A Football Life: Reggie & Jerome

Posted: September 30th, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 37 Comments »

92 on Mac


Gotta be honest.  That was hard to watch.

Great TV.  Brilliant job by NFL Films.  There were moments when I was laughing.  There were moments when I was in awe of some of the things I saw.  Reggie and Seth were so physically special that they created some absolutely amazing highlights.

But it was tough as well.

In the spring of 1987 I got to watch Julius Erving walk off the court in Milwaukee.  The Sixers fell to the Bucks in the playoffs and that was that.  The end of an era.  My first true sports hero, Dr. J, was gone.  I cried.  I was one of those kids who got emotional about sports.  Watching Doc leave was hard, but at least he did it as a Sixer.  And with a ring on his finger.  Sad end, but a great journey and one that shaped my life as a sports fan.

I had no such moment with Reggie White.  I saw his final game, a 34-10 ass-kicking by the Dallas Cowboys in the divisional round of the 1992 playoffs.  I hoped and prayed that he’d return.  We had never seen true free agency in the NFL so I didn’t know what to expect.  3 months later he signed with the Packers and that was that.     

I cheered for Reggie in Green Bay.  They were 1B to the 1A Eagles.  I was ecstatic when he won the Super Bowl in 1996.  Keith Jackson was on that team.  Seeing Reggie hoist the Lombardi Trophy made me feel that was for Gang Green as well as himself.  It was for us, in a way.  He just was wearing the wrong uniform while doing it.

In the special they talk to White’s wife Sara.  She opened a nasty wound by talking about Reggie’s desire to stay an Eagle.  He would have stayed for any reasonable offer.  Norman Braman says in his interview that the Eagles did make a good offer.  He says $15M, but can’t remember for how many years.  Yeah, right.  Sure Normy.  I’m going to believe you over Reggie or Sara.

For the younger/newer fans I can’t explain what losing Reggie was like in 1993.  The TO debacle, Donovan trade, Westy release, and departure of Dawk all combined don’t touch it.  Not even close.  Reggie was arguably the best player in the NFL at that point.  Reggie was the Eagles.  He wanted to stay and we let him walk.

I was crushed.  Crushed.  We signed Tim Harris to replace him, but that was like going from Angelina Jolie to Angela Landsbury.  Seeing Harris at DE was the equivalent of watching some other guy kiss your mom after your dad died in a tragic accident where he was Bramaned to death.  It just wasn’t right.

Things got better in 1994 when William Fuller came in.  He was no Reggie, but was the right kind of guy.  He quickly became a player I loved.  I had no problem with him kissing mom.  Ray Rhodes took over in 1995 and Gang Green was a distant memory.

I don’t get as emotional with Jerome.  Great player, but he wasn’t a guy that I had a special connection with.  It was great to see the special show what a unique person he was.  Jerome’s importance was huge on the field and off.  He was the guy who enabled Reggie, Clyde, Seth, and everyone else to get along.  Those guys had some dysfunctional personalities.  Jerome was the happy clown that brought out the best in everyone.

I remember seeing Seth interviewed late in 1993.  The season finale was at SF on MNF.  Seth talked about how much he missed Jerome and you could tell that was something serious, not just talk.  They had a special connection.  Seth was a great player, but was a difficult guy to deal with.  He could be a major prick at times.  I think he knew how much he needed Jerome to keep him in check.  Plus, Jerome gave him a ride to work each day.  That was a bonding experience for them.  Seth talked about how he would hear Jerome’s radio coming up the street.  That was his way of knowing it was time to go to practice.  After JB’s death, Seth would still sit in his house sometimes and just listen for the radio.  That scar ran deep.  Little things like that make a difference.

The special showed something I’d never seen before.  Reggie was at a Billy Graham revival in Philly on June 25, 1992 and announced Jerome’s death to the crowd.  That was tough to watch.  Reggie was struggling with words and emotions.  And he had to share that moment with a full crowd at The Vet.  I can’t believe I’ve never seen that clip before.  Amazing stuff.

Find a way to see the special.  It is truly great TV.  Just be prepared for the emotional roller coaster that you’re about to get on.

One thing that special did stir up in me is thinking about the glorious moment when the Eagles do win the Super Bowl.  I don’t know if it will happen this year, this decade, or even in my lifetime.  I do know it will happen.  And that moment is going to be for every player who ever wore a green jersey.

37 Comments on “A Football Life: Reggie & Jerome”

  1. 1 Anonymous said at 7:20 AM on September 30th, 2011:

    Anyone know how someone who doesn’t get the NFL network can see this?

  2. 2 Richard Bayes said at 10:19 AM on September 30th, 2011:

    +1 for this comment, with the additional difficulty of being in the UK. I’d love to see it though.

  3. 3 Anonymous said at 12:04 PM on September 30th, 2011:

    I don’t know if the entire show is included in the segments posted here…


  4. 4 Anonymous said at 4:31 PM on September 30th, 2011:

    Richard as a UK resident, finding it is easy, watching, particularly from the point of Brown’s death on, is hard.

  5. 5 Anonymous said at 1:54 AM on October 1st, 2011:

    Boy, is that ever true.

