Monday, February 22, 2010
Fly Like an Eagle
Man Alive, did I have one FUN Saturday! So FUN in fact, it took me all day Sunday to recover from it! We have these wonderful neighbors who have become dear friends. We find them delightful because a) they are a military family, as we once were, b) they have two adorable girls, the oldest the same age as our daughter, and c) they drink beer and love sports. And oh, by the way, they are HUGE Philadelphia Eagles fans. They are AWESOME. Anyway, when her lovely husband surprised her with two tickets to Eagles Academy for Women, my dear friend Stacey immediately thought of me. So it was that we found ourselves headed northbound to Philly this past Saturday morning, sipping coffee and giggling gleefully at the thought of a WHOLE DAY of football and sports bars and shopping with NO CHILDREN!!! Now before I go on with my tale, let me clarify: Eagles Academy for Women is pretty much what it sounds like. It's a football Fan Camp, held by the Philadelphia Eagles, exclusively for female fans. And let me tell ya, this isn't a "Hey honey, see that brown kinda-egg-shaped thing with the white stitching? They call that a football" kinda camp. This is serious business. For women who are SERIOUS about football. My kinda place. So, a bit before the 10:00 am start time we pulled into the lot outside the gorgeous NovaCare Complex and climbed the steps. After registering and receiving our team assignments (Team Cole!) we joined the other 200 or so women attending the Academy in the huge auditorium to receive our welcome. After a great opening by Channel 6 Sportscaster Jamie Apody we were off and running! First up for Team Cole: a visit to the hallowed halls of the Eagles Locker Room. After being led on a short tour of the facility, we gals were allowed to run amok (or at least wander at will) down the looooong row of lockers, photographing anything we wanted. I of course had to pause by fellow K-State Wildcat Darren Howard's locker, while Stacey worshipped at the threshhold of DeSean Jackson's rather blinged-out cubby (lol). After about ten minutes of gawking, it was time to get down to business. We settled into our desks at the rear of the locker room, opened our provided playbooks (Yes! Playbooks!) and gave our attention to the Scouting Coordinator. For about 20 minutes he explained how the Eagles scout not only college players coming into the draft but active NFL players as well, and what exactly it is they look for when they watch hours and hours and hours of game tape. It was quite enlightening. And kind of exhausting. I mean, I love to watch football on digital video as much as the next guy, but sheesh -- how many times can you really watch Jeremy Maclin go forwards and backwards and forwards and backwards and forwards and backwards off the line of scrimmage? I left that session with a true appreciation of just how much work a small staff of personnel guys (and gals, there are a few women in the profession) has to do all year long to keep building and re-building a great NFL team roster. After the Scouting session it was off for a quick tour of the MASSIVE weight room. Seriously, I've been in aircraft hangars the size of this thing! Stacey and I got a laugh out of how huge the weight plates were on many of the machines. Scary big. Then again, there are some BIG boys in the NFL. Then it was off to Defense, where the Assistant Linebackers Coach taught us about coverages and tackling and all kinds of other cool stuff. He seemed a little taken aback when we started asking questions like "would you pull the free safety out and slide the corner down if the offense shifted to a U-Pony Package?" or "What's the deal with Assante Samuel always going for the pick instead of the tackle? If he gets burned with that showboat crap one more time I'm gonna...." Told ya the women at this thing were hard-core fans! ;) After Defense, Offense. This one was hard and fast: the Offensive Quality Control Coach taught us seven basic offense packages, and at least five variations, with film, all in about twenty minutes. We all furiously scribbled Xs and Os and arrows in our playbooks while calling out questions like "And what if Jackson draws double coverage? Could Donovan go to Celek in the flat?" Hee Hee. It was awesome. I'm pretty sure when I could call a game as early as this fall, once I decipher all my cryptic notes. Or at least I can figure out how to navigate the Jersey traffic circles and jughandles. After that, on to Special Teams, were we learned 3 things: 1) Special Teams is the most important part of the game; they are the game-changers, the tempo-setters, the big-play busters 2) Kicking field goals is really, really hard, and 3) The chairs in the front of the auditorium are HUGE. They are made for 300+ pound NFLers. Seriously, my feet barely touched the ground, and I sat Indian-style with my knees just barely touching the armrests. But honestly, I now know exactly what's gonna happen on a kickoff return just by looking at the line. That will come in handy. Then we encountered what was probably the most amazing thing we would see all day -- lunch in the players' cafeteria. The food was INCREDIBLE, and there was a TON of it! I sampled grilled chicken, chicken marsala, some kind of Greek rice that was fantastic, a big salad, and a yummy bowl of fruit. They even had chocolate chip cookies! The lunch ladies laughed at all of us, putting little dabs of this or pieces of that on our plates. Apparently the players come through with two trays each! That made me feel a little less pig-ish as I chowed down like I hadn't eaten in days, lol. After lunch it was off to the practice field for the REAL deal -- drills! Team Cole was joined by three other teams of about 25 ladies each, and after a group stretching session we all split to different stations. Our team started with the obstacle course, which was a ton of fun. It involved jumping, blocking, catching, throwing, and in my case, doing a total face-plant on the turf after getting a little cocky and trying to hurdle one last obstacle without taking an extra step. (Hey, not the first time I've made a total doofus of myself in public!) But I did what I was supposed to do -- jumped up, caught a pass, threw a block, tossed a lateral and caught another one, then leveled the blocking dummy at the end of the course. WOOT! After that we moved on to receiving, which I ROCKED. I ran the assigned pattern, caught two short passes, then went long and..... was the FIRST woman to catch the 40-yard long ball! (Guess it paid off to date a quarterback in college). After that, on to kicking. And again we learned that kicking field goals is HARD! I managed to boot one through the small training uprights, but couldn't get the elevation for the real goalpoasts. Stacey and I took a vow never to cuss at a kicker again when he misses a 50-yarder. After a quick pause for a Team Cole photo with Swoop the Eagle mascot and Linbacker Omar Gaither we moved on to our final station, Passing. I was delighted to find I could still throw a nice, tight spiral (again, thanks Jersey Boy QB), but my accuracy is a bit lacking. I could hit the 25-yard targets just fine, but I lack the finesse for the short pass. Go figure. I'm not exactly a finesse kinda gal. Finally, after two hours of fun and games the Academy came to a close. We all gathered in the Center for a little Q & A with Omar, then we were presented our Certificates of Completion and some awesome parting gifts. I'm wearing my Eagles Snuggie right now. :) We are so TOTALLY going back next year! As if the day wasn't just too fun already, Stacey and I moved on to Part 2 of our Adventure in Philly: we met up with the Fabulous Miss Willow for after-camp drinkies at Chickie & Pete's. This was my first face-to-face meetup with Her Fabulousness, but I wasn't at all surprised when we all settled in to crab fries, lobster pizza, and merriment like we had known each other for years. And of course we all had to worship at the Philly Soul wall in the back room before leaving. After a delightful couple hours with Willow, Stacey and I decided we weren't ready to go home just yet. So we headed out to the King of Prussia Mall, which thanks to her GPS we found approximately an hour and a half later after a lovely tour of the winding back roads paralleling Highway 76. But once we were there it was all good. After a little shopping, including my new throwback Jaworski #7 tee, we finally flew home, tired but happy little Eagles. Can't wait for next year! E-A-G-L-E-S!!!