Every family that’s owned an aging animal knows the thought that creeps into your back of your mind, that eventually you’re going to live a life without that animal. The sports version of that is knowing one day, your favorite team will no longer have your favorite player. For a fan of Carson Wentz like myself, that day has come.
A bitter divorce that at one point seemed unfathomable, quickly became an inevitable reality. After just 5 seasons, Wentz leaves Philadelphia. Not as the franchise savior and country boy keen to bible study, but as a villain to some, and a lightning bolt of controversy.
But it wasn’t always that way.
What hurts the most about the departure of Wentz is the fleeting feeling of hope that came with his arrival. In 2015, the Eagles were in an aimless, dark abyss. Led by Chip Kelly, they were in NFL purgatory. A Super Bowl victory so coveted by every member of this city had never felt further away.
And then Carson Wentz was drafted.
In less than one month of watching Wentz play football, the culture in this city immediately changed. A jolt of hope shot through us like a caffeine rush in your morning coffee. With every Wentz throw against the Browns, then the Bears and even the Steelers you could feel the tides turning. The Eagles were turning into a winner, they had their guy.
I will never forget Shamus Clancy’s well-written article around that time (HERE). He talked about how he had long suffered from depression yet watching the Carson Wentz led Eagles gave him a reason to wake up in the morning. I think for a lot of us, we could relate to a degree. It sometimes can feel like life has a dark cloud over you. You wake up every morning to complete the same monotonous tasks, and all of a sudden your reality is just bleak. And then the Eagles played for 3 hours, and a win meant everything was going to “okay”.
That’s how I felt at the time. 23 years old heading into the Super Bowl season, I was fresh out of college with no idea where I wanted to be in life, or what purpose I had. You stop seeing your friends every day as everyone drifts apart. You sit in traffic to get to work, at the job that doesn’t pay you enough, to deal with the customers who don’t even see you as a human being. And then you do it again, and again, again. You become isolated and the only thing that follows you around is the dark cloud. There is a nothingness to life you just accept. But then, on Sundays, Carson Wentz and the Eagles gave you a three hour escape from that reality. You can feel your brain provided with this reset as the adrenaline courses through with each touchdown pass. And everything was finally, if even for a brief moment, “okay”.
And when they won, that feeling extended days as you eased back into that reality. Instead of looking at it as sitting in traffic, you were getting an extra 45 minutes to listen to talk radio rave about Wentz and this Eagles team. And that year, they kept winning and winning and all of a sudden, there is no dark cloud because that three hour Eagles game has seeped so far into reality that it now is your reality. And for anyone outside of Philadelphia, it may sound insane to invest this much of your well-being into any one football player or one team. Well, it is. But for a lot of people who were down, that culture shift Carson brought a spark in our every day lives that we will always be thankful for.
It also wasn’t just a sense of belonging in life that he brought for people like me. It was the sense of hope he brought for a lot of people who were in dire need of it. I think about the Dutch Destroyer’s family, who was buried in Carson Wentz’ jersey. Putting myself in their shoes and thinking about what it must have meant to watch the quarterback of their favorite team wear a bracelet to support their son’s fight against cancer. Or little Giovanni, who has gone through so many painful surgeries, to have met Carson Wentz at that training camp practice. And have a friend in Carson for life.
He gave a lot of people like that hope, when there wasn’t much of it to be had. It hasn’t been an easy last few years for a lot of people. Life tested a lot of us. But for 3 hours every Sunday, Carson gave us an escape from that. And that, despite the ending, should be the lasting legacy of Carson Wentz in Philadelphia.