Editor's note: Eagles week rolls on, tee minus three days until Donovan McNabb returns to Eagles Stadium. -Ben
So Sunday the Folsom family mounted a morning expedition in the rain to the National Zoo in Washington DC, I had my football picks safely in and the Redskins did not play the Rams until 4:15 pm so it was safe, we were out the door by 10:00 am with a projected return time of 1:00 pm parentheses so I could watch the early games close parentheses.
With not a lot of time and rain coming down we decided to go to the Amazonia exhibit, it is a house exhibit with giant water tanks you can tour from below, then wander through a synthetic Amazon jungle complete with monkeys and spoonbill birds above. Very cool, the wife and kids had been there many times, this was my first time in this exhibit. You should check it out.
As we wandered from the tank level through the jungle level, the guy you see above and his family was in front of us, it did not escape my notice that Eagles fan dude was sporting a Ricky Watters jersey.
I say again, a Ricky Watters jersey.
Ricky Watters jersey.
Back in 1992 I was living in Charlottesville Virginia working as a sound engineer, lifetime Eagles fan, season ticket holder and Curly R reader lurker Wilbert Montgomery was also in Charlottesville, working as a bartender and musician, at this point we had already been arguing about Eagles and Redskins for years, and we decided to start up a fantasy football league.
It was called the Garrett Football League, or the GFL, after the bar where Wilbert Montgomery worked. There were only five of us that participated, we had a late night draft, there were no draft magazines back in those days so were on our own. We established our own rule book and kept The Book on the shelf at the bar, your weekly lineups had to be in The Book before kickoff or you forfeited the week.
I was Commissioner and we agreed to use USA Today's box scores for the weekly tally, everyone submitted their own scores and the Commish double checked them, by the end of that season I had USA Today sports sections completely surrounding the trifold futon bed in my dingey little room on Broad Avenue.
There being only five of us we all had all star teams, Dan Marino, Jim Kelly, Steve Young, Emmitt Smith, Barry Foster, Thurman Thomas, Sterling Sharpe, Michael Irvin, Jerry Rice. As ever in fantasy football the difference was not the top line players, it was the lower round players, the gems you find in a draft.
For me in 1992 it was Ricky Watters. Ricky was in his second NFL season in 1992 after not playing a game in 1991, he burst onto the scene in San Francisco with 1,013 yards and nine touchdowns in fourteen games as a second year player, by far besting any of the second line tailbacks my fantasy opponents had, helping to propel me to a league victory in the one and only season of the GFL.
Ricky stayed with San Francisco for two more seasons and left as a three time Pro Bowler in his four years there, despite an alarming trend in his three seasons as a starter there: Each year, as his number of carries went up, his yards per carry went down, his fumbles per game went up and his scoring remained stagnant.
In the 1995 offseason, as the still new concept of NFL free agency was enriching the top players at a dizzying rate, Ricky left San Francisco, following his former defensive coordinator and new Eagles head coach Ray Rhodes to Philadelphia, signing a three year, 6.9 million dollar contract and supplanting Herschel Walker, Ricky was now the highest paid ball carrier in the game.
Things did not get off to a great start in Philadelphia, in his first game as an Eagle Ricky famously short armed a pass to avoid contact in an opening loss to the Buccaneers, when asked after the game about why he did not pull in the ball and take the hit, Ricky famously responded For who?! For what?!
Ricky stayed in Philadelphia altogether for three seasons, rushing for more than eleven hundred yards in each season, making two more Pro Bowls, in 1995 and 1996. Ricky became a free agent in the 1998 offseason, the Eagles did not negotiate with Ricky, preferring to let him walk, they had Charlie Garner up and coming and, consistent with Eagles' player practices today, did not want to pay league topping money at the tailback position, Ricky would have merited close to four million dollars a year by that point.
So he moved on to Seattle, signing a four year, thirteen million dollar deal with the Seahawks in the 1998 offseason, Ricky would rush for twelve hundred or more yards in each of the next three seasons, making Ricky the first, and still only as far as I can tell, player to rush for more than a thousand yards three times each with three different teams.
Ricky finished his NFL career with more than ten thousand yards rushing and is considered by the NFL itself as one of the top ten players not in the Hall of Fame, it is also widely agreed his arrogant attitude early in his career, punctuated by his For who For what outburst, is what is keeping him out of the Hall.
For my part I always thought it was in part memories of Ricky's dominant years on the ground that still infused Eagles fans two years after Ricky left, when fans booed the selection of Donovan McNabb over Ricky Williams, and partly why despite Dono's success in Philadelphia, fans and the media were never loyal to him and were so quick to turn on him: West coast offense shmest coast offense, Eagles fans want a ground pounder.
Back to my zoo trip, this guy in the photo is wearing a jersey that does not look like it is minimum thirteen years old, it is the new Eagles colors and logo that was introduced in 1996 and Ricky's last season in Philadelphia was 1997. So where does it come from?
Does dude only break it out on gameday, treat it well and wash it in Woolite? That would then disqualify him as a real Eagles fan.
Does he have some connection to Ricky? Hometown, friend, former teammate? I will give a pass if this is the case, that of course does make the jersey more of a conversation piece than a statement on team loyalty.
Is he just really a Ricky Watters fan? Seems a longshot, it was thirteen years ago and five NFC Championship appearances since this guy played for that team. If the guy wanted a classic Eagles player jersey there are many others to choose from.
If none of these is the case then we are forced to confront an ugly possibility: This guy went out of his way to buy a Ricky Watters jersey, and recently.
This is a clear violation of Football Jersey Rule Number One: Your jersey selection must have relevance.
Photo by me.