Like everyone else I was shocked to wake up Tuesday morning to the news of the passing of the legendary Buddy Ryan at age 85. Sure, I knew Buddy had been ailing. But I had just assumed he was immortal.
Buddy was a lot like Philadelphia itself: Tough. Gritty. Blue-collar. Belligerent. Occasionally violent. In possession of fewer championships than deserved. He got us, and we got him.
Sure, despite some of the best rosters in team history, Buddy never won a playoff game with the Eagles. But you know who did? Rich Kotite, Ray Rhodes and Andy Reid. I would take Buddy over those guys any day -- even today.
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Remember those days? When you knew, every Sunday, that the Eagles were going to punch their opponents in the mouth, all afternoon long? That beats anything this team has done since, playoffs or no playoffs.
For all of us, Buddy will always stand for a better time in sports, and in Philadelphia. When men were men, when the Vet was still standing, and when no one knew terms like “salary cap” or “concussion protocol” or “Sam Hinkie.” Buddy never would have stood for the idiocies of sports today, like tanking for a better draft pick, or loud music at practices, or analytics, or paternity leave, or getting locked in a gas station bathroom in South Jersey and posting about it on Twitter.
My biggest regret about the Buddy Era, aside from its brevity, and lack of postseason success? That Buddy never sought political office. I for one have written in Buddy’s name in every election for mayor, governor or president in my adult lifetime. Who else was I supposed to vote for, Ed Rendell?
But dreams of a Ryan Administration aside, football, in Philadelphia, was where Buddy truly belonged, even if it was only for five years.
So I offer this advice to you, Doug Pederson, as you embark on your first year as Eagles head coach: Always do what Buddy would do.
Start wearing mesh-backed, Kelly Green hats. Build a strong, suffocating defense. Intimidate your opponents. Make room in the playbook for fake spikes, and fake kneeldowns. Show particular nastiness and killer instinct towards the Dallas Cowboys. Repeatedly bash the Eagles’ owner as cheap and out of touch. Put bounties on opposing players. Refer to to Bradford, Wentz and Daniel as “over-paid, over-rated pompous bastards [who] must be punished.” And -- if the situation warrants it -- go ahead and punch your own offensive coordinator in the face during a game.
Some may object to these tactics. They may even say you’re out of control. But true Philadelphia fans -- the people who really matter -- will love you forever.
As someone who has long used Buddy’s picture as my Twitter avatar, I appreciate all the condolences. And I’ve enjoyed reading all of the tributes, and all of the memories fans have shared. But I must ask: Why weren’t you praising Buddy the day before he died? What about the day before that?
NFL star-turned-broadcaster Ahmad Rashad once said of Buddy, “how could a man who publicly looks like such an ass have so many players who love him to the dying end?" May we all be so lucky to be remembered with such affection.
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