Dear Tom Brady,
Congratulations, way to go, blah blah blah. I’m not a Patriots hater, or anti-you. I actually do have a tremendous amount of respect for your logic-defying level of success, your strict diet and fitness regimen, and even your lifestyle that has earned you the title of “The Gwyneth Paltrow of the NFL”. This is the Patriots 10th trip to the Super Bowl. The eighth under your leadership. There is no denying your place in football history.
That said, can someone else get a chance? Just once? Just THIS year? Let me explain why.
The last thing my dad said to me before he died in June was to put the Eagles game on.
My dad went to Temple University in Philadelphia. His first job was working the city desk at the Philadelpia Inquirer. Growing up, Eagles games were always must-see TV in our house, with my mom (also a lifelong Eagles fan) screaming at the TV and my dad cursing under his breath. The first time the Eagles made it to the Super Bowl in 1981, we were out of town at a house with no cable. We sat around a small black and white TV with rabbit ears and a snowy picture and the only way we could figure out what was going on was the play by play announcer through fuzzy audio.
They lost. But my brother still has the pennant on the wall from that game.
Then came the time in college, that I snuck in the house after a night of drinking, and almost had a heart attack when I came face to face with a life-sized cardboard Randall Cunningham standing in the family room. When I got my first job and started earning a paycheck, I took my parents to a game in Philly that would turn out to be the last season at The Vet before it was torn down. We had a great time touring The City of Brotherly Love, checking out all the places my parents used to go when they were young and broke.
The next time the Eagles went to the Super Bowl happened to be the same year my daughter was born and made my dad a grandfather for the first time. I’m not sure which event thrilled him more. But they lost again.
Then my dad moved to Florida to escape the harsh winters of the Northeast, and discovered a small, out of the way bar called The Hurricane where transplanted northerners gather on Sundays to chug beers and sing the E-A-G-L-E-S fight song with every touchdown.
The thing about sports, is that common love for a team can bring people together. My brother went through a rebellious period in his teens that challenged his relationship with my dad. As he grew into adulthood, their shared passion for the Eagles transcended that. They celebrated the wins together, and commiserated the losses. They would spend every Sunday at the Hurricane and grew very close in the last few years.
Last year, my dad was diagnosed with advanced lung cancer, and faced a bigger challenge than any Super Bowl quarterback. Much like the Eagles, he fought like hell, but was ultimately unable overcome the odds against him.
The last morning he was in hospice, I arrived to find he had taken a turn for the worse. CNN was blasting from the TV and I said to him “Dad, what can I put on for you?” and he said “Put on the game.” It was 9 am. It was June. I had no idea what game he was talking about. “The Eagles game. Put on the Eagles game”, he insisted. It was then that I realized he was getting ready to check out, and all he wanted was to watch his Eagles one last time.
Instead of a funeral or memorial service, we had a party at The Hurricane in his honor. We all wore t-shirts with his picture on it, and dedicated a barstool with a plaque bearing his name. That was the game where Jake Elliott kicked an unbelievable 61 yard field goal to win over the Giants in OT. The place went crazy. He would have loved it.
That was the beginning of an incredible season for the Eagles, culminating in an NFC championship with a backup quarterback and a third chance at a Super Bowl win. My brother, mom and I have been wearing my dad’s shirt for every game. While I haven’t been as intense a fan as they have over the years, this season has been different. It’s the once chance I have to continue that bond with my dad. I can’t see him, hug him or hear him say “I love you”, but I can feel his presence when I wear that shirt and watch the games.
So please, Tom Brady, do you really need a sixth Super Bowl ring THIS year? You will still be the Greatest of All Time even if the Philadelphia Eagles pull off a win. A Super Bowl win for you is just another day at the office.
But the very first Super Bowl win for the Eagles THIS year, will mean everything to me.