BY PAUL MANCANO – Kinda famous and former Inquirer sports writer Buzz Bissinger caught some heat recently for a Philadelphia Magazine article about reigning Pro Bowl MVP Nick Foles. And justly so. For those who haven’t read the propagandist collection of illegitimate assumptions, I’ll spare you the time. Bissinger got snubbed by Foles, who would not agree to sit down for an interview just to talk about himself, so Bissinger stomped his feet, cried, and called Foles an unmotivated little rich kid. Oh, and he also called him soft.
The article is a joke. In truth, I think Bissinger went down to Texas, realized he didn’t have a gripping story—because Foles doesn’t make ripples, let alone waves—and elected to make something out of nothing. He sought revenge against Foles for not wanting to talk about himself (how dare he!), but couldn’t find any fault with his play on the field. So Bissinger thought the best way to bring the man down would be to attack his character. Considering his target, that might have been the stupidest thing he could have done.
The biggest irony of the thing is Bissinger’s article had the opposite effect than he intended. Bissinger’s whiny, slamming, over reactive piece led even the most outspoken Foles doubters to take note of the absurdity of his claims. Eagles fans from all walks of life have now rallied around Foles, not to defend his play, but to defend his character.
The truth is, Foles has had a great deal of detractors during his tenure with the Eagles. Fans were somewhat hesitant to embrace the second-year signal caller and skeptical of his stellar season (and even more skeptical of his summer spent with Sally selling seashells down by the seashore). But why?
Maybe it’s because he’s a third-round pick. He wasn’t very highly touted out of college, and we watched him experience some growing pains in Vick’s stead during the 2012 campaign. He’s got to a shorter leash than, say, RGIII.
Maybe it’s because Chip hasn’t exactly declared his love for Foles. He chose Vick over Foles last year, then took weeks to name Foles the starter for the rest of the season. He still refuses to use the term “quarterback of the future” when discussing Nick Folean Dynamite, much to the chagrin of CSN Philly beat writers. Some even thought the team might take Johnny Manziel at the 22nd pick in the draft. Fortunately, they did not.
Maybe I’m amazed at the way you love me all the time.
Or maybe it’s because Foles lacks swag. His (now deceased) lax/surfer boy haircut didn’t inspire confidence. At training camp a year ago, he showed up with a more mature ’do, but he still seemed awkward at press time, still kind of stumbling over his words in his deep, “don’t mind me” voice. At the podium, he doesn’t sound like Peyton Manning or Tom Brady or even Andrew Luck—team leaders who exude confidence. He sounds timid. Whenever someone pays him a compliment, he metaphorically kicks a pebble at his feet, as if to say sheepishly, “Oh gee, sir, me?”
Philly loves swag almost as much as wins. Shady’s swagalicious touchdown dance. Jimmy Rollins’ “team to beat” prediction. Allen Iverson stepping over Tyronn Lue. We love hard work and effort and all that good stuff, but we also love guys who will beat you and then diss you in front of your friends. Guys with an edge. Foles doesn’t have that edge.
Just because he’s not braggadocious doesn’t mean he’s not confident. Just because he’s not vocal doesn’t mean he’s not a leader. And just because he’s not a douche doesn’t mean he’s incapable of leading his team to the Promised Land.
You can be skeptical of Foles’ play. But you cannot be skeptical of the way he holds and presents himself. He leads by example. Bissinger thinks that’s “boring.” I think it’s nothing short of admirable.