DeSean Jackson's Philly return connects two unique eras of Eagles football

DeSean Jackson's Philly return connects two unique eras of Eagles football

Before Patrick Robinson became a folk hero, before the Philly Special became more well known than the Citywide Special and before Brandon Graham left Tom Brady bereft on the turf, the ending of the Miracle at the New Meadowlands stood as the pinnacle of my Eagles fandom.

There was despair, then there was hope. There was a 99.9 percent chance of defeat and then pure euphoria. There was a five-foot-nothin’ guy running across the field until he saw triple zeros on the scoreboard, a pantheon-level Merrill Reese call, my uncomfortably awkward and chubby 16-year-old body jumping into my dad’s arms, my dog barking her head off and my mom running down the stairs wondering what the fudge (she didn’t say fudge) we were screaming about. It sounds like a lost verse from Don McLean’s “American Pie.”

DeSean Jackson remains the most prominent figure from that legendary 21-point comeback against the Giants nine years ago. His unceremonious release at the hands of former head coach Chip Kelly in March 2014 did nothing, at least not initially, to lessen my most enduring memory as an Eagles fan. The 2017 Eagles changed everything for Philadelphians, but one unexpected aspect was the way it sort of altered my feelings on past Eagles moments I held so dear.

There was a strange part of me that was a little sad that Jackson wasn’t on that Super Bowl-winning team, as if it should’ve been him catching that flea flicker touchdown from Nick Foles in the NFC Championship Game, or that it took away from the former mystique of the Miracle at the New Meadowlands. The 2017 Eagles gave me a lifetime’s worth of magical moments in a six-month period. I get it’s all part of the climb to the mountaintop where the Lombardi Trophy stood, but I was left wondering why I was holding on so tightly to a random regular season game in 2010 when I just witnessed maybe the most improbable Super Bowl run in NFL history.

Jackson’s return to the Eagles yesterday via a trade with the Buccaneers is a homecoming five years in the making, yet another sly move from Howie Roseman to eradicate any thought of Kelly’s tenure in Philly from the NovaCare Complex. There’s an obvious on-field benefit from this: DeSean is the Eagles’ best deep threat at receiver since… well, DeSean himself. His speed, even at age 32, is unparalleled and will give plenty of space to Zach Ertz and Dallas Goedert to work in the middle of the field on the intermediate routes that make the two tight ends so dangerous. There’s more than that though. In what is clearly a personality flaw, every Eagles move exists on a deeper level in my mind.

Jackson’s first stint in Philly, from the run to the 2008 NFC Championship Game during his rookie campaign to the wild ride of the Mike Vick era and that unforgettable afternoon in North Jersey to Kelly’s awe-inspiring first season where anything felt possible, is a bygone age in this franchise’s history. The Eagles now exist in a post-2017 world. Doug Pederson may have worked as an assistant under Andy Reid for four seasons while Jackson was still an Eagle, but the organization is now operating as if that championship last year is the new norm, severing any connection to the never-ending pessimism that surrounded the team for the better part of six decades.

Jackson now feels like a bridge between two distinct periods of Eagles fandom to me. There’s the misplaced optimism of my youth, starry-eyed watching playoff disappointment after playoff disappointment and getting increasingly more sure that I would never watch the Eagles reach the promised land. That’s contrasted with the less infuriating Eagles of my early 20s, where Pederson knocked off the greatest coach of all time in the biggest game of his life and Carson Wentz looks poised for a decade of star-level play. It’s so much easier to feel good about this squad with the burden of a Super Bowl victory off the fan base’s shoulders.

From his first go route this fall, Jackson will usher in a wave of romanticized nostalgia, but I’ll also have last February’s triumph fresh in my mind. DeSean connects these two lives I’ve lived as an Eagles fan together. Everything that was once old is now new. I’m already craving his fourth quarter punt return in Dallas this year, where I’ll be reminded of the wonder DeSean left me with when I was just 16 and then experience those emotions all over again.

Jackson’s punt return may no longer be my favorite play in Eagles history, but a 75-yard, play-action bomb from Wentz to DJacc on the first play from scrimmage this season in front of 70,000 strong at The Linc could be yet another installment in his midnight green legacy.

