‘Do you believe in miracles?’

I was crammed on top of the two kids on either side of me in line. We had very little room between us and kept taking turns stepping on each other’s toes. Fortunately all three of us were on the smallish size, otherwise one of us would’ve surely taken a pointed elbow to the eye or mouth. I remember too that one of the kids was chewing gum, because I could smell the Chiclets Gum he had in his pocket.

Our teacher had brought our class out on the cold February Friday evening to sing for the residents of a local nursing home. As we had at past events, we would sing a few church hymns and folk songs like “America the Beautiful.” We were positioned in two lines in a semicircle in front of the residents who were seated in their rockers and lounge chairs. The residents seemed happy to see us. They waved and had big smiles. We, on-the-other-hand, were nervous and shy and couldn’t wait to get back to the car to listen to the U.S. Men’s Hockey Team take on the Soviet Union.

We didn’t know much about my hockey. None of my friends nor I grew up playing or watching professional ice hockey, but we had been following the 1980 Winter Olympics in Lake Placid on TV and knew that this was a big game. The minute we finished up singing Bob Dylan’s “Blowin’ in the wind,” we didn’t need to be told twice to get our jackets. I had come with several other students with my teacher and jumped into his car and settled down right away to hear the game on the radio. (Of course, we watched the game on ABC later that night when the network ran a tape-delayed version of the game.)

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Fly Eagles Fly

When I was young, I was spoiled.

When I was seven-years-old in 1975, I sat down to watch my first National Football League game on TV and my team, the Pittsburgh Steelers, won it all. Just like that. The Steelers beat my brother’s favorite team, the Minnesota Vikings, by a score of 16-6 to win the Super Bowl.

My father took my brothers and me to the local fire hall, where he occasionally volunteered, to watch the game. We lived in Central Pennsylvania so seeing the Steelers make the Super Bowl was a big deal.

IMG_8041I remember being excited for the big game, all the while mesmerized by the TV and pregame hype, even back then, surrounding the championship game. I would alternate between rough-housing on the floor with one of my friends and watching anxiously on the fire hall sofa, turning an old yellow rabbits foot over-and-over in my hands. (Who knows if the rabbits foot was real, it was something that one of my brothers had picked up at a Ringling Brothers Circus and I had inherited.)

I’m sure I watched other games, but the next definitive game I remember came one year later when the Steelers beat the Dallas Cowboys 21-17 in Super Bowl X in the Orange Bowl. Once again, I watched the game with my puffy yellow rabbits foot clamped in my hands. (And yes, I find it funny that even back then I hated the Cowboys.)

I would go on to watch the Steelers win a total of four Super Bowls in six years. Yes, I was spoiled.


It gets complicated

When I became a young man, I moved with my wife first to Washington, D.C. and then later to Southeastern Pennsylvania where she grew up. Spoiled or not, I continued to root for the Steelers, but I soon felt out of place. I felt that if I was really going to become a member of the community, I needed to change my allegiances.

When it came to baseball, I had rooted for the Pittsburgh Pirates as kid, but they couldn’t compete with the bigger payroll teams like the New York Yankees or Los Angles Dodgers and fans of the team would watch annually as their best players walked away to other teams for more lucrative contracts. In a strange way, I felt like the Pirates had abandoned me as a fan so I didn’t feel guilty now rooting for the once despised Philadelphia Phillies.

From a football perspective, the Philadelphia Eagles were the team of choice. I dove in headfirst. The Eagles had success in the 60s prior to the creation of the Super Bowl and have come close a few times, but have never won the big game. For the past twenty-five years or so I’ve rooted for them year-in and year out, but have never experienced Super Bowl bliss.


Super Bowl or bust

In any event, the Eagles are on the precipice. They beat first the Atlanta Falcons in a close  NFC Divisional Playoff game 15-10 and then came back and thumped the Minnesota Vikings 38-7 in the NFC Divisional Championship. They’re in Super Bowl LII. And like in the old days for me, they’re once again playing the man in the black hats. Instead of the Dallas Cowboys, the Eagles are going up against the New England Patriots, the modern day bad guy.

Like everyone in the Philadelphia region, I want the Eagles to win, but I want them to win for a million other reasons too. Here’s a few of my reasons:

IMG_8039For the old guy who I regularly run into at lunchtime when I grab a soda or snack from my local convenience store. I’ll be in a rush and I’ll run into him and he’ll greet you with a hearty smile. He’ll inevitably give a rundown on Sunday’s game and his thoughts on the team’s chance for the next week. He likes to tell stories about when he was a kid and how the 1960 Eagles team defeated the Green Bay Packers 17-13 in the 1960 NFL Championship at Franklin Field, the city’s last championship in the days prior to the Super Bowl. He’s suffered through thick and thin, but he’s remained a fan.

