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Fugel: Obscure sports heroes are the best ones

My favorite memory of Todd Pinkston comes from the 2003 NFC Championship Game against the New York Giants. My beloved Eagles were down by four with two minutes to go and facing a perilous third-and-8. Donovan McNabb dropped back, waited a split second and threw a curl route to Pinkston for a first down.

Why to Pinkston? Because Todd Pinkston was always there, was always reliable and always possessed the safest pair of hands in the league.

The Eagles would go on to win the game and the Super Bowl. Of course, if you, my beloved reader, are currently thinking, “I don’t remember that ever happening, and Todd Pinkston wasn’t that good,” then you would be absolutely correct (not about the shameful slight against Todd Pinkston, though). These events happened on the worn-down copy of Madden NFL 2003 that currently sits at home on my desk in London.

It should be mentioned at this point that although I live in London, my mum’s side of the family comes from New York. I support New York teams in all sports except for football. I know who Jeremy Tyler and Renaldo Balkman are and I have a deep and pervasive hatred of Mike Woodson. I adore Henrik Lundqvist. I believe in the tendons contained within Matt Harvey’s arm. None of those teams have won a championship in my lifetime. I love Todd Pinkston, because he is how I learned to love the game of football — and, absurdly, because he taught me what it was like to see a team you loved win.

When I first picked up my copy of Madden ’03, I imagine that I would have been about 13, but I definitely would have had no idea about the game of football. So I randomly selected my team. And a love affair with a team most associated with throwing snowballs at Santa and never winning the big one began. It could have been worse, however. The next time I randomly selected, I got the Cleveland Browns. It is to my eternal relief that this sad, sad way of life was not foisted upon me by the whims of fate.

So we return to the wondrous Todd Pinkston. Not knowing anything about the game, I looked for plays that would always work. Somehow, a curl route for Pinkston always did. This is not an exaggeration; I would estimate that had reality molded itself to my videogame, McNabb-Pinkston would be treated with the same reverence that Montana-Rice is.

Pinkston never let me down, not like Melo and Rick Nash and Jason Bay would eventually do. For years, I labored under the entirely correct delusion that Pinkston was the greatest wide receiver in the league. A part of me will always see him in his pixelated glory, turning on a dime and stretching out his hands to take in a pass.

He was never showy; in fact, I doubt that I ever even threw many touchdown passes to him. But whenever the game was on the line, there was only one man I was going to. Todd Pinkston, king of kings, slot receiver extraordinaire — but more importantly, the man who made me a Philadelphia Eagles fan. For that, he will always be my sporting hero.

If Henrik Lundqvist didn’t allow another goal this season, Todd Pinkston might not still be Dylan Fugel’s sporting hero. Give Dylan a fresh lease on his sporting life by dropping off a copy of NHL 14 at dfugel ‘at’ stanford.edu.