PHILADELPHIA -- Normally, Philadelphia is the passion pit of sports.
But there is a strange emotion draped like a shroud over this town this weekend, and that is no emotion at all.
jTC The city that cares so loudly, so lustily, so impatiently, so intolerantly, is eerily mute.
The city that made booing a weapon is a cathedral hush.
The Dallas Cowboys are in town. They deplaned, to funeral silence, and asked: "Who died?"
Normally, the arrival of the 'Boys would set the streets to quivering, the populace to vibrating.
For no invading franchise stirs quite the froth amongst the local ,, zealots as those mercenaries wearing the Lone Star helmets.
Remember Jimmy Johnson skittering for cover, skating across the iced rug at the Vet after a loss, caught in a barrage of bursting slush shells fired gleefully from the bleachers?
But this time the populace, save for a few raspy squawks, is sullenly still.
The only noise is from dead leaves scuttling down empty streets.
Instead of breaking the furniture, they are covering it with sheets.
Perhaps the Phillies' hangover lingers still. Perhaps those energy tanks have not yet been replenished.
And perhaps it is not so much apathy as it is dread.
Perhaps Iggles fans sense a whupping in the offing, fear the arrogant Texicans will not just beat up on the injury-depleted locals but gloat about it, and then machine-gun the lifeboats afterward. Think Jimmy Johnson has forgotten how the crazies tried to dent his permanent-pressed pompadour with those battery-weighted ice shells?
And perhaps fans have abandoned the season.
Perhaps all but the most loyal have consigned this season as beyond help even from the patron saints of The Lost Cause.
For whatever the reasons, the Eagles, it would seem, are pretty much on their own.
Which, they say through pinched lips and clenched jaws, is just fine with them.
They know, through bitter experience, that bandwagons are equipped with revolving doors, the better to accommodate the rush to jump.
So they make the obligatory brave talk and the requisite proud defiance.
There, in the back of the room a raised hand.
Yes, Brian Baldinger?
He asks this as you will ask a question to which you already, smugly, know the answer.
But there is a significant difference between the Phils and the Eagles, other than one tends to shower more than the other.
The Phils had a full roster for their postseason. They had the same bodies they had played all season with, and those bodies were as reasonably intact as it is possible to be after 162 games.
The Eagles are about two more injuries removed from road kill.
But even if they had the team they started the season with, they would have been underdogs for this game.
Now, they are double-digit dogs.
This is about as insulting as it gets in the NFL.
L Even with all that, the Eagles are not totally without hope.
Their most obvious way to win is to squeeze all the juice from their one part that remains relatively whole. That would be their running game.
Which is to say their offensive line.
And Herschel Walker.
Twenty-five to 30 carries for Walker.
And no fumbles.
If the Eagles can manage that, they can shorten the game, which is always the tactic of preference for the overmatched.
The common mantra in all of sport is to play only today's game. Well, today's game, frankly, looks unwinnable. But next week's -- at Phoenix -- is not. And there are some others after that.
The season is not beyond salvaging. It looks like one of those years in which a .500 record or marginally better will sneak a playoff spot.
Which means you need to be alert for any opportunity.
"Sometimes the games you're not supposed to have a chance, sometimes those are the games when you get a chance," Baldinger said. "So you have to be ready."
If the Eagles somehow happen to pull a carpe diem, they might even awaken a slumbering town.
"Yeah, said Brian Baldinger, grinning wickedly, "but only to boo."