For the fans, who the media likes to paint as rude, antagonistic fans, but miss out that they’re like fans of any large metropolis. There’s some good, some bad. Would I wear a New York Giants or Dallas Cowboys jersey at Lincoln Financial Field, the Eagles home stadium? No, probably not. If you’re respectful to others, you more likely will be left alone. However, there’s always that one percent that might very well spill a beer on you. In this day and age, though, I think you could say the same thing about any large stadium in America. You walk into Giants Stadium in New York with a Cowboys jersey, let’s see what happens there. Or wear an Oakland Raiders jersey in Kansas City. The media likes to run out the tired, hackneyed line Philadelphians once booed and threw snowballs at Santa Claus. The truth is a bit murkier, but many of these media elite care more about a good story than telling the truth. In fact, a recent Washington Post study found that per-game arrests over the past five seasons were highest in San Diego, New York, Oakland and Pittsburgh. Not Philadelphia.

–For fathers and sons and daughters. When I asked an acquaintance the other day where he was going to watch the big game, he told me he was going to watch it with his ten-year-old daughter and his dad. I shook and scratched my head for second. I don’t know the guy well, but I thought he had told me this past Fall that his father had died. He saw my look and told me that he used to go to every Eagles game with his father, it was that way win or lose, but now watches the game “in spirit” with his dad. The local media has been talking and writing a lot this week about how families are such a big part of Eagles tradition. The idea being that families come together each week to watch the Eagles play.  And these fans have been waiting a long time for a championship.

–For Philadelphia. The city played an instrumental role in the American Revolution and is the home to the Liberty Bell. The city has much to brag about, but it often takes a back seat to other large East Coast cities like New York, Boston, and Washington, D.C. Forget about the more cosmopolitan cities like Los Angeles, San Francisco and Miami. Philadelphians love their football. For once, I would love to see the city celebrated for something rather than recovering from another disappointment.


My prediction

What’s a Super Bowl without a prediction? When Sunday comes around, I’ll be cheering on the Eagles. I feel confident in a win, I think the Eagles have more than enough weapons and, more important, I think the Patriots time in up.

Just to be safe, though, I’m still pulling out that old lucky rabbits foot that I grabbed for good luck oh so many years ago. It’s worked twice before. Let’s hope for a third. I’ll take all the good karma I can get.


Dealing with my two mini-me clones

My oldest son wanted to get in and get out of the store. He couldn’t wait to try the running shoes on, make sure they fit like he expected, and get back home. The clerk asked him a few questions about fit and color. He grunted yes in response, got what he needed, and was done in less than five minutes.   


My youngest son wanted to participate in the “whole experience.” He’s running track and field for his middle school for the first time and wanted to make sure that he took full advantage of the shoe-shopping opportunity. He wanted to try on every shoe in the store. And then he really wanted to get down to business and to compare Shoe A vs. Shoe B.

If I had let him, I’m pretty sure he would have grilled the sales woman on the weight of each running shoe, composite materials, and a host of other details. If he would have had his druthers, we would’ve turned the shopping trip into a day-long experience to check out other stores and the host of other running shoes on the market.

Talk about two different personalities.

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Selfish play

I’m not much of a betting man. When I was 8, I traded away a 1975 Roberto Clemente baseball card, now valued anywhere from $20 to $700, and I learned the hard way that betting and bartering have consequences.

However, I’ll bet a small fortune that come Sunday in Super Bowl LI one fortunate wide receiver or running back for either the Atlanta Falcons or New England Patriots will run a short corner route and leap up and make the game winning touchdown catch. He’ll thump his chest like he just beat the other team all on his own. He’ll strut and gloat over top of the defensive back on the ground, play some more to the camera, and then finally spike the ball.

It could be a star player or a player you’ve never heard of in your life. It won’t matter.


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Into each life some rain must fall

Whether or not you follow professional sports, it was hard to miss the Chicago Cubs swarming the field last Wednesday night and the happiness they brought to their fans.

Tears of joy flooded many player’s eyes as they jumped up and down like little kids. For all intents and purposes, they could have been a bunch of 12-year-olds who just won the local Little League Baseball Tournament.

In one magical moment, the Cubs had erased 108 years of frustration. A hundred and eight years of pain. A hundred and eight years of agony.

