Born and raised in the Philadelphia area, I am proud to say that I was raised an Eagles fan. My first jersey was McNabb, I lived through the "Reid Era", saw DeSean Jackson and Michael Vick come and go, and witnessed the very short Chip Kelly era. While I can't say that the eagles have ever quite lived up to any football fan's expectation of their home team, I still look forward to game day. Unfortunately game day has changed a lot for me in the last 10 years. You're probably thinking that 10 years is a long time, and you're right. But in those 10 years my dad was diagnosed with cancer, battled cancer for 18 months, passed away, I graduated high school, worked full time jobs for a year, made friends, got my heart broken several times, and moved on to attend West Virginia University where I am currently a freshman. And a million other things in between, One thing that hasn't changed is my love for the Philadelphia Eagles.
Growing up, game day was sacred. We knew it was game day 2 days before it was game day. My dad was a super fan, along with the rest of his brothers and family. My favorite games were when his side of the family would come over, there would be all kinds of appetizers, and it was loud. Now as you all should know, football games are very loud. Typically they are loud when you are actually at the game. Watching a game with my family was like being in the stadium; It was overwhelming at first, but once you were used to it, it was so much fun. My dad, his brothers and family loved to yell at the TV as if they referees, coaches and players could hear them. One of the greatest honors (in my opinion) was being asked by my dad to go get him another Yeungling from the fridge. It took a few years of practice, but soon enough I could even screw the cap off by myself before handing it to him. Usually around half time it was bed time, due to how young we were at the time (He died in 2010 when I was 13, so these are going a while back.) He would rush us "up the wooden hill" on a commercial break and tuck us all into bed. Not too much longer after we would hear the yelling from downstairs followed by the "Pete be quiet the kids are in bed!" from my mom.
Typically its a father-son thing to watch football together, but at a young age my twin brother declared his love for the New England Patriots....(I think this only in spite of my dad, as he now has chosen the Eagles instead.) I took over this role temporarily until my brother figured out what was best for him, and then we all watched together. Games usually consisted of me asking about what was going on, and the two of them getting frustrated when I still didn't understand. Luckily, I now understand football. As I got a little older, bed time was pushed back, and if I was lucky I would make it to the third quarter before being sent up to bed. I'd wait quietly in bed until my dad would come up and tell me the score, or yell up the staircase. Or some nights I could just tell by the screaming and yelling coming from downstairs that we had won (or lost.) If it wasn't Eagles season it was the Phillies or Flyers season in the TV room. Or for me, just another chance to spend time with my dad. Even if I had no idea what was going on, I was still perfectly content with the time spent on the couch or in front of the fire.
After his death and us moving houses, game day was never really the same. There was no loud voices echoing through the house, no seemingly endless supply of Yeungling in the fridge, no wings, no onion dip, but most importantly... there was no dad. I watched games by myself in our living room, with my mom occasionally checking in to see the score. Sometimes my brother would watch with me or a friend or two, but it was just never the same. The odd truth is, not many girls like football. And I can't say that it was necessarily the sport that got me hooked on game day, it was the opportunity to spend time with my dad and to be part of the tradition of being an Eagles fan.
So as I spend this year's Eagles season in Morgantown, West Virginia, game day just isn't quite the same, and honestly never will be. Other than the fact that I'm surrounded by Steelers, Redskins, and Giants fans, it just doesn't have the same feel. The yelling and cheering doesn't come from my dad or family, but rather rowdy boys in the lounge. The real game day is Saturday when our Mountaineers play, and instead of getting the beer for other people, it's handed out to us like candy is on halloween at tailgates. The game day I grew up knowing is gone, and at first it felt so awful; Not one part of me wanted to watch the games anymore. As I had learned for the last 5 years after his passing, maybe it was time for a new chapter. It was time to make a new kind of game day. One where I was surrounded by friends and people who care about me, and who care about our Eagles. And one day I'll have my own game day in my own house, with my future kids and husband, and I hope they too will inherit a love for game day with their dad too (& mom of course!) It's not just a football game, beer, wings, and cheers. It's a time to spend with people who share a common interest, a common love, and a common past time.
To this day, I just about live in my dad's XXL Eagles t-shirt. I've honestly probably worn it more times than he did when it was his. Because it keeps that little piece of me with him today, on game day, and every other day when I need a little reminder that heaven really isn't that far away.