By Jeremy G. Schneider, MFT
I was born and raised in Philly and there is no question a part of my identity – even though I now live in Long Island – is based on being from there. To paraphrase The Roots, “You can take a brother out of Philly, can’t take it out him, really, I’m forever representing.” Most of my love and connection for Philly comes through loud and clear with my love for its sports teams. I LOVE the Philadelphia Eagles. The same Philadelphia Eagles that are in the NFL playoffs, who won yesterday’s game with a last second kick to beat the New York Giants.
Watching the Eagles lets me do two things I rarely get to do. One, it connects me to Philly, to a place that will always be special to me. Two, it frees me to be a GUY – not something I normally am. I thoroughly enjoy watching football on Sunday afternoon and it is one of the only GUY things that I ever do in my life.
This weekend we were all in Philly at my parents’ house and I got to watch the game in my city. Earlier in the day we went to the Philly Zoo and Lucas and I wore our football jerseys (Dorit didn’t want to wear hers because it didn’t go with her pretty blouse and skirt) while walking around and got to see hundreds of other people doing exactly the same. I think it was the first time he realized Daddy is not alone, lots of other people love the Eagles, too. It was pretty cool for him (and me, too, really) to feel that sense of connectdness that sports can bring to a city.
The really hard part was during the game. We needed to leave right after the game to drive back home and I wanted everything to be ready including our stuff packed in the car, the Okapis in their pajamas and literally ready to go. But Gem was sick (probably my fault) and she needed rest. I ended up doing a lot of running around during the game to get ready, which made it harder to stay in the flow of the game. But the hardest part was being with my Okapis.
I really want them to like sports and to love Philly sports teams. I have done very little, I think, to make that happen and, lately, I have been trying to make more of an effort to share another of my loves with them (like I have done so well with animals). I bought them Eagles’ jerseys just like the one I have (okay, like the one I bought for Gem that I love to wear). Then on our way home from the Zoo, we stopped off at the Wawa (like a 7-11) and we bought so much junk. I wanted to make the experience more enjoyable for them and I thought snacks would help, so I bought Doritos, Cheetos, SmartFood popcorn, Pringles, and some TastyCakes (very unique to Philly, unfortunately, but pretty delicious).
And we had a really good time.
After everything we do in our family one of us is always asking someone else, what their favorite part was. Went out to dinner? What was your favorite part? The Zoo? Watching the Eagles game? What was your favorite part?
“The happy ending,” Dorit told us. “I liked everyone jumping up and down and hugging,” which is what happened after the Eagles kicked the game winning field goal with no time left on the clock.
“Yeah, that was pretty great wasn’t it?”
But it was also very hard.
It is hard to balance being a good, attentive father with being a GUY who just wants to watch a football game. They don’t know when an important play is happening. They don’t understand how long the game lasts. They don’t understand anything really except the time with Daddy. I tried to help them get to know which color jerseys the Eagles were wearing and which players had the same numbers they were wearing (Dorit actually put her jersey on when we got home – Lucas has Westbrook – 36 and Dorit has McNabb – 5). Every time I said, “Yeah!” or got upset or excited, they would ask, “Why did you do that, Daddy?” and I would try to explain. The game moved so quickly because I was rarely ever able to truly focus on it and I missed out on a lot of the action.
But there were a few moments that gave me hope this was the beginning of something special between the three of us.
After a couple of really good plays, I high-fived my Okapis and they really seemed to enjoy that – even if they don’t yet understand why we did it.
At one point while Dorit was eating, she asked me if the Eagles just scored a touchdown. Of course, I had my hands raised and I had probably just yelled or something and I told her, “Yes!” And she said, “I scored a touchdown, too, Daddy!”
After the game, before we left, they wanted to do a huddle (which is something we infrequently do at night before they go to bed). All four of us – Gem included – put our hands in and counted, “1…2…3…EAGLES!” It was pretty sweet.
All-in-all it was an exhausting way to watch an Eagles game – packing up our stuff, keeping them entertained, helping them eat, to go to the toilet, putting diapers on, loading up the car in the pouring rain, but…
…but just maybe this is the beginning of many, many years of my family gathering around the TV to watch the Eagles play in the playoffs together. I feel like I am making a little progress on something that has really been something of a challenge for me and am even beginning to reap some of the rewards.
The next Eagles game is on Saturday night after they are in bed, but if they win that one…