The lesson was troublesome, it was humbling, and it would reverberate all these months afterward, as it was delivered by our always friendly and always sympathetic neighbors to the South. For one of the few times in recorded history, we can sincerely thank the City Fair of Philadelphia for showing us the way.
You will recall that the Phillies were doubly fortunate to even qualify for baseball games, taking advantage of the bonus offer invented for the 2022 season and getting through 5 1/2 months of mostly uninspired baseball. But once their ticket was stamped, they adopted their unofficial motto of the old New York Lottery: You gotta be in it to win it.
Remind everyone—specifically baseball fans on both sides of the New York baseball chasm—that it really doesn’t matter how well you played in April or May, how many games you won in June and July, and how complete you were in August and September. It is October that matters first and foremost to forever.
If you play your best when games matter, this is the best weapon you can own. The Phillies taught this lesson directly to St. Louis, Atlanta, and San Diego, and indirectly to New York. If you watched the World Series, you did so with steam leaking from your ears and envy lurking in your soul.
But maybe I took this lesson too seriously.
And maybe this Saturday, we’ll see if this tutorial can be easily transferred to the financial field in Lincoln, where the Giants play the Eagles in the NFC Semifinals. After outscoring the Vikings, 31-24, Sunday afternoon at US Bank Arena in Minneapolis.
“All we have to do is walk right down the street,” Leonard Williams said with a smile inside the cheery locker room.
And make no mistake: The Eagles know precisely who will show up to work on Saturday. It wouldn’t be the team that ransacked them at MetLife Stadium on Dec. 11, a 48-22 victory that easily could have been worse. And it wouldn’t be viewers in Giants uniforms who cheerfully threw terror at them in a Week 18, 22-16 Eagle win that looked more annoying than kidney stones to Philly fans.
No, what they’re going to get is the best of the Giants team, because the Giants are now playing better than they’ve played all year which means it’s the best they’ve played in six years. Their offense gathers momentum at the perfect time, Daniel Jones enjoying the game of his life on Sunday (301 yards passing, 78 more runs) and Saquon Barkley plays at the perfect level. The defense can be leaky, but be damned if it doesn’t get up and choke the Vikings on Sunday, limiting them to three points on their last three possessions.
And you know Brian Daboll, the coach who sheds every ounce of sweat and blood weekly, will get them ready to get to Philly without the need for a plane, train, or car. His magical first year as a coach just keeps getting better. And now it ends up just below the Turnpike, in the Eagles’ backyard.
“I think we have a lot of work to do, but it’s fun work,” said Daboll, a few minutes after directing Ted Lasso in a cheery locker room dance with his players. “We’re a lean bunch, we work hard and there’s a great deal of humility in that room.”
There is also a better measure of faith, and the Big Gulp trust service. They’re going to need all of that in Philly on Saturday, but you have to believe the Eagles and their staunchest believers were hoping the Vikings would put in a solid job for everyone and delete the Giants name from their NFC tournament brackets. Now they have to do it themselves.
And look: they should. They didn’t win those 14 games in the draft, and there were many weeks where the Eagles looked as good as the Bills or Chiefs in the AFC. Not recently. Jalen Hurts bumped his throwing shoulder. The Eagles lost consecutive games to the Cowboys and Saints. They just barely captured the Davis Webb giants.
Now they get the Giants, and all the pressure will be on the NFC East champions, and the ever-tough task of beating a team three times in a season, the Giants can’t wait to see what that looks like.
“See you next Sunday,” said Andrew Thomas.
“I’m sure the atmosphere is going to be crazy: a lot of boos and middle fingers for us, but we’re looking forward to it,” said receiver Darius Slayton.
“We want to keep dressing for the city and for each other,” said Dexter Lawrence.
On Saturday, they got the Eagles, and all that history includes. They’ve got Philly fans, and all the color and vile pageantry that involves. And they play at the top of their efforts. They come together at just the right time of the season, hoping to prove something to both New York and Philadelphia:
January is the new October.