A Dramatic Injury Wasn’t Enough to Keep One Eagles Fan Away
Michael Gordon is, pardon the redundancy, a maniacal Philadelphia Eagles fan. Like many of his ilk, he has a high threshold for agony.
It helped him cope with all those Eagles playoff flops over the years. And it also informed the decision he made last week when confronted with the ultimate test of his devotion.
He wrecked his left foot in a freakish accident, fracturing his heel in multiple places and displacing another bone. After, Gordon chose to delay surgery by a full week so he could fly to Arizona to watch his beloved Birds in the Super Bowl. (His doctor OKed the plan.)
“I’ll be in pain and that’ll suck,” Gordon, 39, said, “but I’ve got to do this.”
So he will, with a foot that, he said, feels like a bowling ball. A cast — green, of course — entombs most of his lower left leg, starting a few inches below the knee, and he is learning to navigate on a knee scooter.
Though he cherished celebrating the Eagles’ first Super Bowl title, in the 2017 season, with thousands of other fans on Broad Street, Gordon, of South Philadelphia, said he regretted not going to the game in Minneapolis. He vowed not to miss another one — if it ever came.
After the Eagles walloped San Francisco in the N.F.C. championship game in January, Gordon, at the urging of his wife, Lauren, purchased two tickets in what he described as his present for every birthday and holiday for the next several years.
But then, last Monday, on his way to pick up a package for a neighbor, he took a misguided shortcut and tried scaling a small fence. He jumped, landed on his left heel and, he said, “saw stars” immediately. He could not get up. His foot twitched and trembled. He felt like vomiting.
In that moment, he said, two realizations arrived at once — one pragmatic, one emotional. And, dear reader, you can decide which is which.
“Well, I’m not 14 anymore,” Gordon said, “and then, welp, I just ruined a trip to the Super Bowl.”
After a few urgent care visits, multiple X-rays and a long night in an emergency room, Gordon, almost 36 hours after the fall, found himself on Wednesday morning in the office of Dr. Derek Donegan, an orthopedic trauma surgeon at Penn Presbyterian Medical Center in Philadelphia.
He said Donegan told him that, after surgery, he might not be able to walk again until next year. Also, he would almost certainly develop arthritis. Sitting there, with his foot shattered and his spirit also crushed, Gordon asked whether, if he had surgery the next day, he could still fly to Arizona for the game.
Warning him of potential complications like infections and blood clots, Donegan advised against it.
“That was worse than the injury itself,” Gordon said.
As Gordon recalls, the few seconds that passed before Donegan spoke next felt like minutes. Since Gordon faced little risk, he said, of damaging the foot further or prolonging the recovery time by going, what if, Donegan proposed, he put a cast on and scheduled the surgery for this Thursday instead?
“I just met you,” Gordon told him, “but I think I love you.”
Credit…Photographs by Hannah Beier for The New York Times
Donegan, an Eagles fan from Malvern, Pa., joked that he had casts only in red and white — Kansas City colors. He said he empathized with Gordon and would not have cleared him if it were unsafe.
“As physicians, we manage the whole person and make sure the patient has the best outcome — both physically and psychologically,” Donegan said Saturday morning. “If this was going to cause him undue harm, the conversation would obviously have been different, but it seemed like he really, really wanted to go.”
He added: “And me saying it’s OK to go doesn’t make it easy to do, and it doesn’t make it pain-free. It’s going to be uncomfortable.”
For Gordon, who wears a custom Eagles business suit and has watched the team play in 15 stadiums across two continents, the discomfort, he hopes, will be fleeting.
He planned to arrive at the stadium about four and a half hours before kickoff to be accommodated, and he and his wife plan to spend a few extra days in Arizona afterward, enjoying the towering red rocks of Sedona, before flying home on Wednesday.
If the Eagles win, it’s possible their victory parade would be held on Thursday — while Gordon is in surgery.
“I’m OK with that,” Gordon said. “I wouldn’t have seen that part live, but I’ll get to see the better part in person.”