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Spike Eskin: Donovan McNabb, The Gift That Keeps On Giving

(Credit: Elsa/Getty Images)

(Credit: Elsa/Getty Images)

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By Spike Eskin

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – The date is May 17th, 2013. The place is 400 Market Street in Philadelphia. The time is about 7am, and I’m opening the door to my office on the 9th floor. I am inside the walls of 94WIP, and Angelo Cataldi and the WIP Morning Show is blasting on the big speakers  in the hallways, and on the small one I have on my desk.

The topic is Donovan McNabb, because, of course it is.

He’s news this week because he said he’d like to retire as a member of the Eagles, and is proud of his career. Though that seems at least sort of notable, it’s not particularly necessary ammunition to spur any discussion of McNabb. It’s convenient, and it’s noteworthy, but it’s not necessary.

He’s not really news this week because he said anything, or did anything. He is news because he is Donovan McNabb, and this is Philadelphia. He is always news.

The discussion about McNabb, whether it be about how Hall of Fame worthy he is, or whether he should have his number retired, or something seemingly trivial like whether he threw up in the Super Bowl almost a decade ago, is a parody of itself. Just like he’s become, to an extent. Just like we’ve become, as fans of the Eagles. It’s a caricature, and only loosely based in the reality of the McNabb led Eagles that we all experienced.

Those who are on the anti-Donovan side of the fence only see the throws into the ground, the passive aggression and the air guitar. The pro-Five crowd sees only the cover of Sports Illustrated, and James Thrash and Todd Pinkston, seeing McNabb as almost a martyr who continues to take the punishment for the sins of a decade and a half of Super Bowl winless football.

And all of this, as ridiculous as it sounds, is a-ok with me.

It is a mutual obsession, between McNabb himself and the city that won’t forget him. He won’t ever forget the booing at the draft, just like Philadelphia will never forget that he will never forget it.

As he does an interview, he must smirk inside when he mentions that the NFC Championship is “the big game,” knowing it is a needle under the fingernails of Eagles fans who still blame him for not winning the Super Bowl. The same way Angelo Cataldi is grinning from ear to ear, both inside and out, when he suggests fans boo him just one more time when McNabb retires as a member of the Eagles.

The Sixers hired a new general manager this week. Cole Hamels is 1-6 in the first year of a $150 million contract. The Flyers big-money goalie endorsed a genocidal warlord, two of them in fact. And the biggest topic of discussion the radio, in the newspaper, on the internet and in the hallways is #5.

Even the people who say it should no longer be a story, have been saying all week that it’s not a story. They take part in the discussion with a big fat disclaimer that they think the obviously ridiculous discussion is ridiculous. But they take part none the less.

Donovan McNabb is the hit song that maybe you’ve heard a few too many times, but is still one of the all-time greats.

It’s May of 2013, and we’re talking about Donovan McNabb as if it’s January of 2004. If Angelo, Donovan and the rest of us have anything to say about it, we’ll be having the same discussion in September of 2020.

Donovan McNabb never brought Philadelphia a Super Bowl, but he gave us something so much more important; something to argue about.

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