On my way to work this morning, I passed a 7-Eleven with a 2018 Philadelphia Eagles World Champions sweatshirt in its window. When I saw this, I got a knot in my throat and my eyes swelled with tears. This hasn’t been unusual since February 4th. In fact, it’s been happening every few days. I think of Brandon Graham sacking Tom Brady and knocking the ball lose in those final minutes. I think of how, we as fans thought we had a Super Bowl contender on our hands all season, but couldn’t really bring ourselves to believe it and thought, when Carson Wentz went down, well, maybe next year; of how, the players rose to the challenge and did the unexpected; of how I thought, well, they made the playoffs, that’s pretty good, we get another week of football. Oh, they beat Atlanta, that’s cool. We get another week of football, that’ll be good enough. You know, maybe they can beat the Vikings, they’re not as good as everyone says, Wow, they did it. We’re going to the Super Bowl. Well, an appearance is great. I’m not sure they can beat the Patriots but maybe. And then, holy shit, the unthinkable, they beat the Patriots.

And then, there are so many great stories of the players among this team. Nelson Agholor, who we’d drafted because of his promise, who in his first seasons didn’t play all that well, who got in his own head and looked like he was going to be a wash and then came out this season looking like the pro he is. Corey Clement, a local kid (and I say kid here because I’m probably 15 years older than he is) walking on, landing a job on the team and playing as well as he did in the Super Bowl. And all of this plays into the reason I get choked up, the unexpected nature of it all. But this isn’t it, not exactly.

You see, I’ve been watching the Philadelphia Eagles every Sunday with my dad since sometime in my teens. I can’t really remember when I started to take an interest, but I think it dates to the Donovan McNabb/Andy Reid era. And those were good years to be an Eagles fan. After all, the defense was great. We had Dawkins. We made it to the NFC Championship game, what, five years in a row? And every time we made it, we thought a Super Bowl was within our grasp. And it wasn’t. We made it once, and got beat by the Patriots. And when we made it, I watched in my parents’ living room, sitting across from my dad. My mom was there, my brother, my sisters. And we lost (funny that we use “we” in this situation, since after all, I wasn’t suited up on the field, nor was my dad, but that’s how we talk about sports, using “we”). We thought, all right. We’ve got a good team here. We’ve finally got that wide receiver problem covered with Terrell Owens. But it wasn’t meant to be.

Owens has since explained his role in this, and since he brought us our only Super Bowl appearance since 1980, prior to this year’s run and win, many of us, myself included have in retrospect found it in our hearts to forgive him. But let’s face it: at the time we hated him. One Super Bowl appearance, one season, and he set about bringing drama to that locker room. There was some kind of contract dispute. Few of us, I think, can forget him appearing on TV in tears talking about having to feed his family (what are you feeding them, TO? diamonds?). And our dream of appearing in another championship game, and maybe this time winning, disappeared with his departure. Because Andy Reid never bothered to find receivers who could catch, who could run a route, who could get separation from those covering them.

And so we waited, my dad and I, and all Philadelphia sports fans. The Phillies brought the city a championship in 2008. And I loved it. I was at the parade, I took a moment to celebrate. Hell, I’d even played baseball myself in high school and I’d always loved the Phillies, but their victory didn’t choke me up, didn’t bring tears to my eyes. Maybe this was because we all thought the Phillies team that won it had a chance the whole time. In fact, they had multiple chances. They went back to the Series and lost to the Yankees. They went back to the playoffs and lost to San Fran and St. Louis. They had their four aces. We expected it again, but it didn’t happen. So we set out sights on the Eagles as Philadelphia sports fans. After all, every other team has won a championship but them. Oh, there are some who would point to the 1960 Championship, but that wasn’t a Super Bowl. The Super Bowl wasn’t invented yet. But this isn’t the reason I get choked up.

There was a lot that happened in that Super Bowl game that could give you chills. Nick Foles play for one. Nick Foles, who a few years back, was the supposed Franchise Quarterback under Chip Kelly, our supposed savior. I listen to sports talk radio on my way to pick up my kids from daycare, and I remember Mike Missanelli arguing with callers about the idea of Nick Foles being a franchise quarterback. He lacked the mobility, Mike said. He was a decent backup, but he wasn’t a franchise quarterback. And I think I agreed. But we were so hungry for a championship that we wanted to believe Foles and Kelly could bring it to us. So one of the ironies with the 2018 Super Bowl is the fact that Nick Foles actually was. Only this isn’t the reason I get choked up either.

Could it be the Brandon Graham strip that does it? Admittedly, it’s the play of the game. In the interviews leading up to the start of Super Bowl LII, Tom Brady was asked if the Eagles defense could do anything to surprise him, and he gave the interviewer that Golden Boy smile and said, “They can try…” And, admittedly, for much of the game, it looked like he was right. They had no surprises for him. They couldn’t get to him. He was getting the ball out too quickly. So when Brandon Graham got to him and stripped that ball, the tight coiled ball of tension sitting on the edge of the sofa that was me, jumped into the air, and yelled, “SURPRISE, MOTHERFUCKER!” But that makes me laugh more than it chokes me up.

No, the reason I get choked up whenever I think of the Eagles’ victory is thinking of those final moments. The Hail Mary Tom Brady threw bouncing around and hitting the ground in the end zone. The moments’ pause as it sunk in what just happened. Then my whole family (minus, unfortunately, my sister Lindsay because she had to work), who’d been standing rather than sitting for the final minute, leaping into the air and cheering our team, the team we’d watched lose so long. And I turned and hugged my dad and hugged my brother and hugged my sister Jess and my mom, and we ran outside and my brother ran a cowbell like the town crier up and down the sidewalk and my dad set off the car alarm and neighbors came out cheering and we high-fived each other and shouted and cheered and cars were rolling down the street honking horns. And there was a release, not just of four hours tension, but of the years of waiting. We’d finally seen it, and it felt great.