The Eagles had just lost to Tampa Bay in the worst loss in the history of Philadelphia sports (personal opinion) in the 2002 NFC Championship Game, the last football game at Veterans Stadium, and as I waited for head coach Andy Reid to appear at his postgame press conference, sitting in a locker with my head hanging, assistant coach Ted Williams walked past.
"Don't ever let them see you down," he said on that depressing January day in 2003. "Things will turn around before you know it."
I've carried that with me through all of these seasons and many stories to follow. Like the time a fan came up to me prior to the NFC Championship Game the next season and asked, "Dave, when is the parade?" My reply: "Parade? Still need to beat Carolina and then win the Super Bowl!" Or when the Eagles advanced to the Super Bowl in the 2004 season and lost to New England. The sting was painful, of course, but the expectation was that the Eagles would be back soon, and I felt soothed.
And here we are.
No Super Bowl appearances since that 2004 campaign. No playoff wins since 2008. No playoffs at all since 2013.
Don't ever let them see you down. Things will turn around before you know it.
So here we are in 2018 and the NFL playoffs are upon us and the Eagles have a bye week before the action begins at Lincoln Financial Field on Saturday, January 13. It's a wonderful place to be, and a nervous time as well, because we all love the Eagles and we understand the challenges that are ahead and more than anything in life, relatively speaking, we want the Eagles to win the Super Bowl.
Now. And forever.
For the fans, then, the message is to cherish these playoff appearances, to maximize the feeling, and to live in the moment. You never know when the Eagles will be back in this position. There is absolutely nothing guaranteed.
So relax. And enjoy it. And when the game begins next Saturday, go nuts.
That's for the fans. For the players and the Eagles organization, it's all very similar. Make the most of this moment.
"I was a rookie in 2013 and we turned our season around midway through the season and went on a great run," tight end Zach Ertz said, recalling the second half of that year when the Eagles won seven of eight games to finish the regular season. "Then we're in the playoffs and we lost right away. I thought, 'That went by so fast.' But, you know, we had our team coming back and then we were 9-3 the next year and heading to the playoffs and it went away (the Eagles lost three straight games that December and fell out of the playoff picture).
"You learn in the NFL how it can change very quickly. That's why you take everything on a day-to-day basis and just focus in on that day and then try to get better the next day. This season, I've enjoyed every minute of it and I'm going to continue enjoying it. We're here to make the most of the moment."
Said center Jason Kelce, who joined the Eagles as a sixth-round draft pick in 2011: "I've learned over the course of my career how hard is it to win games and to get to this point. Twelve teams out of 32 make the playoffs. Only one team is going to be happy at the end of the season. That's just the facts of the game. It's taken us a long time to get back to the playoffs, and you want to maximize the preparation time you have. A lot of guys reach this level and they're great football players and they never enjoy the playoff experience. It doesn't happen for everyone."
It's happening for us once again, and it's wonderful. The Eagles have lost a lot of talented football players along the way, but they've compiled a 13-3 record and the No. 1 seed in the NFC playoffs and the kind of chemistry and trust in the locker room that doesn't happen often. Along with the fans, Lincoln Financial Field is going to be rocking next Saturday at 4:35 p.m.
This weekend? Sit and relax and watch football, knowing that your team is in the anything-can-happen tournament. This is the fun part, folks. Treat it that way. You deserve the good times.