The Philadelphia Eagles are not in the 2012 Super Bowl on Feb. 5, which is fairly painful enough. But Eagles fans like myself have extra reason to be upset at the two teams who did get there instead - and not just because a late hot streak paid off for the New York Giants and not Philadelphia.
Both the Giants and the New England Patriots are among the least favorite teams of Eagles Nation. This is not only due to the Giants being an NFC East rival and the Patriots beating the Birds in Super Bowl XXXIX, but because these are the two franchises we wish we could be.
Usually the Dallas Cowboys are the team that the Eagles loathe and envy the most. But given that Dallas has really been irrelevant in the big picture over the last 15 years, Philadelphia has much more worthy targets to hate/envy. The Giants and Patriots are those targets and have been for a long time.
The entire NFL envies the Patriots for obvious reasons, yet it is even more fitting for the Eagles to do so. Both Philadelphia and New England have been perennial contenders since 2001 and are almost always in the mix of Super Bowl contenders. However, while the Eagles only have one Super Bowl berth and four NFC title game losses for their trouble, the Patriots have three Super Bowl titles and five AFC championships as a whole.
The Eagles could have been the dynasty of the last decade with just a few more wins - and they could have had a couple more Super Bowl showdowns with the Patriots for that title. But because New England actually knows how to win conference championships and Super Bowls, it is the franchise that Philadelphia has wished it could be for about 10 years now.
But now the Giants are gaining ground as the team the Eagles wish they could match. After all, they are the only NFC East team in the last 10 years to actually win a Super Bowl, with a second championship possibly on the way. Unlike the Patriots, the Giants have lost to the Eagles in two successive playoff games in 2007 and 2009 - but New York hasn't had to face Philadelphia in its two Super Bowl runs.
When the Giants need hot streaks to save their season, they get rings out of it. When Tom Coughlin has to save his job, he wins championships to do it, unlike Andy Reid. When the Giants need an inconsistent quarterback to become perfect, Eli Manning actually does it, unlike Donovan McNabb and Michael Vick. And unlike the Eagles, the Giants know how to beat the Patriots in the Super Bowl and are now favored to do it twice.
It is one thing for the Patriots to keep making the Eagles look bad by winning it all in ways that the Birds cannot. It is another thing for a fellow NFC East team like the Giants to perfect a Super Bowl winning formula as well - and to do it with teams that are technically worse than all the Eagles teams that never won the championship.
No matter what happens in the 2012 Super Bowl, Philadelphia will watch and wonder why it can't do what the winning team does. It does this pretty much every year, of course, but it is all too used to wondering why it can't be like New England and New York already - with this season being the biggest example of all.
Robert Dougherty is a life-long Philadelphia resident who has followed the Eagles since he was eight years old.
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