The aggressiveness has communicated itself to a secondary that has changed faces six times in six weeks, but which allowed Dallas only 99 yards passing in the Eagles' opening game. "They don't play bump and run," said one observer, "they play hit and shove."
One grave fault of the Eagles is a tendency to talk of football in terms of great defeats, much in the manner of George Chuvalo, whose losses often seem more consequential than his wins. After holding the Cowboys to a 17-7 victory, they rhapsodized just as they did after their tremendous 23-17 loss to the Rams last year. Coach Jerry Williams, a former back for the Rams and the Eagles, actually congratulated the team on its performance against Dallas. Williams used to fly a P-38. He has short hair, blue eyes and a quick mind and is a student of war and of humanity—in short, a student of football. Yet to Pettigrew and the other Antibodies, his praise was anathema.
"I'm damn sick of this," said Gary. "You don't congratulate a team on a loss. It's disgusting. Still, Jerry is the first coach I know who's been willing to discuss the change in the athlete that's happening in American sports. When he came around and asked me what goes with long hair, I told him that the stupid-athlete syndrome is passing. More and more you're going to find athletes who are interested in things other than sports—who, in a sense, are contemporary men interested in the environment, in government, in changing social mores. If you're going to get respect from them, I told him, then you have to treat them as individuals. The first coach who realizes there are changes—and understands those changes—will be a new kind of winner."
Or a new kind of loser.