In Philadelphia, You’re a Member of the Family

Philadelphia Eagles head coach
Andy Reid. Photo taken by me at a
charity event in April 2009.  

Philadelphia will always be home. Always. 

~ me on Facebook last week in conversation with my friend Beth K. 

Philadelphia is unlike any other sports town I’ve lived in.

To be fair, up until a year ago Philly was the only sports town I’d lived in.

There is something about the rough and tumble gritty nature of the city. When it comes to our local Philly celebrities, our newscasters, and especially our sports people, we take that brotherly love business to heart.

Not always, mind you. God knows, all one needs to do after a particularly heartbreaking, unfathomable Eagles loss is spend a minute scrolling through the comments on philly.com or on Twitter and you might as well be in the 700 level of the Vet. (Yeah, the Vet.)

We’re cranks and critics as we call  for our coaches’ and owners’ heads to roll, for our taxpayer-funded stadium houses to be cleaned, in post and in haste. We’re content to call the game from our recliners and everyone connected with it every name in the playbook. We’re not an easy bunch to live with.

And then, when a particularly heartbreaking, unfathomable Eagles loss happens, we give you the biggest of bear hugs, cry with you, and call you a member of the family.

We’re a dysfunctional Philadelphia sports family, all right. No doubt about that. Which is why a humid Sunday morning yesterday found us sending Facebook condolences and virtual prayers and calling our own family members and hugging our kids a bit tighter and remembering all too well that we were here once before with our Coach.

With our Coach. Like family.

That there for the grace of God go we.

When news broke that Philadelphia Eagles head coach Andy Reid was absent from training camp for the first time since November 2007 and that our players were in a prayer circle, we knew something was very, very wrong. That was not like our Coach. (“How many of these yahoos who otherwise would be calling for Andy Reid’s head can say they’ve missed two days of work in 15 years?” I said to The Husband). We worried. We reacted the same way that we would if we’d gotten a similar call from a family member ourselves.

It’s his health. A heart attack. Or maybe one of the kids. 

You thought the same thing, didn’t you?

Unless you’re a cretin from the 700 level, you did. Because on a day like yesterday, it doesn’t matter anymore what the hell you think about Andy Reid’s coaching or decisions regarding players or clock management.

Because you’re family. And this is Philadelphia.

And that’s a visceral thing here in the very lifeblood of this city. I’ve written about this Philly phenomenon before, about our attachment to local celebrities, particularly our sports people. All one needs to do is look at how beloved our celebrities are – how our city will truly never be the same post-Richie Ashburn and Harry Kalas, how we’re still mourning Tug McGraw and Reggie White, how we even rallied around Allan Iverson when his daughter was sick, how we can give a prodigal son’s welcome back to our old friends Steve Carlton and Mike Schmidt. Bygones them all.  Even sportscasters like Gary Papa become revered, with a “Support for Gary Papa” Facebook group attracting over 14,000 people.

So, what is it? Why are we so connected to our news personalities here in Philadelphia? Does this happen elsewhere? Or is it a unique byproduct of our town, our city of brotherly love?

The answer to that is a whole book, but I think it has to do with this: our connection to our people keeps us connected. It goes back to when families, like mine, ate dinner with the local news and the Phillies on in the background. When families got together to watch the games, win or lose. (Mostly lose.) Our sports and the people in them  keep us connected now in a media age that has become fractured and splintered in the decades since our local treasures first commanded our airwaves.

I think it also has to do with their longevity in this market. Like I said, we’re not an easy bunch to be around for the long haul and those who can make it somehow become more endearing to us. Somehow, their longevity in this media market translates into keeping us connected with our city, our heritage, our roots and our families. It’s a constant in a constantly changing world.

For a generation of Eagles fans, the Andy Reid era is all that they know. Maybe that’s why we’re so passionate, so vocal. Maybe that’s why, despite his faults and ours, we continue to embrace our Coach as we do, year after year. Why we say we’re going elsewhere, that we’re never buying another Eagles jersey ever again, that we’re boycotting the entire season until they win a Super Bowl already.

And maybe that’s the reason why we feel more deeply as we mourn because we know that that connection is symbolic of those we have with the people in our own lives.

There for but the grace of God go I.

Fleeting, gone too soon.

Just like family.

copyright 2012, Melissa, The Betty and Boo Chronicles If you are reading this on a blog or website other than The Betty and Boo Chronicles or via a feedreader, this content has been stolen and used without permission.