A Die Hard Interview
Neil Mammele has been one of my best friends since we started college in the fall of 2008. Neil is loyal, both in his friendship and his fanhood. Neil and his family have been die hard Eagles fan since birth; unwavering through thick and thin. This year’s Super Bowl victory, i’d imagine was invoking a reaction amongst him and his family members uncomparable to all life events, except maybe a birth or a wedding. I’ve sat down with Neil, whose voice you know well, another co-founder, to try to get into the mind of an Eagles die-hard and his thoughts before, during and after the game.
A: At what point during this were you like, wow, this could be the season?
N: I think anyone who watched this team closely through the year had an idea this team was special. To see Wentz bounce back after an up and down rookie year was super promising. We had veteran leaders in crucial roles at WR (Alshon Jeffery, Torrey Smith), DB (Malcolm Jenkins is like another Brian Dawkins) and the O-Line.
I will be honest though, the injuries were crushing. They lost 5 starters to injury… and then there was Wentz’s. That was the toughest. So you sit there, with a team that still controls its own destiny. Top seed in the NFC a win away, home field advantage all wrapped up…. But with a backup QB. It was weird, but I think it loosened the team up a bit and changed the narrative to “why not us?”.
A: This was an amazing season for you guys, how did you handle the Wentz injury? It had to be crushing. I imagine there being an emergency group Facetime between you and your brothers, like oh my god, is this really happening?
N: Haha pretty much. That sucked to watch. When he walked off the field there was a glimmer of hope that it wasn't as bad as everyone feared. I mean the guy threw a touchdown on a torn ACL/MCL. But that faded quickly once reports came out his knee was all torn up.
So now you’re at a point where everyone is saying your season is done and it’s hard not to buy into it a little. But then again they were winning, and had home field advantage in the playoffs. You had this backup in Nick Foles that put up numbers in an Eagles jersey a few years ago so why not again. Anything can happen right?
A: Foles’ story is incredible. I’m still in awe about it actually. I can’t get over the fact that he was so close to stepping away from the game. Now he’s a super bowl MVP. Talk about that a bit and what people might underestimate about a backup QB doing what he did.
N: There was always something about Foles I liked. Not the flashiest, but he is always incredibly positive. I think that’s an X factor with any leader, truly believing in yourself. That’s why it was so crazy to hear he almost walked away from the game. Shows these athletes deal with some similar struggles as the rest of us. “Is this the right place for me?” I’m sure glad he stayed.
It was such a good call by GM Howie Roseman to bring him back. The guy knows the system, has already won over the fans to a degree, and he got to help groom a young guy like Carson. Who shares that same optimism (will be crucial in his rehab process.)
But all that being said, it’s insane to expect him to lead his team past the Falcons, Vikings and then the Pats. It’s nuts.
A: How did you handle the pregame jitters? The build up to the game is so volcanic. Were you with the family or in total isolation?
N: It was honestly awesome until game day. Any time you have national outlets covering your favorite team it’s pretty cool. You know the ins and outs already, but there's something really cool to see how the mainstream media positions some of these guys. The build up of guys like Chris Long, Malcolm Jenkins, etc was really cool. It’s an amazing platform for them to display their causes and their “whys”.
I live in Charleston, SC now and my family is scattered about in CT. So I was really trying to get up there for the game but had some work travel I couldn't avoid. It was a lot of texting, my family is so funny with the Eagles. Nonstop articles, videos, memes etc. I loved it. I called my Dad the morning of to see how he was holding up. He started the call with “You know what Neil, I really think they are going to pull this off.” That was all I needed to chill out a bit. It was total conviction.
My Fiance, who is a newly converted Eagles fan, and I have some friends here that share our passion for Philadelphia sports so we went to their house. It was as close to family as I could get and was a lot of fun.
A: I’ve always rooted for the Eagles a bit because of us being friends and I’ve always liked some of their stars over the years, Dawkins, Vick, Sproles but as you know me you know I was drawn to this years team because of the activism of Chris Long and Malcolm Jenkins. What did that do for the organization? Good or backlash? How did you sense it sitting with the fan base?
N: Yes, I still remember Mike Vick’s 6 touchdown game vs. the Redskins our Junior year. I think that won you over a bit.
The Eagles are really lucky to have Chris Long and Malcolm Jenkins. Not only leaders on the field, but incredible character guys off of it. I think it was great for the team to see what it’s like to use your platform for good. I don't think in anyway was it a negative or a distraction for the team. Chris Long playing for free and Malcolm Jenkins visiting congress were great stories. They’re important causes that didn't effect any play on the field so it would be stupid for anyone to get upset over it
To me it shows if you really have a why behind what you are doing something for it adds more fuel to get better. To expand your platform to make a bigger impact.
A: How have you celebrated this win. I know guys who took 3 days off of work for the parade and all that came with it. Did you give a little “cough, cough” sick day for Monday morning?
N: I facetimed my family the second the game ended. We were in tears. My Dad is the driving force behind us all being Eagles fans, so I know how important it was for him. I heard from a TON of friends and family after the game which was really cool.
Most Eagles fans would consider my celebration a failure. Again, I was physically far from it all and I had work travel the Monday after. I had a 4 hour drive to Jacksonville for a conference and listened to sports talk radio the entire time. I didn't have much of a voice to start the conference but at least it was an easy conversation starter. My family and I have been sharing videos with each other nonstop. I love seeing some of the players going on Jimmy Kimmel and Fallon. It’s all awesome. And now the Flyers and Sixers are getting their act together. It’s lifting the whole city.
A: Jason Kelce’s parade speech was truly epic, partly because of his outfit but mostly because of the content, the true underdog story. I could listen to that before the gym on a regular basis. Did it get you all sorts of jacked up too?
N: Incredible man, the Mummer outfit was epic. I loved the speech and it was all true! What a moment.
There’s something to be said for rallying around your brothers when the deck is stacked against you. It’s something you should take with you in life, business, wherever. Have people around you that will fight for the same goals as you.
A: So what's next for the Eagles? Repeat? Foles is getting money from somewhere else?
N: Carson Wentz is the guy, the Eagles have made a huge investment in him and if he’s anything like the flashes he’s shown so far his future is bright. I honestly hope Foles gets paid. Somebody out there needs him, and maybe the Eagles get a bit of value in return...again.
The Eagles have a ton of young talent so it’d be hard not to pull for them again. I loved hearing guys on the team saying stuff like “this is just the beginning” and “get used to this Philly”. They’re hungry which is cool. I’m definitely excited for what’s ahead.
And if they make it next year, you better believe I’ll be there. Go Birds!
Chalk Talk is a weekly What's Next column by Anthony Cinelli, one of our founders. It will be published every Monday morning. Anthony is currently a mental health counselor and baseball coach in New Jersey.