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The NFL: Thumbing its nose at fans

The National Football League sneezes and it coughs up tens of millions of dollars. The moneymaker that is the National Football League  kicks off its 97th season tonight, when the defending Super Bowl Champions, the Denver Broncos, take on the Carolina Panthers.

The NFL is as popular as ever. Last year, 205 million Americans watched at least one NFL game, representing 70 percent of the potential TV viewers in America, dwarfing  viewership for any other type of programming.

While exciting as it is to have football back, I found myself wondering if there is anything that could derail the behemoth that the NFL has become? I can’t think of much. However, I’m finding that the NFL seems to invent new and creative ways to upset its fan base.

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No easy answers

Sometimes the simplest questions pose the biggest challenges.

RaceblogI had to fill out a registration form recently for an upcoming 5k race. The form asked the usual questions: name, address and age on the day of the race.

Simple enough, but I still had to think for a second.

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Passing the ball: Celebrating everyday sacrifices for the good of the team

We as a society celebrate athletic excellence: the last second shot, the game winning touchdown. We rarely celebrate the hard work and the behind-the-scenes steps leading up to the game-winning act.

The day after the Villanova University Wildcats won the NCAA National Championship over Goliath-like University of North Carolina, The New York Times detailed how Ryan Arcidiacono raced up the side of the court with less than five seconds with a plan in mind.

“He dribbled up the court thinking, ‘I’m going to shoot this!’ Then he took the ball — and passed it.”

Arcidiacono found teammate Kris Jenkins off by himself and passed the ball. Jenkins caught the ball and then let the ball fly in a perfect arch, swishing it through the net. Jenkins and the Wildcat faithful went wild, celebrating their first National Championship since 1985.

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Most people rightfully so touted Jenkins game-winning shot. If Jenkins put up an air-ball or clanked it off the side, the Philadelphia media, social media, and all the people talking about the game at work and at the gym would be talking about something altogether different. Jenkins should be celebrated.

However, I must admit that I’m a bigger fan of the smaller almost insignificant moves that led up to Jenkin’s shot, most importantly that Arcidiacono gave up his own chance for immortality, instead opting to pass the ball.

In short, I’m a fan of the team player: The player who finds the open shot, rather than shoots himself; the football player who gives himself up to block, opening up a whole for a teammate to score the winning touchdown; the baseball player who puts down a sacrifice bunt, moving up a runner into scoring position.

I’m a bigger fan these workmanlike moves in normal, everyday life: The coworker who skips lunch to offer feedback on a draft presentation so that you can look your best in front of your boss; the friend who gives up their own free time to take you out to lunch and lets you vent over work or the kids; the mother who gets up early every Saturday morning to cart one son to play practice and another to track practice so that they can participate in an afterschool activity, let off some steam, and improve themselves.

I find these actions fascinating. In this day and age, where me is more important than we, where athletes seem to care more about the name on the back, then the name on the front, I love reading about these unselfish acts.

When asked about the pass after the game, Arcidiacono said, “I saw Kris was open and I just did what we do.”

I’m sure that most people will forget all about Arcidiacono’s pass in day or two. I won’t be one of them.


Who is the loser now?

I messed up.

Several years ago, I was competing against a coworker for a prized promotion. We both knew who was in the running and that it came down who did the best on a project that we had been assigned. Unfortunately, I made a mistake, an error, at the wrong time and I didn’t get the outcome I wanted.

In Carolina Panther Quarterback Cam Newton’s world, I should have sulked and been a sore loser. I should have hit a wall in anger and made life miserable for everyone around me including my friend and coworker, who ended up getting the prized position.

I could be taking Newton’s words too far, but I doubt it. After critics questioned last week his behavior after the Super Bowl 50 loss, he said, “I hate losing. You show me a good loser and I’ll show you a loser,” Newton said.


I’m picking on Newton, but many high profile athletes today and even legendary coach Vince Lombardi, who first phrased the quote that Newton stole, have it all wrong. Yes, like them, I consider myself extremely competitive. I want to be the best at everything I do. I want to be the best husband and father. The best worker. The best writer. The best Monopoly player. It doesn’t matter. I like to win. When I enter a 5k race —  small or big, no matter the cause or charity —I want to beat every other back-of-the-pack runner like me that I can. I think that’s natural.

But losing and failure has its place. I would change Newton’s quote to say “show me a sore loser and I’ll show a spoiled brat, more concerned about themselves than the rest of the team.”

No one wants to lose. No one wants to put in countless hours of practice and preparation and walk off the field or conference room or court room with the emptiness that comes with losing. We all want to win.

