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More Than A Win: The Inherent Link Between Sport Events and Grief

Feb 05, 2018

An Eagles Balloon Decorates A Floral Spray at a Funeral Service (Photo Shared from Caleb Wilde)

We are flying high here at ASD today as we celebrate the
first Super Bowl victory of the Philadelphia Eagles. This triumph was long
overdue for the Philadelphia region. Despite years of disappointment and false
hope, the Eagles have always had a diehard and loyal fan base that one could
argue is the most fervent in the NFL.

Before the game, Funeral Director, Caleb Wilde, posted a
photo in a funeral director Facebook group that showed a casket adorned with an
Eagles balloon. Beneath the photo, people shared stories about seeing Eagles
jerseys spread across headstones at their local cemetery.

These stories illustrate why yesterday’s victory was so much
more than just a win to the Philadelphia region. Being an Eagles fan is not
just a fun pastime – it is a fundamental piece of so many people’s identity. As
the daughter of a man who was an avid fan of the Eagles all of his life, I
cannot think of my father without remembering him watching every Eagles game,
listening to Sports talk on the radio in the morning or chasing my brother around with a wooden spoon
whenever he joked that he was a Dallas Cowboys fan. I think everyone who has lost a
loved one keeps an internal audio file in their memory of their loved ones
voice saying certain words or phrases. When I try to hear my dad in my head,
the sound of him shouting ‘touchdown’ is probably the most distinct memory I
have of his voice.

What did the Eagles winning the Super Bowl yesterday mean to
the people of Philadelphia and the entire surrounding region? You can certainly
ask any member of the Bird Gang, but what you’re likely to hear is not only
what it means to them, but what it would have meant to their father, mother,
sibling, grandparent or friend. You’re likely to learn about how Eagles loyalty
is passed down from generation to generation in their family and treated with
more reverence than any heirloom. And most of all, you’re likely to be told a
story about their first memories of watching the Eagles play with a cherished
loved one.

For the Philadelphia Sports Community, love of a sports team and grief for a loved one have always been deeply linked

For many people in Philadelphia, watching the Eagles is as
sacred as visiting a grave. For it is in those moments of joy and tension that
a loved one’s presence feels the strongest. This is why in the many videos you
can find online of Philadelphia fans reacting to the end of the game, you will
see tear stained faces and hear emotion-filled sobs. Winning the Super Bowl
feels a bit like all of Philadelphia is holding a can tied to a string that is
connected to another can up in Heaven. The emotional catharsis provided by that
victory helped thousands of people feel connected to loved ones they were
missing last night.

After the game, a third shift ASD employee updated our
message board with this beautiful and emotion-filled message, “
This game meant
everything to me. To be able to express in words just how much, is so hard for
me right now. A close friend of mine passed away last summer. He was the
BIGGEST Eagles fan I’ve ever known. All he wanted was to see them win the
Superbowl. Unfortunately, he wasn’t there (physically) to see them win, but I
KNOW FOR SURE he was out on the field with our boys. This game was more than
just a game for me. This meant everything in the world to me.”

For those grieving someone who was a big sports fan, that
person’s absence is felt very strongly during major events like the Super Bowl. Grief triggers are abundant. Like an
empty chair at a kitchen table during a holiday, an empty armchair during an
Eagles game puts the immeasurable loss in full focus.

ASD Family-Member Owner and Treasurer, Kathy Kelley, shares,
“My good
friend’s husband passed away suddenly this past spring. He was a die-hard
Eagles Fan. Yesterday afternoon my girlfriend reached out to our close
group of friends and said, ‘Feeling so emotional this Super Bowl Sunday.
It’s actually worse than Christmas. Missing him so much.’ We
all shared the people we had in heaven that would be watching right along with
us. Today, she plans to bring Eagles’ balloons to his gravesite.”

This feeling is echoed by many Eagles fans who dedicated
last night’s win to someone who couldn’t be there to see it. An
article for the
Philly Voice published this week interviewed Gianna DeMedio, a young woman who
recently lost her father and was inspired to speak out about his passion for
the team and the complicated feelings she experienced watching the 2017 Eagles’

“I was approached by
so many people who could share a similar story,”
DeMedio stated. “I was
surprised at how passionate people were when they talked to me about it. Someone
came up to me and said, ‘I didn’t even know I cared about the Eagles until my
grandfather passed away and I couldn’t watch the game with him.'”

The article goes on to explain how DeMedio feels convinced
her father is living on in a spirit world by the fact that she can feel him so
closely while watching the Eagles games. This feeling is what makes watching
the Eagles so emotional for so many fans – it is bittersweet and difficult to
describe—to be so happy and so melancholy at the same time. The long road to
our overdue victory is what makes this win so impactful. There are so many
memories to draw from of us waiting for this day to arrive.

Photos of the Eagles Parade In Media (Where ASD is Located)

For a lot of years, it was difficult to keep that green
light shining. With so many close calls and near victories snatched away, most
fan bases would have disappeared. Generations have come and gone without ever
knowing an Eagles victory. Yet, the unwavering devotion has endured, despite
years of let downs, because of the unifying spirit of Philadelphia sports culture.
That “we’re all in this together” mindset has helped divided families to become
reunited and distant strangers to become instant friends.

So what does it mean to bleed green? It means that the
Eagles are in your blood and a part of your DNA, no matter if you’re in
Philadelphia, on the other side of the country, or deceased. An Eagles fan may
pass away, but their love for the team flies on forever in those they leave

Fly Eagles Fly!

About The Author

Jess Farren (Fowler)

Jess Farren (Fowler) is a Public Relations Specialist and Staff Writer who has been a part of the ASD team since 2003. Jess manages ASD’s company blog and has been published in several funeral trade magazines. She has written articles on a variety of subjects including communication, business planning, technology, marketing and funeral trends. You can contact Jess directly at

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