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Eagles love transcends racial boundaries

February 2, 2018 GMT

I debated back in August whether I was going to join the loosely-led boycott of the NFL in support of Colin Kaepernick and not watch football. It was a debate that lasted about 30 minutes before I reached the conclusion I wasn’t going to be a part of it.

It’s not that I didn’t believe in the cause; I do, and anyone who knows me, has worked with me, or has read my words here or anywhere else they appear knows that I am a fierce supporter of his and anyone else doing the real work that is required to spark change. I hope and fully believe that he and the members of the fractured Players Coalition, a group of NFL players led by Eagles All-Pro safety Malcolm Jenkins that secured $89 million from the NFL for issues that impact the African-American community, will move beyond whatever fissures that have caused cracks in their unity and move forward with the same resolve they exhibited this season.

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That said, there are few things on this earth, God willing, that will ever get between me and a flats screen when the Philadelphia Eagles are playing. And now that they are on the the precipice of ending Philadelphia’s Super Bowl drought – we’ve never won the Lombardi trophy — I know some friends and family who opted not to watch who will be watching this weekend.

That’s because despite all of the differences society uses to make these United States as disunited as possible, fandom ultimately knows no color.

Think about how divided we are on so many issues, some real, some manufactured. However, football is one of the few things that has allowed us, despite our differences, to coalesce around one thing – winning a damn game.

Growing up here there were places in this city where you knew you were not supposed to go as an African-American boy. When Action News opened up with video footage in the 1970s and 80s of white folks walking up and down streets in Southwest Philadelphia protesting the first Black family to move in – as if they were a plague of sorts – it angered me.

But the irony of this was I was at school the next day with their children, I in a Harold Carmichael jersey, their child in a Ron Jaworski jersey, a pair of star Eagles that today are as anxious as anyone for this team to end its Super Bowl drought, and we forged community and friendship in spite of whatever animus the real world foisted upon us.

More than 20 years of going in and out of professional locker rooms – something I’ve done literally thousands of times — has taught me something about elite athletes, and that is they don’t live in the same racially warped environment that Donald Trump and others before him, some better, some worse, want you to believe that we are stuck with. professional sports have a true bottom line and, hence, a true meritocracy. There is no room, more often than not, for any sort of favoritism that results from racism.

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You can either cut the mustard or you can’t, and if you can’t your race, Black, white or whatever, won’t provide you cover, a condition that we all know doesn’t exist in the real world.

We can all be passionate about our team, and no city anywhere is any more fervent in its love for a team than Philly is for its Eagles. Say what you will about the basketball megastars produced here, from Wilt Chamberlain, to Earl Monroe, to Rasheed Wallace, to Kobe Bryant, and others and it can’t be denied that our town is arguably the most fertile producer of elite basketball talent in the world.

But where ever we are fragmented and broken, discombobulated and separated as a city, from the Philadelphia Fraternal Order of Police to the Guardian Civic League, this is a city united in its love for the Eagles, who over the years have given us examples of humanity and compassion that we should replicate.

Think about it. The greatest defensive tackle to ever play the game, Reggie White, was far more interested in feeding the hungry and spreading the word of Christ than he was at sacking quarterbacks.

And the current roster features people like Jenkins, who is Black, who is working to bring attention to so many things that directly impact you and your progeny. And then there is Chis Long, who is white, who used to play for the enemy – those loathsome New England Patriots and their spoiled fans – who is donating every cent he made this past season to build wells in Africa and to help underfunded schools here, St. Louis and Boston.

So there are reasons-a-plenty to root for the Eagles, reason to watch them. Black, white, or whatever, they are and will continue to be a unifying element in this city. So come 6:30 p.m. this Sunday I’ll be there rooting for them.

And if they win, come 10 p.m. or so, I might even find myself somewhere on Frankford and Cottman avenues, that section of the city where officials coated telephone poles with Crisco last week to prevent people from climbing them after the Eagles advanced to Sunday’s big game, celebrating with people I don’t know from Adam or Eve. And this is the way it should be.

Fly, Eagles, Fly.