempt to bag an elusive deer, on the first Saturday of Pennsylvania's deer hunting season. Armed with pizzas from a local vendor, the Pottsville Pizzeria, I joined ten other hunters, and we told stories and plotted strategies, consuming a few pints of Guinness along the way.

Our best strategies were foiled by the elusive whitetails. I turned into a popsicle as icy winds sliced through my perch, fifteen feet above the ground in a metal tree stand, tethered to a massive oak tree.

At dusk I was on the road, back home for a few hours, ready for my next weekend journey.

I have been a Philadelphia Eagles fan since I was a young boy in the 1960s. My grandfather, who went blind late in his life, used to listen to Eagles football games on his transistor radio, and I would join him.

As an adult, I have gone to countless games at Veterans Stadium, and now at Lincoln Financial Field. Whether it is for a race, a conference, a weekend in Old City with my wife, or a Phillies, Sixers, or Eagles game, I am drawn to the City of Brotherly Love, and make the 100-mile trek several times a year.

But, those Eagles. They evoke emotions in me that sometimes cause my family and dogs scurrying from the living room, during games in which they perform in less than a stellar manner. My stepson Jake, and I, with whom I could sit and discuss sports for hours, and who is a student at Saint Joseph's University in Philadelphia, cannot remain in the same room together twice a year. Jake suffers from a horrible addiction: the young man is a Dallas Cowboys fan!

I have rejoiced during Eagles playoff victories, and my heart is still in Jacksonville, torn to shreds from the Super Bowl loss of 2005. I was happy to be in attendance (I DID see Paul McCartney's halftime show), but was shattered by the defeat.

Through all my Eagles history, however, yesterday, in South Philadelphia, may have been my most memorable Eagles game.

The weather forecast called for "a period of snow, with a possible accumulation of 1 to 2 inches."

We arrived early, pulling into the parking lot at 9:15 a.m. I immediately prepared to "suit up." Years of running have prepared me to dress properly for any condition. Hunting boots, lined with 800 grams of thinsulate material, an Under Armour base layer, another thermal layer, a sweatshirt, and my puffy, waterproof Eagles jacket. Packets of hand and footwarmers lined my feet and hands. An Eagles wool cap topped my head. The temperature barely reached thirty degrees, and the damp feeling of moisture filled the air. The sky was dark and foreboding.

At noon, it began.

The snowflakes were large, the snow was very wet and heavy, and it fell like a squall. Friends Jim Mendini, Scott Thomas, and I were in the middle of a tailgate party hosted by Gabe Lehrman, and joined by Jay Wisnosky, a native of nearby Minersville, who had flown in from Michigan to attend the game. We drank 'boilo,' an ethnic beverage, made with cinnamon, orange peels, spices, caraway seeds, and whiskey. It is a sweet, tasty brew, possessing warming qualities on a cold day.

The snow fell rapidly as we entered the stadium at 12:30. This was turning out to be anything but a squall, and as we settled into our seats, (actually we 'arrived' at our seats. We didn't sit for the entire game) only the ten-yard and sideline stripes were visible on a field blanketed by at least an inch of snow.

For the first half, white out conditions prevailed, as a stiff wind blew the snow sideways. The eagles could do nothing. They were down at halftime, having earned only one first down.

There is a new coach and a new attitude on the Eagles squad. Gone is the rigid, "I invented the game" attitude of our previous head coach. The team made adjustments, and as the snow piled to a total of 8 inches on the field, the Eagles piled on the Lions. Nick Foles looked like a seasoned veteran, and Shady McCoy ran for over two hundred yards against one of the NFL's top defenses against the run. From our snow perch at the 20-yard line, we witnessed the Eagles four touchdown barrage during the fourth quarter.

It was snowy, miserable, and absolutely magnificent. Philadelphia fans are the most passionate fans on the planet, and as we marched to our cars, completely covered with snow, jubilation penetrated the snowy air.

The drive home was treacherous. A normal two-hour trip took five. By 9:00 p.m. I was reunited with my wife, and she and I watched "Homeland," one of our favorite shows, while our dogs lounged in front of the cozy fireplace.

Winter has arrived early.

It was quite a day.