Not that Cunningham would never hear another boo. In Philly the boo is the stamp of approval. Sports fans here don't boo just anybody. They boo the best. Children booed Schmidt, and he was probably the best third baseman ever to play the game. In 1980, after Schmidt was named National League MVP and the Phillies won the World Series, he said, " Philadelphia is the only town where you can experience the thrill of victory and the agony of reading about it the next day."
Inside the bubble, Norman Braman, who owns the Eagles, fired up a cruise missile that turned out to be a cigar. "Randall is a talent, a great natural athlete and a great leader on the field," he said. "He's made himself what he is. Randall's teammates believe he can do anything. You can't give up with him."
"Last year Buddy came up to me and said, 'It's your offense. If it doesn't work, it's going to be your fault,' " said Cunningham, looking serious. "I don't mind that at all. Let the pressure be on me, not Buddy. Buddy has given me a home."
After practice Cunningham walked in the gray bowels of the Vet with wideout Henry Williams, a former Canadian Football League and USFL player who signed with the Eagles. Reggie White, the Eagles' giant defensive lineman, nicknamed Williams "Gizmo" because of his size (5'6") and facial resemblance to the leading little monster in the film Gremlins. Gizmo runs a 4.3 40, and when he isn't running, the only Eagle who can understand a word of what he says is Cunningham, who believes in communicating with receivers at all costs.
How good is Cunningham, Giz? "Supahback?" said Gizmo. "CDs craws?"
Gizmo held up two crooked hands, which made him look like a man with arthritis. But why was he discussing financial planning? "No, he said, 'See these claws?' " said Cunningham. "He means his hands haven't been relaxed. He isn't accustomed to catching passes with big league pace. Giz can break up an entire restaurant without anyone knowing what he's talking about."
Amazing. Not only does Cunningham run, kick (he's the Eagles' backup punter), pass, decimate NFL defenses, own an option on Philadelphia's inkwells and airwaves, play catch one-handed, get booed, get cheered and show up to work out with rookies, but he also speaks Gizmo. "The Boss doesn't have anything to prove around here," said Ryan, calling Cunningham something Ryan never deigned to call Bears coach Mike Ditka when Ryan worked in Chicago. Of course, Ryan is really the boss.
"Yeah. But I don't play," said Ryan. "I coach. Randall plays. Good deal, eh?"
Pro Football Roundup: A Bird of Prey
?Nov. 6, 1988: With the Eagles leading the Rams 20-10 in the fourth quarter at Veterans Stadium, Cunningham executed a tight-formation play fake at the Los Angeles two-yard line. He turned to face a horde of unfaked Rams. His intended receiver, tight end Keith Jackson, ran diagonally across the end zone, wearing a linebacker on his back. Cunningham floated the ball in for the score while getting knocked backward. The Eagles went on to win 30-24.