An NFL season is more demanding physically and mentally than any other. That's especially true for a team that plays in the Super Bowl. Add it all up and it's basically seven months of practice and games, not to mention offseason activities. The toll taken on the body and psyche is pretty intense. An island, a boat, a bed or a couch is the preferred mode of relaxation for many a player.
Chris Long unwinds a little differently. He and his Conquering Kili Crew just climbed Mount Kilimanjaro in the African nation of Tanzania. They didn’t just do it for a little exercise. It was done to raise awareness for Long’s “Waterboy” initiative that has a mission to bring life-sustaining well water to East African communities in need. Couple Long’s purpose for the climb with this picture below of him sporting the dog mask and the Eagles placard and you see why this Eagles team was so easy to like. The guys just get it.
I had the pleasure of reading some Dr. Seuss books to first and second graders at Bethel Springs Elementary in Delaware County on Monday for the Read Across America Week. And after attempting unsuccessfully to not get tongue-tied reading, I opened the floor to questions from the kids. They ranged from “Can you fly?” to “Have you ever eaten green eggs and ham?” to “Do you know Dr. Seuss?” Then I was asked about the 2017 Eagles and if I’ve ever met any of them. And as I was answering, I thought about my interaction with the team on a professional level and how they have handled themselves publicly. And it struck me that I’ve been fortunate enough to cover a lot of teams in this city over the years, from Andy Reid’s perennial playoff Eagles squads to the Phillies' 2007-11 run of glory to A.I. and the 2001 Sixers to the Flyers of Eric Lindros and the 2010 team that went to the Stanley Cup Final. But I cannot recall one team in all those years that got it more than this Eagles team.
The delivering on the field to having fun to giving back to the community -- all the quotients were off the charts. Yes, they will forever be beloved for bringing this city its first Super Bowl trophy. But it’s the players hopping off the float to interact with the fans at the parade. It's Jason Kelce in the Mummers costume. It's Doug Pederson in Moorestown over the weekend. It's Jalen Mills and his pregame speech at Sunday's Temple hoops game. It's Carson Wentz sporting his Sixers gear while ringing the bell Saturday night to a deafening ovation. It's Malcolm Jenkins meeting with police and city officials to exchange ideas. And it’s Long, after a 19,000-plus foot climb, standing atop a mountain to raise awareness, but also bringing a little piece of Philadelphia with him.
The Eagles have built a unique culture that is quite rare in sports.
Emotional intelligence, anyone?