Malcolm Gladwell Explains The Philadelphia Eagles

Photo credit: AP Photo/David J. Phillip

This weekend was tough to swallow, as I got to watch my beloved/loathed Philadelphia Eagles choke big time against The Dallas Cowboys, a team that apparently has no problem aligning itself with Evil & Stupidity any day of week. If I were ever made to root for them or The Yankees, I think I’d rather stand in for Will Witherspoon’s tackle dummy come 2010 training camp.

It’s sad to admit, but Postseason Disappointment is a tradition I’ve become used to as a Philly sports fan, eased only recently by The Philadelphia Phillies (God bless you, Chase Utley). But with the Eagles, I – like the rest of its fan base – somehow manage to come down with amnesia every fall, kiss and make up with the team, and pretend like 50 years of Championship Starvation never happened… until it, of course, it does happen again, right on schedule. I guess this is what it feels like to be Charlie Sheen’s publicist.

But after this season, I want answers: why has a full decade come and gone, and The Birds are still without one lousy Super Bowl ring? This same weekend, I started reading The Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell. Here’re a few things I know for sure, by applying “The Three Rules of Epidemics”: 1) McNabb-Reid are the most successful tandem in Eagles’ history since the 1960s; McNabb has the talent and the leadership, Reid has the strategy and the philosophy. 2) Because the ’00s Eagles have proven they can be productive, Philadelphians keep coming back to them. 3) As the postseason gets closer, the pressure gets higher – and that’s when 34-14 losses in the Wild Card start to happen. So, what can this possibly point to? Here’s my take: come December, somewhere in that locker room an inferiority complex sets in that can’t ever seem to be shaken. Yes, there are other factors like injured starters, but look at the first stint of Joe Gibbs’ Redskins, or Dick Vermeil’s Rams for god’s sake! Those teams won Super Bowls with back-up quarterbacks! Despite talent and productivity, the Power of Context seems to point out The Eagles’ tipping point – a mental inability to compete. When the chips are down, and everything seems to be in their favor, The Eagles psyche themselves out – and then half the cars on South Broad Street mysteriously get torched.

All anger and pessimism aside, there’s a lesson in this: the downfall of the self-loathing genius. Not unlike The Eagles, they’re tons of talented people in this city – trying to be “the hot thing” in entertainment. However, New York is a tough town, and defeatism is way more contagious these days than sucking it up. Everyone has great ideas, but you’re always left to wonder who is going to act on them. Steve Martin wrote of his own career in 2007, “I was not naturally talented – I didn’t sing, dance, or act – though working around that minor detail made me inventive.” It’s times like these when I’m always reminded that “the best” is rarely about talent; it’s about persistence, which naturally breeds confidence. Rather than give into arrogance, remember that everything you have can easily be taken away. Rather than give into frustration, remember that you never know who is watching and enjoying what you do. The only people I’ve known to ever truly give up in life are the ones who buy the hype, and then can never see past one setback, or one disappointment.

I hope The Eagles can realize that one day, too. Until then, I’m going to make sure my Toyota Accura is fireproof in 2011.

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