Eagles Win Super Bowl LVII!

How does it feel to have the Eagles win Super Bowl LVII?

Euphoric.

I grew up with the Eagles and, as every long-suffering Philly sports fan knows, have experienced more lows than highs, along with my devoted family. This franchise has attracted exceptional players and coaches over the years – and we’ve cheered them all on with passion – but there’s something unique about this particular team. From their commitment to their faith and their work ethic, to their ability to block out relentless negativity and fully rely on each other, they’ve proven the “impossible” is, indeed, possible. Even after losing franchisee quarterback Carson Wentz and many other key players to injuries, they never gave up. Instead, every member of the team dug a little deeper to contribute even more and keep their momentum going strong.

As Doug Pederson eloquently stated, “An individual can make a difference, but the team makes the miracle.”

I loved Nick Foles’ description of failure as a character-builder, in a world where social media provides the “highlight reel” of life during his press conference.

This Eagles team truly embodies the spirit of Rocky and the city of Philadelphia. In a tumultuous NFL year characterized by disrespectful anthem protests, watching the season culminate in an unforgettable Super Bowl with a breathtaking pregame show — featuring an uplifting rendition of America the Beautiful by Leslie Odom Jr. and a stirring performance of the Star Spangled Banner by Pink, while every single player stood — filled my heart with hope. That my team overcame adversity and defied the odds to get there was the icing on the cake.

But the Eagles came to win, not just show.

My favorite play of the game:

With this one a close second:

To witness my team, the Philadelphia Eagles — led by their “back-up” quarterback Nick Foles — defeat the premier team in the NFL, was a dream come true. The victory was even sweeter because it belonged to men of stellar character who gave glory to God, supported each other, and provided a shining example of what can be accomplished when individuals contribute their God-given talents and go all-out to help their team achieve a mutual goal.

Congratulations to the Philadelphia Eagles…and thank you for being my inspiration!

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Fly Eagles Fly: It’s About So Much More Than Football

I grew up with the Philadelphia Eagles.

From the time I was old enough to talk, I remember my older brothers teaching me about the game – from penalties to plays to strategies. I never understood the whole concept of women hating football because in our household, my mom was just as passionate about the sport as anyone else — and she passed that along to my older sister and me. In our home, Sundays were about gatherings of family and friends (after Mass, of course), home-cooked meals prepared by Mom (who at 86-years-young is still hosting Sunday dinners), and during football season – Eagles games.

To be fair, we were an equal-opportunity Philly sports family, so our support extended to the Phillies, Flyers, and Sixers. I had the privilege of being in attendance when Tug McGraw threw the last strike to win the World Series against the Kansas City Royals in 1980, and I remember many occasions when my mom would take us to the airport to greet whatever team had just emerged victorious or needed the support of fans in the aftermath of losing a playoff or championship.

When I was 11, my brother Mark took me to a one-day event at Widener University, where the Eagles used to train. I recall how excited I was to meet Dick Vermeil and watch the players practice. Back then, it never occurred to me that I’d ever meet a female who didn’t love the game because just about every woman I cared about did.

But some of my best lifetime memories involve freezing in the bitter cold at the NFC Championship Game in 1981 with my brother Paul and sister Carolyn as we watched the Eagles defeat our nemesis, the Dallas Cowboys, 20-7 and advance to their first Super Bowl. Sadly, they lost 27-10 to the Oakland Raiders, which we witnessed with a houseful of people and yummy food.

My parents had three season tickets and as the years went by, preferred to watch the games on television, creating more opportunities for my siblings and I to cheer on our team from section 242 at Veterans Stadium. Every year when the season started, we’d look forward to hanging out with our friends in section 242, which included a man named Michael Trent whom my dad (a retired general surgeon) once operated on. Often mistaken for former Houston Oilers quarterback Warren Moon, he would often quip that he wished he had Moon’s money. These people lived and died with the Eagles, and though they could be rough and rowdy at times, never beat up the opposing team’s fans. I’d submit they are the true representation of Philly fans — not the bad apples who get all the press and give the rest of us a bad reputation. (For the record, I once went to a game in the Meadowlands in 1989 with Mark and Carolyn, where we were threatened with bodily harm by Giants fans who were displeased that the Eagles beat them).

There have been many inspiring Eagles players, from Harold Carmichael and Bill Bergey to Ron Jaworski and Wilbert Montgomery, to Vince Papale and Brian Dawkins…and this year’s group of Eagles, led by amazing coach Doug Pederson, is no exception. In an NFL season characterized by disrespect of our flag, country, and military, they are a breath of fresh air. In spite of tremendous obstacles — losing their starting quarterback Carson Wentz , along with several key players, to injuries, they never gave up. They blocked out the noise from the media and other “experts” who declared with certainty that Nick Foles could never take them to the Super Bowl. Even loyal fans I know decried the impossibility of carrying on without our franchise quarterback.

But the Eagles didn’t listen to conventional wisdom.

Instead, embracing their status as “underdogs” in true Rocky fashion, they stuck together, built each other up, worked hard, and maintained their belief that it could be done. And here we are today: NFC Champions.

Congratulations Philadelphia Eagles. This fan believes you can and will beat the Patriots. No matter what happens, your integrity, teamwork, faith, and work ethic are an inspiration for all — Philly fans or not.

 

 

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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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