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Bryce Harper meets some Philly sports legends at the Sixers game

Bryce Harper meets some Philly sports legends at the Sixers game

The new big man in town, Bryce Harper, went to the Wells Fargo Center on Thursday night to take in the Sixers game against the Milwaukee Bucks. He rubbed shoulders with some of the previous biggest (little) men in town.

Harper was in attendance and rang the bell prior to tip-off — something he'll surely do many times during Phillies games across the street this summer.

When Harper made his way to his seat in a suite, he was seated alongside Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz. Rhys Hoskins was also in the suite as were all of the aforementioned players' significant others. Talk about some serious Philly sports firepower right there.

And then later in the game, the Sixers shared an image of a couple of legendary No. 3s meeting in the bowels of the Center. I'd love to hear the conversation between Allen Iverson and Harper.

Eagles wide receiver Alshon Jeffery was also in the building, sitting a bit closer to the court. Rapper Meek Mill was also in the building and took a photo with A.I. Which got me wondering: What's the perfect storm of Philly sports stardom in a Rat Pack sort of way? Obviously you had Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid on the court last night. In terms of the Flyers, aside from Gritty, you'd have to go Claude Giroux or maybe a fun-loving guy like Scott Hartnell from years past? Recently retired players that could fit the bill from other teams would have to include Chase Utley, Jimmy Rollins and maybe Pat Burrell just for fun. Is anyone in recent Eagles memory a bigger name than Brian Dawkins? He'd fill the fedora quotient. Nick Foles could be fun in a clean and wholesome sort of way.

My Philly sports Rat Pack would consist of A.I., Simmons, Embiid, Kendall Jenner, Wentz, Jason Kelce and Gritty. We got a good portion of that in the building last night.

Who is in your Philly sports Rat Pack?

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Nationals fans don’t get to be mad at Bryce Harper

Nationals fans don’t get to be mad at Bryce Harper

They can boo him. They can even hate him. But there’s absolutely no way Washington Nationals fans can fault Bryce Harper.

Sportswriters instructed Nats fans not to show up to the stadium unless they plan to boo Harper. Metro TV personalities smashed a pinata with the six-time All-Star’s photograph. Fans destroyed their No. 34 jerseys and showed up to the ballpark with signs that read “traitor.” The mayor of Washington D.C. took to social media to compare a baseball player to Benedict Arnold.

And yet, on Monday it was revealed in The Washington Post that the Nationals didn't just offer Harper less money and fewer years than the Phillies. The structure of the 10-year, $300 million contract proposed in September would’ve deferred payment on $100 million – 33 percent of the total value – until 2052. Then, in January, the club followed up with an even worse deal: 12 years, $250 million that wouldn’t be fully paid until the year 2072.

Harper would be 79 in 2072, assuming he lived that long.

There’s loyalty and hometown discounts. Then there’s situations that just don’t make sense.

Now seems like a good time to point out the Nationals are owned by Ted Lerner, whose own net worth is estimated to be in the multi billions. The team has done pretty well for itself at the gate, finishing 11th in Major League Baseball in average attendance in 2018 despite some of the highest ticket prices in the game. And while the TV contract is in dispute, the organization will eventually claim hundreds of millions of dollars in right fees dating back to 2012.

The money was there. Even without Harper, the Nationals have the seventh-largest payroll in baseball this season – never mind management’s inability to construct a winning team with that checkbook.

Why is this coming back on the player?

It’s one thing for fans to suggest a professional athlete should consider taking less money. It’s quite another to argue the athlete should sign a contract where a sizable portion of the cash might be paid when he’s living in a nursing home.

On some level, this is all reminiscent of when Jayson Werth pulled a reverse-Harper and left the Phillies to sign with the NL East rival Nationals in in 2011. The Phillies chose to allocate finances in such a way the club decided it would only retain Werth for below-market value, so he left. Fans weren’t happy, and he was booed every time he came to town.

But Werth wasn’t a generational talent. He was a cog, people ultimately understood he got a better deal, plus letting him go meant the Phillies could re-sign Cliff Lee, for example.

The Nationals let the face of baseball leave D.C. without a serious offer, and all they got was the money to sign Patrick Corbin.

Hey, it happens, and Nats fans should boo Harper for all 13 years in red pinstripes, the same as any Philly fan would in their shoes.

Just don’t cry Harper is a traitor. He’s in a Phils uniform because the Nationals screwed up, and the only place fingers need to be pointed is directly at the front office.

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