Wentzational!

Wentzational!

In an NFL season marred by kneeling multi-millionaire ingrates, Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz is a breath of fresh air. Not only is he exceptionally talented, he is a positive influence on his teammates and a contributor to the Philadelphia community.

That’s why I’m proud to promote these Wentzational shirts, exclusively from Innovation Nation. If you’re interested, comment below and I’ll tell you how to order.

UPDATE: A Bittersweet Victory & NFC East Title for the Eagles

During an exciting, back-and-forth, well-fought game last night, Carson Wentz suffered a torn left ACL, ending his season. Like his teammates, coaches, and Philly fans everywhere, I’m sending prayers for healing and gratitude for his role in leading the Eagles to an NFC East Title and a playoff berth.

In adversity, he continues to display his true character.

The same holds true for his teammates, other NFL players, and Philly athletes:

As for the post-season, I agree with Head Coach Doug Pederson: “You can’t lose faith.”

Cheering on back-up QB Nick Foles and the rest of the team as we move forward and surrounding Carson Wentz with prayers and positive energy.

Fly Eagles Fly!

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Tommy and Me by Ray Didinger Evokes Nostalgia for a Bygone Era in Professional Sports

Tommy and Me by Ray Didinger Evokes Nostalgia for a Bygone Era in Professional Sports

When my brother Mark announced his plan to take us to see Tommy and Me by Ray Didinger, I had no idea what to expect. Although a lifelong Eagles fan, my earliest memories of the team begin in the 1970’s with players like Tom Dempsey, Harold Carmichael, and Roman Gabriel…when the Dallas Cowboys ruled and loyal fans suffered through consecutive losing seasons until Dick Vermeil came along and turned the Eagles into winners, beginning with the 1978-79 season. The one characterized by the Miracle at the Meadowlands, culminating in a 9-7 record. Winners!

I had heard about older players and the 1960 championship from my parents and brothers, but it didn’t mean much to me until I attended Didinger’s one-act play, featuring just four excellent actors. Performed at Theatre Exile, it tells the uplifting and heart-warming story of a Philly boy (Didinger) who loved his Philadelphia Eagles, and in particular, his idol Tommy McDonald. Their personal relationship begins one summer day in Hershey, during the Didinger family’s annual Eagles training camp vacation, when after patiently waiting outside the locker room for an autograph, young Ray meets his favorite Eagle. Tommy McDonald graciously engages the boy in conversation and asks him to hold his helmet as they walk together toward the field. It’s the start of a lifelong connection, though McDonald won’t realize it until decades later.

We follow Ray through his career as a Philly sportswriter and commentator, which reunites him with McDonald in the 1980’s and culminates in McDonald at last being inducted into the Football Hall of Fame in 1998. At the end of the performance, I learned something new about my own family when my dad raised his hand during the Q & A to tell the story of how he took care of McDonald when he was a resident doctor at Misericordia Hospital in West Philly.

More than anything, Tommy and Me made me nostalgic for the days when professional athletes were connected to their fans and played mostly for the love of the game. What a refreshing tribute to a bygone era in professional sports. Many thanks to the cast, writers, and crew for the fun, interactive conversation with the audience at the end of the performance. I’m so thankful I was still “up north” to see it.

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The Food of Water Signs: Provolone Cheese and Tomato Pie

The Food of Water Signs: Provolone Cheese and Tomato Pie

In Water Signs as in life, regional foods were an integral enhancement to every celebration and sporting event. My mom was the party planner extraordinaire, the hostess with the mostess — the family organizer and Philly sports fanatic who would create well-thought-out or impromptu gatherings centering around every milestone. Whether it was a First Holy Communion, the Flyers in the Stanley Cup playoffs, the Phillies in the World Series or the Eagles confronting an NFC Division rival, Mom made sure there was plenty of great food to complement the occasion.

Good thing too, because as anyone who’s been a lifelong Philly sports fan can attest, more often than not, the food is the only thing left to celebrate after the clock runs out. A certain January in 1981 comes to mind when — off of the high of beating the Dallas Cowboys in the NFC Championship Game (an event I was lucky enough to attend in person with brother Paul and sister Carolyn…brrr!), the Eagles completely collapsed under pressure, losing to the Oakland Raiders in Super Bowl XV, 27-10. The 1981 NFC Championship that preceded the Super Bowl letdown is recounted in vivid detail by Maddy during a scene in which she and Ken have dinner with her mother and Aunt Maria in Ocean City, New Jersey.

In Chapter 6, Ken and Maddy share a picnic on the beach featuring Italian wedding cookies, provolone cheese fromSouth Philly and tomato pie — all of which are popular delicacies in the Southeastern PA/Philly/South Jersey area. Every Christmas my mom used to drive down to the 9th Street Market in South Philly specifically to buy provolone, along with other things not typically done as well in the suburbs. Sometimes this entailed standing in line for hours, but in the end it was so worth it when said provolone was accompanied by roasted peppers and fresh Italian bread (yum!) as a prelude to a fabulous meal. Now, that’s what I call Italian soul food!

Last September, I was invited to speak at the Hawthorne Writers Group by my good friend, Don Smith. After some collaboration about the event, we decided it would be fun to include a few of the foods mentioned in Water Signs as refreshments. At the time, I was visiting my parents in Newtown Square, PA so baking the Italian wedding cookies was an easy proposition. However, I felt it would be best to actually purchase tomato pie somewhere in and around Hawthorne (which is located just 22 miles from Manhattan in North Jersey), rather than schlep it in the car for the 2 1/2 hour ride. It never occurred to me that this delicious variation of pizza had not yet been discovered in Central and/or Northern New Jersey.

But when I went online to find some bakeries and pizza places in the Hawthorne area and began to make calls, you might have thought I was inquiring about some obscure, exotic foodstuff known only to a select group of elite chefs. Most of my conversations went something like this:

“Hello, do you have tomato pie?”

“Uh, what? Tomato pie? Never heard of it. What’s that?”

“Well, it’s kind of like pizza, except it has a special kind of dough with tomato sauce and grated cheese sprinkled on top.”

“Uh, no we don’t have that, but we do have the best New Yawk style pizza around!”

“No, I am looking for tomato pie, not New York style pizza.”

“Sorry lady, can’t help you!”

In the end, I ordered two tomato pies from Genuardi’s Supermarket, which I managed to keep fresh and uneaten during the trek north. And both the wedding cookies and the tomato pies were a big hit with the crowd — almost as big a hit as Wilbert Montgomery’s touchdown run against the Dallas Cowboys in the 1981 NFC Championship Game. 🙂

Preview and purchase Water Signs: A Story of Love and Renewal on Amazon.com.

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