MATTHEW OSBORNE: No need to Fly alone
Over my lifetime, I’ve made a lot of Rocky references, both due to my love for those movies and their place in the pantheon of the soul that makes up the fighting city of Philadelphia. However, it was a quote from Apollo Creed that resonated with me throughout this playoff run by the Eagles.
“When it’s over …”
When the Super Bowl was over, the phone I ignored for four hours almost blew up with texts, calls and well wishes.
Friends, relatives, co-workers, college roommates, my high school sweetheart (who never loved sports but pleasantly stunned me by texting “Fly, Eagles, Fly,” along with encouraging words) and even Cherokee County Commissioner Cal Stiles sent their respects simultaneously.
Then there was my dad, who this was all for.
Pops watched the 1960 Eagles’ championship win on tape delay when he was only 11 years old on an old 1952 television that hummed louder than the broadcast itself. The noise caused irritation to my grandfather, who was himself a great athlete, even though he seemed to fail in grasping the gravity of that moment.
Battling through health challenges for several years and wondering if he would ever see a Philadelphia team win a title again, Sunday night slowly became real for my dad.
“I don’t even know what to do right now,” Pops said during one of our talks that lasted until 3 a.m. Monday. “I have been talking to people all night who have huddled together with their families and hugging, but they really don’t know how to react.”
It’s a foreign feeling, but despite not being in Philly, or Minnesota, or anywhere overly special for this momentous life memory, I have felt at home in Murphy for this entire run.
Folks have seen me wearing my torn and tattered Eagles jacket around town, and many of them have stopped me in the grocery store, on the streets, at public meetings and even yelling across gas station parking lots to express their support. And it didn’t stop in Murphy. It was the same in Cleveland, Tenn., and in Canton, Ga., Asheville and everywhere else in the region I have visited this winter.
For some reason, this special Eagles team seemed to capture the imagination of football fans here who had no emotional stake in them per se.
Even though it seemed like I was alone as a displaced Eagles fan, I felt at home. Then I realized I wasn’t alone after all.
Ranger Elementary School teacher Jennifer Angelopulos is a native of Deptford, N.J., not far from where we used to live and right over the Walt Whitman Bridge from Philadelphia. Angelopulos and her family spent many summer days in the city, including swimming in the fountains there when it got too warm.
“No matter where you lived, being a fan made you feel part of a community,” Angelopulos said. “Both of my parents worked long hours. My dad worked especially long hours starting his own alarm company business, so during football season Sundays meant only two things – church and football.”
“We would sit on the couch and use TV trays to eat grilled cheese and tomato soup. It was the same almost every time. Those moments are so clear.”
On Friday morning, as parents came to drop off their children at Ranger, Angelopulos was in her full green regalia, including her dad’s old Eagles sweatshirt.
Her parents moved to Hiawassee, Ga., and later to Warne in the 1990s. They
tried to catch as many Eagles games as possible down here, even when they were not readily available. Her dad passed away on Oct. 9, 2004, a few months before the Eagles played the Patriots in the Super Bowl for the first time, a game they ultimately lost.
She cherished her dad’s collection of Eagles memorabilia, including the precious sweatshirt.
“I wear it for every game I get to see. I feel close to my dad,” she said. “I watch every game I can and feel like my dad is there in spirit. I can picture him rooting them on from heaven.”
Redemption has come.
In addition to the messages pouring into my phone, many longtime friends were paying respects to my dad, who is lucky to have lived to see this after what he has gone through – cancer and heart failure among them.
I remember my good friend Dr. Tom Johnson, whose family is from New England, telling me when the Boston Red Sox broke their curse in 2004 that, “This was for everyone’s grandfather.”
For weeks, Tom has texted me saying he wanted this for me and my dad, putting even a once-professed Pats fan on our side.
My 11-year-old son Cal – who shockingly is not too emotionally invested in sports – stuck through the whole game, too, witnessing an Eagles title at the same age Pops did. My two oldest sons wore Eagles shirts to school Monday.
And now that it’s over, a seemingly isolated Eagles fan is anything but alone.
Matthew Osborne is editor of the Cherokee Scout. You can reach him by phone, 837-5122; fax, 837-5832; email, firstname.lastname@example.org; or follow him on Twitter @CNIOzzy.