Sunday, before the Eagles advanced to the Super Bowl by thoroughly beating the favored Minnesota Vikings in the NFC championship game, I tailgated with Eagles fans for the first time.
As I stood in that parking lot, I saw fans that ran the gamut. Some of them were clearly inebriated, and dressed in dog masks and jerseys. Others were clear-eyed and anxious to see every moment of the game.
When I looked closer, I saw something beyond the crazy Philadelphia neighbors I’ve come to know over my half-century in this city. I saw faith.
I saw people who believed that a backup quarterback, a rejected running back, and a GM coming back, could bring the city back. That kind of belief takes faith.
Faith in a dream that’s bigger than what divides us. Faith in a goal just big enough to unite us. In the faces of those Eagles fans, I saw liberals and conservatives, Black Lives Matter and the thin blue line. I saw Trump supporters and Obama supporters, the #MeToo movement and the average Joe. I saw faith.
It was the kind of faith that allowed people from all walks of life to believe in a single goal. In essence, it was the same kind of faith I’ve tried to instill in my children.
The last time the Eagles went to the big game, my son was 5 months old and he was wearing an Eagles onesie I bought for him. Now he’s 13, and he’s almost as tall as I am. But he’s still wearing his Eagles gear, because no matter how big he gets, he knows what I’ve taught him. He knows he has to root for home.
That means cheering for Philadelphia, if only because it is our home. We’ll fight for it all the way to the championship. We’ll fight for it no matter who stands in our way. We’ll fight for it because this is where we live.
So after the Eagles beat the Patriots in the Super Bowl, our city will add to its list of champions. And I’m not talking about the imaginary champ named Rocky. I’m talking about real life heroes who overcame adversity to succeed.
Joe Frazier was such a champion. Bernard Hopkins was that kind of champion. North Philly’s Dawn Staley was a champion several times over, like the Sixers, Phillies, and Flyers.
Next month, when the Eagles get their first championship of the modern era, they’ll join that list of champions. Doing so will be about so much more than football. It’s going to be about faith.
Philadelphians will watch them and smile with pride. Not just because they’re our team, but also because their underdog story reflects our own reality.
We’re facing long odds in the battle against poverty and street crime. We’re facing long odds in our fight against litter and blight.
But Philadelphia can beat those things as soundly as the Eagles beat the Vikings.
We can do it with solid planning, hard work, committed people, and passion. We can do it, most of all, with faith.
Listen to Solomon Jones weekdays from 10 a.m. to noon on Praise 107.9 FM.