NFL players are a delightfully naïve lot. When they play hard but lose, they get booed. Yet they cannot fathom why they are being booed. Do you not see me trying? Do you think I like to fail? Why are you not supporting me? It’s kind of fun to see the look on their faces when they can’t understand why 50,000 might hate them for tossing an ill-timed interception.
Which brings us to Donovan McNabb. McNabb’s entire career was a study in the bizarre relationship football players can have with a fanbase. McNabb did a lot for the Eagles and for the city of Philly in general. But that wasn’t good enough for some fans who grew weary of seeing him throw 17 bounce passes every road game. Now he returns to Philly with the Redskins, and while McNabb may tell you this is just another game, surely he’s looking forward to the chance to make Eagles fans pine for what they once had. McNabb says he doesn’t expect to be booed. And Mike Vick says he doesn’t expect McNabb to be booed.
Again, NFL players are delightfully naïve like that.
Of course McNabb will be booed. This town views booing as its reason for being. It’s a town that prides itself on hating its own kind. And Donovan McNabb is coming back and you expect this crowd to be nice? That goes against everything Philadelphia stands for.
Yeah, some people will stand and applaud McNabb when he comes out for the pregame introductions. There are a handful of classy fans out there. But if you’ve ever gone to a professional football game, you know the majority of fans present are unreasonably drunk human beings who need a healthy outlet for hating things. I know that’s how I am at any football game. Maybe some will clap for McNabb, but plenty more will boo him strictly because they believe booing him is what they OUGHT to do.
What’s more, remember that McNabb can be a lousy QB on the road. I have little doubt that, come his first bounce pass, Eagles fans will pounce on him, and take the time to remind him that he has done that sort of thing before while wearing an Eagles uni. Then they’ll tell him they love Michael Vick now and they don’t miss him at all and then Donovan will be very sad.
That’s how this whole thing works. Fans have a role to play, and many fans believe that role includes lustfully booing as a way of showing they’re emotionally bulletproof. Donovan McNabb may not like it. He has every reason not to. But that isn’t going to stop a bunch of people from letting him know this weekend that they do not like him.