The View From Here | The Real Face of Unity

via Philadelphia Eagles Facebook

Monday morning, groggy after a sleepless night pointlessly trying to calm myself after the Eagles’ dramatic victory in Minneapolis, I called my 93-year-old grandfather in Florida.

I suspected that despite being a diehard Eagles fan — some of my fondest memories are of sitting on the couch next to his recliner in Havertown, the game blaring on the TV — he would’ve dozed off well before the Super Bowl, and I wanted to make sure that he knew that his beloved Birds had done what many a sportswriter had written off as impossible.

“He’s sound asleep,” his assistant told me. “He stayed up all night watching the game.”

Like “Philadelphia Phil” Besser, the 99-year-old fan introduced to the nation Sunday night as one of the few who can remember the team’s inaugural season in 1933, my grandfather had waited a long time to see the Eagles triumph. We all had — some of us more than others — and maybe that’s why the game meant so much, why the city practically erupted, why on Monday we still wore our Eagles gear and still high-fived fellow strangers on the street. For me, it was the perfect birthday gift, jumping up and down in a group hug with my kids as the confetti flew on the screen and Merrill Reese’s voice dripped with emotion on the WIP broadcast.

As most of us know, love of the Eagles is more than a city or regional affair; it’s a family thing. It’s a piece of history that gets passed down, generation to generation. It’s a bond that unites us.

In that spirit, we as Philadelphians should reflect on what it means to be united. Far too many people in this world believe that unity depends on sameness, that differences must be wiped out in order to achieve a purer reality. Not so here in Philadelphia, not so in the Jewish community, not so in the Runyan household. We know that the differences among us are what make us stronger, that true unity involves respecting each other in order to achieve a greater good.

Nowhere right now can that be seen more than in the performance all season of the Philadelphia Eagles, who week after week saw the injuries of valued players pile up. It may be a trite statement, but there’s a lot of truth to the saying, “There’s no ‘I’ in ‘team.’” When Carson Wentz went down in Week 14 and the duty of leading the team on the field went to backup quarterback Nick Foles, hardly anyone thought that the Eagles would make it past the first postseason game, let alone win it all.

And yet there was Foles on Sunday, doing what Patriots quarterback Tom Brady — the posterchild of me-centered sportsmanship — could not do, completing the exact same gadget play that New England’s best flubbed, and for a touchdown.

This Eagles team, from Coach Doug Pederson on down, has been the epitome of class. Owner Jeffrey Lurie’s welcoming of former long snapper Jon Dorenbos, who was traded earlier in the season and saw his career ended by a heart condition, as an honorary team member so that he could get a Super Bowl ring, was similarly inspiring. The personnel assembled by Executive Vice President Howie Roseman have shown Philadelphia and the world what being part of a team is all about: Every person has a part to play and when one goes down, the next one takes his spot.

That’s the kind of spirit that we need in an age when divisiveness turns difference into a weapon with which to destroy instead of a tool with which to build. In taking ahold of the Vince Lombardi Trophy, Lurie announced that the victory was, in addition to his parents, for the city and its fans. Let’s use that jolt of euphoria to provide the inspiration for an entire slate of shared pursuits as “one Philadelphia.”

One football victory will never address homelessness — just one of the many challenges our city faces — but the shared resolve of many individuals united in the pursuit of bettering their fellow man can turn the tide. We just need to be a team, to be a family, to make it happen.



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