Back in Philly: Donovan McNabb’s return no hatefest at the Linc

By Barry Wilner, AP
Sunday, October 3, 2010

McNabb’s return not a hatefest

PHILADELPHIA — Donovan McNabb walked onto the field in an empty stadium 2½ hours before kickoff, a wide smile on his face. Of course, there was nobody around to boo him.

This is Philadelphia, though, so the prospect of venom being spewed at the Redskins’ new quarterback certainly existed later Sunday as McNabb returned to Philly for the first time since being dealt to Washington in April.

It’s also the City of Brotherly Love, and there were dozens of fans in the parking lots wearing No. 5 Eagles jerseys with McNabb’s name on the back. Conversely, there was a parade to the Spectrum across the street, followed by a collective boo of the man identified by one sign as “McChoke.”

McNabb stayed with his teammates during early warmups, although former teammates were around him. There was little interaction between them, although he casually chatted with Eagles kicker David Akers for about a minute.

Outside the Linc, there were pockets of protest, particularly the “boo parade” organized by WIP radio personality Angelo Cataldi — the same man who put together the 1999 draft day boofest in New York when McNabb was selected instead of Ricky Williams. About 35 people, including two men on stilts, a juggler and one dressed as a clown walked to the Spectrum next door while voicing their displeasure with the quarterback they dubbed “Dontovan.”

“The lazy, national media harped on the (draft day booing) for 11 years and ignored everything else,” Cataldi said. “They wanted a circus today, so we’re giving them a circus.”

But many fans recalled the five NFC championship games he got the Eagles into; they won only one of those, then lost to New England in the 2005 Super Bowl. And they remembered all the playoff berths: eight, seven for which McNabb was the starting quarterback.

“For as long as he played here and the success he had, he deserves some kind of respect from the fans and the team,” said Kyle DeRiemer of Philadelphia. “But I’d really like to see him before the game go up near (Eagles coach) Andy Reid and then walk right past him and not greet him.”

Standing next to DeRiemer, wearing a Jason Taylor Redskins jersey, was Ashlen Stayrook of Phoenix. She had no trouble defending McNabb.

“He should feel like he’s coming home,” she said. “I don’t think he wanted to leave Philadelphia. But I think it will be a mixture of love and hate.”

Once the game starts, nobody expected the locals to have any love for McNabb, whose Redskins are 1-2, a game behind Philly in the NFC East.

“When they kick off, he becomes just another quarterback for the other team,” said Barb Bair of Mechanicsburg, Pa. “Before that, (the reaction) has to be positive. He gave us some of the greatest memories in Eagles history.”

What McNabb did not bring Philadelphia was a Super Bowl championship, though. For 25 years, the city went without any type of major sports title, even though plenty of stars suited up for the local teams.

“I think a lot of fans feel McNabb didn’t fit in with the fabric of Philadelphia,” said Dan Perkins. “He didn’t show that outward emotion that a Charles Barkley or an Allen Iverson did. The fans responded to them because of that. They didn’t see that from Donovan, and that’s what they remember.”

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