Jan 19, 2024, 06:27AM

Cry Eagle Cry

Inspiring tears of a hero.

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Last month I wrote about how difficult it is being a Philadelphia Eagles fan. It was easier in the first half of the season when they were 10-1; it sucked watching the Eagles lose a bunch of shitty games and end up 11-6. In typical fair-weather-Philadelphia fan modality, I tried telling my son that since I’ve lived in Maryland since I was his age at 18 and began college here, I’m actually a big Baltimore Ravens fan, and he rolled his eyes. As a baby who’d been dressed solely in Philadelphia sports gear, he remembered how brave he had to be at age four in asking Santa for a Ravens bedding set.

Anyway, watching the Eagles lose their spot in the playoffs on Monday night was devastating, but I don’t think I’d have cried about it until they showed Jason Kelce. He looked so devastated, broken and defeated in more than the way the scoreboard showed. “That looks like a man filled with emotion,” declared the brilliant ESPN commentator who would soon also declare the sky was blue.

I thought about how all the Philly haters would troll as usual with their “Cry Eagles Cry” mockery of our standard “Fly Eagles Fly” team song and rallying cry, but also something else.

It’s devastating that Kelce made comments about and will probably end up retiring. But in expressing raw emotion, as the hero of so many young athletes and fans of all ages, Kelce is showing that it’s okay to do that. He didn’t throw Patrick Mahomes-style temper egomaniacal temper tantrums. Jason doesn’t ever seem to make anything about him. He didn’t stomp to the locker room and wait to express sadness away from the cameras. He’s the most down-to-earth, relatable, funny guy and the quintessential team player. This is a guy, father of three young kids, who didn’t just play football in high school, he played saxophone in the band too.

Kelce doesn’t live in the shadow of his popular-kid younger brother Travis (and accompanying media of his girlfriend, the traitorous Chiefs-gear wearing Philadelphian Taylor Swift); Jason has his own accomplishments as a Super Bowl champion, seven-time Pro Bowl athlete, and one of the greatest centers in NFL history. He hosts the entertaining New Heights podcast with Travis. And he’s released two Christmas albums that have raised millions for Philadelphia charities.

After the team’s loss Monday, Kelce went to his usual McDonald’s (two Sausage McMuffins with egg) and brought a signed jersey to the employee he sees all the time. To me this was the biggest sign he’s retiring. At 35, his body has taken a beating in his many years on the gridiron. His wife Kylie described him in an interview as being in “a world of pain. I would like him to retire when he is still able to get down on the floor and play with our kids comfortably.”

He’s given the city of Philadelphia and fans many years of memories. I think in displaying vulnerability, it’s just one more example of his courage for exhibiting authenticity in addition to athleticism. The Eagles should retire number 62; this champion and legend will be missed.


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