The Eagles Rise but Philadelphia Falls: When Did We Start Celebrating Victory with Masochism

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On Sunday, roughly 103.4M people across the world were treated with what could have been the best Super Bowl to date.  The record-breaking global audience received the entire gamut of the NFLs offering, including a stellar halftime performance by Justin Timberlake, topical and tactile advertising campaigns, and of course, an absolute barn burner of a football game.  For the first time, the Philadelphia Eagles were crowned victorious after toppling the formidable New England Patriots – an achievement that has long evaded Philly hopefuls time and time again.  Of course, securing a championship ring surely warrants celebration and a good one at that.  But, upon looking at day-after pictures, the uninformed would assume Philly either lost in miraculous fashion or housed a zombie apocalypse as revelers raised their flag over their now razed city.   The prompted lunacy was expected, and local authorities sought to impede the ardent fervor fans would display in the case of a W, but to absolutely no avail.  Broad Street became an anarchist war zone for 24 hours, as partiers took to street signs, lamp posts, hotel awnings, cop cars, and horse shit to commemorate the happening, in true Philly style.  And while the new memes and onslaught of viral bytes resonates with the Barstool culture of American sporting, there’s an irony and dysfunction here that needs explanation.  When did victory celebrations precipitate into urban riots and record-smearing masochism?

Now we could blame the Philly fanatics and their nefarious ceremonies on the fact that they were celebrating “a first,” as novelty is always a cause for commotion. Like the night out after losing your virginity or the bender that ensued after receiving an immaculate A+ on a physics final, milestones deserve applause and spirit, and Pretty Wild ain’t the fun police.  But, the flock of Eagles that took to looting their own retailers and establishments are hardly an outlier in this data set, as self inflicted damage has be-smudged the archives of sport and contest across all disciplines.  Ever since games became consumable at mass via television and radio, the cult following that trails a team has been capable of militarizing into a force apt to raise arms for their brand.  Regardless of the era, matchup narrative, or sport itself, there’s a history here – a timeline laden with miraculous upsets that prompted freebird mentality from the home front, but, commonality  doesn’t deem acceptability.   The irony in todays paradox is that the raucous behavior stems from victories rather than loses and is pointed towards the self rather than the opposition.  One can argue that the pig fat Philly law enforcement coated their street lamps with would have congealed into lard if Super Bowl LII had went in New England’s favor.  For those who got pinched for fornicating on the Rocky Steps or egging the Liberty Bell, you can try to use the following science as a scapegoat, briefly,  but the urban abuses post valor will later beckon introspection and course adjustment, as there will be consequence when the shell shock subsides.

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Is It Because We Won?

Surprisingly, yes.  Philadelphia’s municipalities implemented their doomsday preparation for the potential victory rather than a loss, which is interesting to say the very least.  After an excuse-less defeat, even against the perennially crooked Pats, people tend to cut their loses at, well, the loss.  If Ertz wasn’t ruled a runner or if the Jesse James precedent (properly?) scrutinized Corey Clements TD catch, Broad Street would have been a ghost town the night of, rather than the lawless zone it became.  The extreme identification people place on their teams in todays world is omnipotent, where the fan, becomes an extension of the organization and acts in maligned accordance. Shrinks have long analyzed our behaviors on both outcomes of contest, and found that the regressions by the fanbase is compounded by a teams ability, not disability.  People build confidence when they feel victorious, even if their part in the W was played at a local pub with a pint of Guinness, which is why victory preludes mayhem more so than defeat.  We don’t have the opportunity to physically break through the goal line, so we must channel the energy elsewhere.

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OK, So Why the Violence?

Here’s the question that parents of Call of Duty players and advocates of the Antifa movement help us answer, as we understand the human condition and our tendency to mime.  George Carlin famously pitted the game of football and baseball against each other, and drew comparisons in the aggressors that foundation the gridiron, and the learned-violence it dispels on onlookers.  Just look at Brandin Cooks’ beheading in the 1st quarter, or the 265lb Rob Gronkowski being eviscerated by a LB after already stepping out of bounds.  Bills Mafia is a religion of sorts, as the self inflicted destruction Buffalo fans relish in pays homage to the sacrifice being made on the field of display. It’s the nature of the beast that makes violence the modus of expression.

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Does the Booze Come Into Play Here?

Well, yeah, of course it does.  It’s estimated that over 1 Billion chicken wings are eaten on Super Bowl Sunday, which, in my own 3 to 1 ratio, eludes to over 350 Million beers.  That’s a lot of liquid confidence pumping through the crowd, which is bound to come to a boil once the final whistle blows.  Beer muscles, as their colloquially and collegiately called, is the enzyme that catalyzes a rowdy fanbase as inhibitions are shed by the devils elixir in basically every situation it’s involved in.  Football has become synonymous with binging, so as we consume, we forfeit the decision-making prowess of our frontal lobe, and succumb to the vices. The amalgam of sweet victory and hoppy ale manifests into a dangerous duo, but you already knew this though, right?

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But I’d Never Do This Alone…I Promise!

And that’s probably true, as the vanishing of our social constraints only diminish to this affect when in large company.  Psychology has long warned us of the ills of groupthink and mob mentality, illustrated in the Stanford Prison Experiments and the escalation of the Vietnam War.  Normally, individuals are reserved – tamed by the threat of ostracism or becoming the neighborhood pariah, rules are adhered to in an effort to avoid legal and societal punishment.  But, theres no such thing as a one-man riot, and if there were, that person would be shut down with draconian swiftness.  Philly’s finest came out in hoards Sunday night, which dissipated law and order as cops adopted a fuck this shit, we’ll deal with it tomorrow apathy.  When the crowd is large enough, individualism is all but lost and we succumb to the nefarious pressures.  With friends like these, who needs enemies?

Philadelphia sports didn’t aren’t the eponymous Broad Street Bruisers for nothing, as the arteries of an Eagle fan pump green and white. The Super Bowl victory was momentous as the odds were never in their favor.  After replacing their competent quarterback with an unbecoming back up, plugging the holes of their a battered All-Pro defense,  churning through a schedule burdened with the leagues premier, the climax against the New England Goliaths was bound to evoke emotion to an extreme even for football.  Still though, the victory will be bittersweet, as the antics that followed were disgraceful and tarnished what was otherwise an incredible spectacle.  The world goes back to normal at the final whistle, and while Philadelphia will reign supreme until next February, they have a clean up job on their hands that will likely last as long.  Sure, it’s in our nature to paint the town red after filling our sails with the gusto of victory, but the masochism we display in celebration leads one to believe that CTE is brain damage suffered by the fans of football, and not just the guys who play the game.  Congrats Philly, now many of you will be able to sit in a jail cell with Meek, but I know it was well worth it.

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