We’ve all heard how hard it is to be a professional athlete in Philadelphia. Tough town. Tough fans. Tough media.
Jason Kelce begs to differ.
He believes the opposite is true.
“A lot of people say it’s a hard place to play,” Kelce said. “I think it’s pretty f---ing easy, to be honest with you.”
Nobody understands what it means to be loved as a professional athlete in Philadelphia more than Kelce. Maybe nobody ever will.
People will be marveling at his speech in a Mummer’s costume after the Super Bowl parade 100 years from now.
And before practice Thursday he shared his thoughts on why some athletes make it here and some just never understand what it takes to find acceptance and adulation here.
“This city really appreciates accountability, appreciates people being very honest, real, emotionally invested, caring,” Kelce said. “You want to be loved in this city as a baseball player? Run to first base. They’re going to f---ing love you. That’s what it comes down to. If you come up here and make a bunch of excuses and try to lie to them and act like they don’t know what they’re talking about – which sometimes they don’t – but when you act that way or when you aren’t accountable if you’re making mistakes or you’re not getting better or anything like that, they’re going to crush you.
“Everybody’s going to get crushed at some point. Everybody’s going to go through a downturn or be struggling, right? But if you stick to it and you fight through it and you get better and everything like that, they’ll respect the hell out of you. Even if you’re struggling, if you’re fighting and you’re really trying? They’re still going to respect you.
“That’s what I think most guys miss. I really don’t think this is a hard place to play, to be honest with you. I think a hard place to play … I think it would be miserable to play in a place like Jacksonville, where nobody cares.”
Nobody exemplifies how a pro athlete here can change the narrative about himself like Zach Ertz, who was just about run out of town after he avoided a block on Vontaze Burfict in Cincinnati in 2016.
He took the criticism to heart, reinvented himself and a year later caught the game-winning pass in the Super Bowl.
Ertz knew nothing would change unless he changed. And he did. And he leaves Philadelphia revered by fans. An all-time great.
“Even if you’re accountable, you have to understand that it’s all correctable and it’s all fixable, and you have to realize that this is a blip in time and that over the course of my career, I write the narrative,” Kelce said.
“I’m the one who decides what this is. So I think that’s how you control everything: ‘If I just do this better, if I go out there and ball, if I go out there and play really good, nobody’s going to have any choice but to love me or appreciate me as a player.’ That’s what I tell guys. You write your own narrative.”
Kelce is a living legend in this town, but during that same 2016 season fans wanted him traded. Remember how he was too small and he was getting pushed around too much and how the Eagles had to get a bigger, more powerful center?
Kelce showed accountability and spent that entire offseason intent on reinventing himself, and he came back in 2017 as the best center in football. And he continues to be.
So when he speaks, he’s speaking from experience.
“I’ve only played in one place in my life,” he said. “If you look at all the players Philadelphia holds true and who they respect, all the guys who came before you, they all fit that mode of tough, hard-nosed, physical, try-hard guys.
“Vince Papale’s a legend here, special teams guy, but he’s a local guy who went out there and freaking lived the American dream. That’s what Philly wants to see.”
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