By Dave Uram
Eagles quarterback Nick Foles is the most likable and relatable athlete in Philadelphia.
Nothing proved that more than a phenomenal cover story in Philadelphia Magazine written by Pulitzer Prize winning journalist Buzz Bissinger, even though that might not have been his intention.
Foles declined to be interviewed for the story, a decision that typically perturbs me. When athletes choose not to speak, it’s a sign of disrespectfulness to the fans who make him high profile.
That was not the case this time.
It was endearing because he didn’t want to put his individual successes over that of the team. Foles is boring. We already knew that and didn’t need more standard issue quotes.
Instead, through Bissinger’s beyond textbook journalism, we learned in high school he hung out with “mostly non-football nerds,” played video games on Saturday night instead of drinking, had a “goofy sense of humor,” dressed poorly, had “oddly styled” hair and was a Napoleon Dynamite look-a-like.
Most charming was a story about Foles once playing catch with a kid who idolized him. The youngster never found out Foles was the one throwing the ball because Foles never revealed who he was.
These attributes make Foles a real, down to Earth person who comes off as “one of the guys,” and not a high profile athlete that one should feel nervous in front of.
Rather than being a beyond approachable superstar, he’s human.
Bissinger wrote that to this day Foles has not really changed, saying his style is “admirable,” but “unrealistic and annoying.”
At one point, he calls the Eagles quarterback “chickenbleep” for not being more public.
As a guest of the WIP Morning Show Thursday, Bissinger said, “All great athletes and quarterbacks in particular there’s an edge somewhere. Drew Brees – he just has gravitas. You can look at all of them and Nick doesn’t have that. He hates attention…I think it’s a problem because I think ultimately it becomes a problem of leadership. When people say he leads by example, that means he isn’t leading at all.”
Although the piece is extraordinary, I don’t agree with Bissinger that Foles should change his mentality.
Last season he guided the 3-5 Eagles to a 10-6 record, a division championship and brought them back to take a late lead in the Wild Card playoff game against the Saints, only to see the defense ultimately squander that away.
Foles led the NFL with a 119.2 quarterback rating and threw 27 touchdowns with just two interceptions in 13 games.
Most importantly, he did so with a humble approach that put the team before himself. There was an underdog story to his success, with doubters shooting down his ability left and right.
Foles’ philosophy on money is also endearing. This offseason when asked about receiving a big franchise quarterback contract in the near future, he said it didn’t matter at the current time and all he wants to do is play football.
Since Foles comes from wealth, he has a backup plan if football fails. But, it’s annoying when an athlete makes a big deal about money, especially at inappropriate times. A prime example is DeSean Jackson, who honestly answered a question about contract reconstruction two days after the Eagles were eliminated from the playoffs.
As far as Foles’ standard issue approach with the media, it’s not as bad as it’s made out to be.
Bissinger said on WIP, “When you’re the man, you’re going to have to deal with the media, you’re going to have to deal with fans, you’re going to have to deal with sports talk radio. That’s just the way it is.”
Before Bissinger’s article, Foles never turned down media availability and always gave in depth answers, despite usually being rather boring.
He chose not to speak to Bissinger because he didn’t want to put himself above the team. Is that so terrible?
Chase Utley, who is revered in Philadelphia, gives boring answers as well in interviews, except I get the sense from him that it’s a hassle to speak, as his responses are often short and obvious.
Foles will go in depth and show some sort of interest in what he’s being asked.
As someone who works in the media, it’s always more intriguing to hear interesting and flamboyant comments from the athletes in this town. It makes our jobs much easier and more fun.
However, Foles’ likability makes up for that deficiency in his personality.
Foles is blue collar. Foles is Philadelphia.
Dave Uram is a producer and update anchor at SportsRadio 94 WIP. You can follow him on twitter @UramWIP.