EXCLUSIVE | 'Maybe Next Year' director Kyle Thrash feels Philadelphia Eagles fandom is about the city's identity
While the team continues their journey in this year's NFL, MEAWW caught up with Thrash known for his scintillating documentary that follows the emotions of the Eagles fanbase
The Philadelphia Eagles are currently placed third on their NFC East standings. The eight losses are glaring with the latest defeat against the Green Bay Packers all the more depressing for the fans. Safe to say, this isn't the season the Eagles had in their mind and neither did their earnest fan base.
While the Eagles continue their journey in this year's NFL, MEAWW caught up with Kyle Thrash known for his scintillating 'Maybe Next Year'— a documentary that follows the emotions of the Eagles fanbase. 'Maybe Next Year' is all about the epic Eagles Super Bowl journey in 2017 where they ripped the New England Patriots apart.
It was about the people who egged, rooted, blasted, mocked and cried like there was no tomorrow for their team. Safe to say, the Eagles are the heart and soul of the people of Philadelphia. It's an emotion. For some, their team winning a Super Bowl would be their dying wish. This isn't an exaggeration. Honestly, this is the absolute truth. In an exclusive, Thrash decrypts the documentary shedding light on the creation and the definition of fandom
How did the idea of making a documentary centering on fans come about?
I grew up a pretty big Philly sports fan. So I always felt like when I would go to the games and, I would always see these really eccentric, diehard, maniac type fans down at the tailgates. And I always felt like there was something really special about them as people and felt like they would make for an interesting subject to kind of look at where that passion comes from and dive into their psyche, or what makes them such a passionate sports fan. And looking through that, I ended up putting it through the lens of the 2017 season and was able to capture the most magical year in Philadelphia Eagles history.
You spoke about diehard fans, how do you define fandom?
Philadelphia is basically our identity, you know, and in some ways, I feel like the city in the, you know, in the seventies and eighties had a harder time. And there were a lot of economic and social issues that were tough in the city. I think that not having the capital and not being New York City. It's a city that looked gets looked over a lot. So I feel like people look to sports for our identity, pride, a source of hope, and something that can represent us in a way and give us pride. So I feel like fandom and Philadelphia is really about the identity of the city in some ways.
How hard was it to pick the specific fans in the documentary?
It was very hard to get only to choose these four. We kind of wanted a sambal piece not only for these four fans but, a number of other moments with certain characters to try to show off the different sides of the kind of ecosystem that is around the game. But I focused on these four because I felt like they represented different sides of fandom that I thought was important, whether it's Shirley with bashful passion calling into the radio stations, wanting to run a woman's group to help teach women about the game and learn.
And there's someone like Brian who represents anger in Philadelphia and can sometimes be really negative because there's a lot of pain with never winning. So I feel he represented that angry side of being a fan and then Barry spends all of his retirement money on building the number one man cave in America. It represents obsession in this way that he started out as just being a casual fan, makes this 2000 square foot kind of shrine to his love for something I thought was really interesting.
Then Jesse with a legacy, getting his fandom from his father and watching the games with his father and wanting to pass on his love for the Eagles to his son who has special needs. I felt like those four characters were a great way to explore those themes.
In your opinion, does fanaticism for sports teams fade or is it a process of endless renewal?
I don't think it fades. I think it gets stronger over the years and people, even when it's not public, know that Philadelphia fans are our group that doesn't abandon their team when they are doing well. They still show up to the games and sometimes they boo out of love. They don't boo because they hate the team. They boo because they expect better. It's such pride for the city and such an identity of the city that fans want their teams to work as hard as they do in their jobs.
They just want to make sure that win or lose, they give it their all and are really competing. I feel that's what makes the teams in this city, support athletes who have that blue-collar work ethic to really go above and beyond, So ideally one of the things that make 'Maybe Next Year' a compelling watch is the fact that it was a great year for the Eagles in 2017.
Would you have done the documentary even if the Eagles had lost in 2017?
It was about the pain of what it felt like for 57 years, almost 60 years of not winning a championship. It's about that feeling of getting close. And not fully getting there. So I knew that year the team was doing well, that I felt even without them winning, I knew that the heartbreak would be something really meaningful.
Even if it was a lot of sadness. I think that's why the film is called 'Maybe Next Year' because that's how it would end if they hadn't won. Win or lose, I felt like it would still make for a compelling piece to feel like what it feels like for the fans to go through that loss, and again, examine fandom, through those themes that I mentioned.
What were your thoughts when Carson Wentz injured himself that year? Did your emotions resonate with the fans?
I was very pessimistic. I really felt like the season was probably over. I deal with a lot of that pain that these fans have gone through being one of them myself, that I felt like, "Oh, this is typical Eagles. Nothing going our way. Looking great on paper, but not being able to deliver a championship. It just felt too familiar when it happened. So I was sad. I felt like I don't know where the project's going to go, but it was just was at a complete loss. Certain fans didn't want to shoot with us cause they felt like the season was over, they felt like, "Why are you even capturing this?"
If there was an opportunity to do something very similar with the Philadelphia 76ers...
I'm a big Sixers fan. But I don't know because I feel like I've told my story with Philadelphia. I'd love for someone else to tackle the material in a different way. I feel like I've said what I've had to say about Philadelphia sports fans, and it would be pretty similar to those. That being said, I'm a huge sixes fan and excited about some of the moves they've done, I'm feeling optimistic about the team. Joel Embiiid and Ben Simmons are still very young and still figuring out being on the floor together. I'm excited about Doc and some of the front office moves.