Up the creek with the Eagles

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The Independent Online
WOMEN. When, at the start of the season, the LA Raiders were 0 and 2, Alison, my beloved, punched the cat. When they were 0 and 3, she put her fist through my drawing-room wall. When they were 0 and 4 she said she would in future support my team, the Miami Dolphins.

You can't do that. You can't switch teams just because yours is being stuffed. Even 'Toddy' Zamit continued to support Cincinnati (don't laugh) when they embarrassed themselves and her by going something like 0 and 14 down last year.

Meanwhile, are the Eagles stupid or what? Since they're not my team, you might think this doesn't matter to me, but it does - and for reasons that I'll come to shortly. First, let's look at the evidence. After a duff 1991, they made some adjustments - firing their coach, acquiring a running game in the shape of Herschel Walker - and in no time Herschel had rushed for goodness knows what, they were 4 and 0, and dreaming of Super Bowl XXVII. Then it went wrong.

The Chiefs pitched up and the Eagles, anticipating their usual running game - led by Barry Word - made their dispositions accordingly. Nor did they change them when it became apparent that the Chiefs had been doing some thinking on the bus.

'Here's a turn-up,' Alison, my beloved, said. 'The Chiefs, who haven't passed the ball since 1981, are ballooning it into the end zone, where you or I could catch it, since there isn't a corner-back or safety within 100 yards. They've joined the defensive line and are driving headfirst into Barry Word, who, since he hasn't got the ball, is laughing fit to bust. Are the Eagles stupid or what?'

It seemed they were. They faffed around in little groups, their eyes bulged with surprise ('What's going on here?') and on every play they bucketed into Barry Word, who no more had the ball than you did.

OK, so the Eagles have never been the Bloomsbury Group but stupid's different, right, and I put this to Michael O'Mara when we met on Tuesday to discuss my book.

'Are the Eagles stupid or what?' I said.

'What are the Eagles?' he said.

'An American football team,' I said.

'I wouldn't know about that,' he said. 'On the other hand, I was quite interested in your story a week or two ago about the English taxi driver who has been snapped up as the Oldie's 'Voice of Reason'; even more so by his French counterpart, who's an expert on Sartre and who, as a consequence, has been engaged by Reed Consumer Books to write some copy for Madonna.'

Here was a problem. I'd made that up; more accurately, and to support a thesis (that the French are better than us in every way), had swapped their credentials, so to speak. But I couldn't admit this to O'Mara, who would have been greatly shocked by such a breach of journalistic ethics.

'I made that up,' I said. 'In fact, the French taxi driver was rather stupid, whereas his English colleague told me that existentialism is based on the logical mistake of introducing 'nothingness' as if it were an entity.'

'You're in trouble,' O'Mara said. 'Reed Consumer Books, who, in so far as it is relevant to Madonna's work, are expecting a thoughtful analysis of sado- masochism - not least Sartre's version of Hegel's master and slave argument - will get instead stuff deploying words such as 'sleaze' and 'pervert'.

'Worse - the Oldie, expecting a volley of unexceptionable locker-room views, will get instead an impenetrable account of Sartre's ethical subjectivism. The 'Voice of Reason' will describe any desire for an objective moral order as an exhibition of bad faith.'

I'd heard enough. Ethical subjectivism never got you any first-down yardage. The Eagles didn't get where they are today by exercising a self-made morality at the line of scrimmage - and I said as much to O'Mara.

'Phooey to that,' I said. 'Team spirit, that's the thing. Get out there and kick arse, but play to the rules.'

'Are we back with the Eagles?' O'Mara said.

'We certainly are.'

'But they're at sixes and sevens - or so you say.'

'Exactly. Which is why I'm confused.'

'I thought you supported the Dolphins?'

'Aesthetically,' I said. 'But I take my morality from the Eagles' locker room. I'm a man who draws well with Reggie White. As a philosophy it's a bit thick-ear for some, but it has served me well enough. Until now. If the Eagles are stupid, I'm up the creek.'

'You've got problems,' O'Mara said.

I certainly have. When I got home, I discovered that Alison, my beloved - exercising ethical subjectivism, I suppose - is suing me for libel. If my employers here find out, I'll be in worse trouble than the Eagles. Meanwhile, I punched the cat.

William Donaldson's new book 'The Big One, the Black One, the Fat One, and the Other One' is available from Independent Reader Services, PO Box 60, Wetherby LS23 7HJ, pounds 14.99 plus pounds 1 p&p. Cheques payable to 'The Independent'.

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