A house divided
By Chris McKendry
Page 2 columnist

If there is one thing a pregnant woman and expectant father receive a lot of, it's advice. The sources vary from old wives' tales from the in-laws to doctors' orders to the written word of the pregnancy bible, "What to Expect When You're Expecting."

New York Jets and Philadelphia Eagles
Relationships are made and broken when New York plays Philly.
But for all the frank talk, we couldn't find a single word on picking sports allegiances. Can you believe it? A sports team stays with one for life, and yet there is nothing out there to guide a family through such a huge decision. Of course, this isn't an issue for same-city married couples. But for this Philadelphia-New York union, it's a big deal.

You see, although we decided on names for the baby within an hour, picking its sports teams took months. How do you decide which team a child will root for when the parents are from two different towns?  Don't confuse us with bullies ... of course, the child can pick its own favorites. We're merely deciding which team will be the predominant household influence.

We reached compromises on almost every major pro sport. In baseball, it'll be the Yankees. Why not? They pay, they win and they're my husband's favorite team. In return, I got the 76ers. Being a Georgetown guy, my husband's also a fan of Allen Iverson's; so that worked in my favor. The Knicks' horrendous start this season -- and their even bleaker future -- also didn't hurt. I got the Flyers, too, because they mean more to my family than the Rangers do to him.

Actually, to tell you the truth, I was rather surprised that he caved quickly on the NHL. But I took it without asking questions.

The NFL, though, presented the problem. When conversation became fruitless, because neither one of us would budge, we did what all confident sports fans would do ... we made a bet!

Eagles vs. Jets: The team with the best record at the end of the season would be the baby's favorite. Preseason Super Bowl predictions surrounding the Eagles coming off last year's NFC Championship Game appearance left me full of confidence. So much so that in August, in an act of hubris I fear I will live to regret, I boldly gave into my husband's demand for two games. In other words, if he's 10-6, I'd have to go 13-3 to beat him.  He looked smart going into the season.

Vinny Testeverde
With Vinny at the helm, the bet was in the bag.
But by October, this bet wasn't even fun. The Jets, outscored 102-13 during Weeks 2, 3 and 4, left my husband a beaten man.  He began to mutter constantly about how maybe it would be for the best if the baby turned out to be an Eagles fan.

The Jets were 1-4 entering their bye week. Chad Pennington, who came into this season as the only first-round quarterback in 25 seasons not to start at least one game during his first two years in the league, looked good in his one start. But Herm Edwards seemed a bit nutty with his "focus" and "we play to win" speeches.

I was trying not to gloat, but ... In addition to landing three Philly sports teams to just one New York club, I had saved my child from the Jets and the loser aura that surrounds them.

My child would never have to learn the words "SAME OLD JETS."  And I wouldn't have to explain why its favorite NFL team plays in a stadium named for another team.

As far as this baby is concerned, the Heidi Game -- November 17, 1968 ... Jets lead Oakland Raiders 32-29 with 1:05 remaining in game ... NBC cuts out of game to show "Heidi" ... Raiders score twice in 42 seconds to win -- was just a bad move by a TV executive.

The "fake spike" -- November 27, 1994 ... the lead in the AFC East is on the line ... closing seconds, it's 24-21 when Dan Marino fakes spiking the ball to kill the clock and throws a touchdown to Mark Ingram to win the game -- will be remembered as just another amazing Marino effort.

And I won't have to explain, over and over, why my sweet child's team drafted so many tight ends in the first round ... not to mention Blair Thomas.

Just thinking of the Jets' playoff history makes me glad that my baby will be an Eagles fan.

In the 1982 AFC Championship, the Jets were a team built for speed. So what happens?  It rains all week in Miami, and Don Shula tells Orange Bowl staffers not to cover the field. The game is played in slop, and the Jets are held scoreless.

Mark Gastineau
Gastineau has also been flagged for marrying Brigitte Nielsen.
They lose the 1986 Divisional Playoffs in double overtime to the Browns. How? Jets blow a 20-10 lead with 4:14 left in game. Mark Gastineau is called for roughing the passer penalty on Bernie Kosar.  It keeps the Browns last-second drive alive.

And finally, the game that haunted our household for a full week -- the 1998 AFC Championship, which the Jets lost to Denver 23 -10 ... Jets lead 10-0 at halftime, but lose four fumbles and Vinny Testaverde throws two interceptions as the Broncos charge back.

I realize that being an Eagles has its own share of baggage. But my husband and I will just leave Rich Kotite out of both the Jets and Eagles histories. And I'll teach the child that not every Philadelphian has the character of a 700 level fan at the Vet.  It'll also learn that the "Fog Bowl" looked so much like a dream that it's best to believe it was and just forget it.  And I promise to all -- my child will not "boo" anyone or anything, let alone Santa Claus.

But something happened during the Jets' bye week. And I now know that I was a bit ahead of myself. Pennington is the real deal.  Since the bench-sitting kid QB took over the team, he's completed 71 percent of his pass attempts and the Jets are 4-1. It helps -- although not my cause -- that Curtis Martin's healthy and running well.

Although not the dominant force of the NFC they were supposed to be, the Eagles were cruising at a good clip until they somehow lost to the Colts in Week 10.  Just a bad outing, Ron Jaworski assured me, promising that next week would be better.  And it was, as the Eagles crushed Arizona in Donovan McNabb's finest professional outing.  At 7-3, the Eagles were just a game behind the NFC's best, 8-2 Green Bay.

But, sadly, Week 11 was also where this baby's future with the Birds likely ended ... because McNabb's season definitely did.

Donovan McNabb
Donovan feels Chris' pain.
Now those two games that I gave my husband are haunting me. This household bet stands at a tie. The Jets are 5-5. The Eagles are 7-3, and without McNabb.

My husband reminds me of this while I'm reading my local Philadelphia Daily News online.  It's front page headline reads, Let Us Pray.  McNabb's broken lower right leg will cost him the season, but it's also going to cost my baby its birthright.  What have I done?  Koy Detmer?  Let Us Pray, alright!

Detmer is in his sixth NFL season, but hardly anyone has noticed.  I last remember him playing for the Eagles in 1998, when he QBed a handful of games in a forgettable 3-13 season. He has an okay right arm and a beard that makes him look like Shaggy from "Scooby Doo." Terrific.

This bet is down to a six-game series. The Eagles face the 49ers on the road, the Rams at home, Seattle away, then division games against the Redskins, Cowboys and Giants.

The Jets face Buffalo, Denver and Green Bay at home, Oakland, Chicago and New England on the road.

Those darn baby books. For all their frank talk about hemorrhoids, someone should have warned me giving two games could be the real kick in the pants.

Forget how Andy Reid will explain why his $115 million quarterback played three quarters of a game on a broken leg.  How will I explain to my family why my kid cheers for the "J-E-T-S, Jets, Jets, Jets"?

SportsCenter anchor Chris McKendry is a regular columnist for Page 2.





HOUSE DIVIDED

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