I remember it well. I was 16, right at the start of my senior year of high school, and my friends and I drove down to Veterans Stadium to watch the Phillies play the Reds. It may actually have been the first time I went to a Phillies game unaccompanied by my elders.
Things didn’t go well for the Phillies. The Reds actually hit nine home runs, a National League record, in a 22-3 win. We didn’t mind; we were used to the Phillies sucking. We played tag in an empty 700 level of Veterans Stadium. We flirted with girls and hoped they’d flirt back. (After seeing us play tag, probably not.) And we did the “E-A-G-L-E-S” chant.
I remember doing the “E-A-G-L-E-S” chant several times during that drubbing of the Phillies. It wasn’t the first time I’d done the chant at a Phillies game, and it wouldn’t be the last. In fact, I’d done the “E-A-G-L-E-S” chant in the halls of my high school, leaving concerts at the E-Center in Camden and probably other places, too. It wasn’t that I loved the Eagles, though I did. It was simply what Philadelphia sports fans chanted when they were bored. There’s even a movie about Eagles fans titled E-A-G-L-E-S.
A lot of people hate the “E-A-G-L-E-S” chants. People who hear it at Phillies games think it’s disrespectful to the team and to baseball fans. People who hear it randomly on the street think it’s boorish. People who don’t like football really hate it. I get that. But I tend to think the E-A-G-L-E-S chant is just something for people to yell, uniting them in a sense of shared identity.
When fans were bored during the (boring) main event of WWE’s card in Philadelphia on Sunday night, though, they didn’t chant “E-A-G-L-E-S.” They chanted “Trust the Process.”
This wasn’t the first time in recent months I heard a “Trust the Process” chant at a Philadelphia event. Fans chanted it at the Big3 game in Philly. Fans chant it at Phillies games. I heard a few dudes in their early 20s chanting it at a beer garden the other day.
Obviously, people are still going to do the “E-A-G-L-E-S” chant, especially given that football season is on the horizon. How the hell, though, did “Trust the Process” replace, even if briefly, the “E-A-G-L-E-S” chant as the default chant for bored Philadelphians?
It isn’t just the chant. When I was in Wildwood, N.J. this weekend, the t-shirt game had changed drastically since I filed my annual report on it in early June. Most t-shirt shops suddenly had a ton of merchandise for Jake and Logan Paul. There were a bunch of shirts supporting Conor McGregor in his upcoming boxing match with Floyd Mayweather. There were Aaron Judge shirseys. But every store on the boardwalk had a row of Sixers jersey pinnies to sell to eager fans.
There were even plenty of shirts for newly-acquired free agent J.J. Redick (for the Duke fan, or the white guy who wants to wear a jersey of a white guy). Shirts of Markelle Fultz had the number he’d just changed to (20) the previous day. (Wildwood moves fast; one shop was already also selling a “The Juice Is Loose” t-shirt.) At the start of the summer season, these pinnies were all leftover Team USA gear from the previous summer. As August approaches, the Sixers have taken over the boardwalk.
I know that chants and Wildwood boardwalk tees are weird gauges of what’s popular. But it’s true: The Sixers are now the hottest team in Philadelphia. The Eagles will get a ton of attention now that training camp has begun, but the Sixers are the team people here are excited about.
Basically, this offseason Sixers fans decided that their team is good now. And it worked! Every mention of major NBA teams has to mention the Sixers, a team that has averaged fewer than 19 wins over the past four seasons. Joel Embiid is great when he’s played, but he has been injured for most of his professional career. Everyone else on the team is basically okay or a question mark who has not yet played an NBA game. Also, there is Jahlil Okafor.
When the Sixers traded for the first overall pick, fans declared victory for The Process, retweeted old tweets that made sportswriters looked bad, and decided the Sixers had one of the best cores in the NBA without having so much as one young player who’s been both good and healthy.
It’s fun! Since winning the NBA championship in 1983, the Sixers have made two Eastern Conference Finals appearances (in 1985 and 2001), and one Finals appearance (in 2001). In that stretch they’ve only been in the final eight NBA teams nine times, and four of those times were in the 1980s. Aside from a blip with Allen Iverson in the late 1990s and early 2000s, the team has generally been bad since the 1980s.
Right now, though, the Sixers are all potential. So why not just pretend they’re already good and start trash-talking like you’re a fan of the NBA champions? I don’t know how everyone has bought into this, but I’m all for it.