Unfortunately, life doesn’t work that way and many times there can be only winner. (And I’m not trying to say that I think everyone else who comes in next should get a “participation trophy.” I’m not saying that either.)

However, in my mind, the winner is the one who recognizes the lessons that comes with not coming in first. The winner is the one who recognizes where they need to improve, who gets back up on the bike or saddle and works double over the summer to get better, comes back prepared and battles to win the next Super Bowl.

To me those are the real winners.

medal-390549_1280Instead of Newton’s or Lombardi’s comments, I find solace in the advice of Olympic gold medal winner and civil rights and women’s rights pioneer Wilma Rudolph. She said: “Winning is great, sure, but if you are really going to do something in life, the secret is learning how to lose. Nobody goes undefeated all the time. If you can pick up after a crushing defeat, and go on to win again, you are going to be champion someday.”

Or even Michael Jordan’s often quoted comment: “I’ve missed more than 9,000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. 26 times, I’ve been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.”

Our culture is obsessed with winning. We love our winners and love to trample on the losers. I get that winning is good, but Michael Jordan played on just six championship teams. Does that mean he was a loser, a never-was, a has-been, the other nine years?

I don’t think so.

In fact, I would go so far as to say that if Carolina Panthers’ and Newton fail to understand why they lost against the Denver Broncos and improve on those areas, they’ll never win a Super Bowl with Newton as quarterback.

And by the way, that job I missed out on, I sought out the advice of mentors, former supervisors, coworkers and others around me. I got their critical input on areas that I needed to develop and I ended up getting an even better job six months later and succeeded in ways that I never would have expected. I learned from my “failure” and in the long run became a better person.

If that makes me a loser, then so be it!


Super Bowl 50: A get-together unlike any other

When the Denver Broncos and Carolina Panthers line up across from each other tomorrow evening for Super Bowl 50, a number of records will be broken. CBS expects 189 million people will watch the game in the U.S. and around the world and increased the average cost of a 30-second Super Bowl to a record high of $5 million (that’s $166,666 per second). Tickets to the game started at $850, but the average secondary market price — if you can get them — is running fans more than $5,000.

I love football.


I’m a lover of a good story, so I love the stories, both big and small, that come out of the game each year. Who will win: power, speed, or the one who’s best able to outsmart the other? Or will it be the one who’s best at keeping their composure in the most stressful of circumstances?

This year the story lines are no different: Will Peyton Manning retire and walk away from the game at the end of the year? Will Cam Newton find a way to get past Denver’s number one ranked defense?

The media seems to go on-and-on with stories. Will Coldplay and Beyoncé live up to past Super Bowl halftime shows? Will the Left Shark from Katy Perry’s halftime show last year make another appearance?

But I’ve found lately that I’ve been thinking about the stories not covered. What if 189 million people were focused on something other than just a little brown pigskin? What amazing things could we accomplish? Think about it.

If we were able to focus those resources on something else, we could:

  • Focus people’s time and energies to curing cancer, AIDS, diabetes, Multiple Sclerosis, etc., etc., etc.
  • Work together to end poverty and bring about world peace.
  • Get everyone in the U.S. involved in the electoral process and elect people of honor and courage instead of the foolish and contemptible presidential candidates from both parties that we have today.
  • Build enough homes through Habitat for Humanity in every large city in the country to take a big swipe out the homeless and low cost housing problem that grips so many cities.
  • Find a way to invent a wand and a spell straight from the book series Harry Potter that will clean my kitchen, make my bed, and complete my project at work with the mere flip of my wrist.
  • Find a way to invent a beer that tastes like a German beer or better yet a Guinness, but is good for you and has next to no calories compared to the limp tasting light beer that floods the market today.

I know, I know there’s plenty of things we could focus all that brainpower, but it’s a start. And yes, I know that I am dreaming, but I do take heart in the knowledge that the Super Bowl is one of the few events throughout the year that brings people together, no matter your race, religious background, sexual preference, both avid fan and nonfan more interested in watching just the commercials, and even rooting tastes.

The Super Bowl in many respects is very much a national holiday because even with all the hype and craziness, it brings families and friends together. Take away the turkey and the stuff and the Super Bowl is a miniature winter version of Thanksgiving.

So when the game starts on Sunday 6:30 ET on CBS, I’ll be glad that the New England Patriots are home (just like me) and I’ll be thinking of new ways to bring everyone together for “good.”

I’ll also be counting the days until the next Super Bowl, when hopefully the Philadelphia Eagles get their act together and win their first championship since 1960.

Go E-A-G-L-E-S.