Believe it or not, I wasn’t born an Eagles fan. My parents were original season ticket holders at the Meadowlands, home to the NY Giants. I actually cheered at this stadium in 1980 when the mighty Pascack Hills Cowboys won the NJ State Championship. I was raised as a Giant fan, but 13 years ago, I met the love of my life and Sundays took on a new meaning. My husband is a 4 for 4 Philadelphia fan, meaning he is loyal to all Philly sports, I decided that instead of fighting an upstream battle, I would join the Philly faithful.
Today is Super Bowl Sunday and it honestly feels better than any Christmas morning. We are going all out here - Eagles flags and balloons, Philly Food, crazy Eagle temporary tats and bling. We have some strong superstitions as well. I have worn the same Eagles shirt for each game this season, and we always have Buffalo wings on game day. As I was getting my game day gear on today, I started thinking about why all of this feels so fun and how it might be tied to reflections on leadership. Being part of Philly fandom has reminded me of some great lessons this year.
1) Bench strength is everything on a team. I admit it. I am obsessed with Carson Wentz and I got on his fan train early on in his career. We are both part of a unique club...”Team Ginger”. Obviously, Carson gave us magic every time he stepped on the field this season. This is a guy who played full out every minute of every game. Heartbreaking is the only word to describe how the Eagles faithful felt when we learned Wentz was out for the season. The Eagles management had brought Nick Foles back to Philadelphia as a second string quarterback and despite moments of holding our breath, he has reminded me that building an unbeatable bench is everything for a team.
2) Giving is better than receiving. Aside from Carson, my other absolute favorite Eagles player is Chris Long. Yes, he did play for the Patriots. But his dad is Howie Long who played for Villanova - one of my alma maters. This year, Chris Long did something truly incredible. He donated his entire salary for the year to support educational equity opportunities. Long was honored by his peers when he was named the 2018 winner of the Byron "Whizzer" White Award for his community efforts. In addition to the award, the NFLPA will donate $100,000 to The Chris Long Foundation. Leadership starts with modeling the way and this tattooed giant has shown us that football and sports can, at its very best, be a force for good.
3) Enthusaism in communities and cultures is contagious. I’ve been out all weekend picking up Eagles paraphanalia and people are just in an outrageously good mood. And this good mood is translating into some behavior that I haven’t seen in quite some time. People are engaging with one another on grocery store lines and saying “Go Eagles” to strangers as they show off their Eagles gear. Today, I was trying to stuff my car with balloons despite a gusty wind and snow, and a woman stopped to help me! It feels good to be part of something, to be a part of community, to be spirited and to be positive. Imagine how this kind of shift in attitude could impact our organizational cultures!
4) Inspiring a shared vision really does count for something. Philly likes proving itself. People perceive its fans as tough and unforgiving, but I think they just don’t get it. Stories like Rocky and this Eagles season are about believing in something big, something that others may not see but that lives in the souls of heroes. It is about believing, against all odds and challenges, that if you dream big and work hard, good things will happen.
Regardless of the outcome of today’s game, the Eagles’ fan base can hold their heads high. We have shown the country that sports can bring out the best in us and can inspire us to pull together as a community.