    Obviously, we know how it ends, but I kept finding myself hoping I forgot something or there was some silver lining I didn’t know about. Nope.

  6. 6 Danny said at 8:34 AM on September 30th, 2011:

    Man, I couldnt help but get teary eyed when Reggie announced JB’s death. That was so emotional. I really miss Reggie; can’t believe he really died.

  7. 7 Anonymous said at 12:41 PM on September 30th, 2011:

    Great stuff. Go Tommy.

  8. 8 Anonymous said at 12:47 PM on September 30th, 2011:

    I lost all respect for Reggie when he left the Eagles. If he pulled a Werth and left for the money, fine. If he said he wanted a ring before he retired, fine. If he likes the babes in Wisconsin, fine. I can understand athletes having personal motives. But, when he made the claim that God wanted him in GB, my bs meter skyrocketed. I’ll always acknowledge what he did on the field, but his claim that there was some divine intervention, that just so happened to land him a huge contract on a contending team, is a sack of it.

  9. 9 Anonymous said at 12:54 PM on September 30th, 2011:

    Reggie and the God stuff was a little weird, but even Reggie sort of realized that late in his life and he began questioning what he truly believed. Kudos to him for having faith, but also being willing to ask himself uncomfortable questions.

  10. 10 Anonymous said at 12:59 PM on September 30th, 2011:

    Yea, but hell hath no fury like an Eagles fan scorned.

  11. 11 James Wann said at 1:02 PM on September 30th, 2011:

    Yeah, that certainly was his most well-known rationale for going to GB. However, I did read an autobiography by him a couple of years later in which he detailed his visits to Cleveland, SF, and GB. He mentioned that he settled on GB because he fell in love with the organization and the fans (who reminded him of fans back at his beloved Tennessee). I’m sure that we would’ve been a little more understanding if he actually made this known when he signed with GB.

  12. 12 Kanin Faan said at 12:14 AM on October 1st, 2011:

    The story reported at the time was that Reggie had said in the news that he’d ;”go where God wants me to” and that Mike Holmgren called him up and started the conversation with; “Reggie, this is God. Go to Green Bay”.
    After that they apparently got along so well that he ended up signing with Green Bay.

  13. 13 Anonymous said at 3:59 PM on October 1st, 2011:

    I respect Reggie as an athlete, but I don’t want to sugarcoat some of the things he said. I do remember that he was re-evaluating his beliefs about homsexuals and other topics towards the end of his life. Nobody is perfect and, hopefully, a man continues to learn and grow during his entire life.

    I found this from a 1997 article about leaving the Eagles:

    He is on first-name terms with God, anyway. They converse daily. God made him a Green Bay Packer, he told a press audience the other day. “I was somewhat confused at the time, I was on my knees praying to the point of crying because I thought God wanted me to go to San Francisco. I really wanted to go to San Francisco. So, I said, ‘God, what do you want me to do?’

    “And I heard God speak to me and he asked me, ‘What do they call the ‘West Coast offense?’ Then, he said, ‘Where did the head coach and the offensive coordinator and the defensive coordinator [of Green Bay] come from?’ And I said San Francisco. And he said, ‘Well, that’s the West Coast offense I’m talking about. I want you to go to Green Bay.’ And I said, ‘Why didn’t you just say so?’ and he said, ‘Because then you wouldn’t have been crying and you wouldn’t have been on your knees!’ “

  14. 14 Michael Abrams said at 12:50 PM on September 30th, 2011:

    Tommy, I’ve got some serious man-love for you right now. You truly do bleed green. One day we will see that Lombardi trophy paraded down Broad St and I will think of Reggie.

    I DVRed it. Some quiet night after the kids go to sleep I’ll pour 4 (or 5 or 6) fingers of Scotch and sit down to watch it.

  15. 15 Anonymous said at 12:59 PM on September 30th, 2011:

    Great Job Tommy. I forgot how powerful Reggie was. He just lifted the lineman in front of him with such ease. Amazing!!

  16. 16 Anonymous said at 7:34 PM on September 30th, 2011:

    Reggie is the only player I’ve ever seen who could consistently pancake tackles with literally one hand. It was as if somewhere in his family tree there was “giant” blood. If he had been born in another era, he would have been that guy in the Braveheart-style battle who could take out 40 people at one time. He was really that kind of once-in-a-generation athlete.

  17. 17 Anonymous said at 1:59 AM on October 1st, 2011:

    What adds to that is the fact that he didn’t look incredibly strong. He wasn’t huge or muscle-bound, just powerful.

  18. 18 Brian said at 1:31 PM on September 30th, 2011:

    I’ll have to catch it as a rerun. I admit when Reggie left I wasn’t aware of the business side of the NFL as much as I am now, and I didn’t realize what a mess of the Eagles “that guy in France” had made. I blamed Reggie at the time, but now that I think I understand the situation better, I’m so glad he got his ring with the Packers.

    Reggie White was the first of my childhood favorite players to pass away (Reggie and Randall and Cal Ripken Jr and Jim Palmer of the Orioles were just on a higher level of idolization than anyone else), and his death was just shocking to me.

    I’m going to assume most people here have read “Bringing the Heat” focusing on the ’92 Eagles. If not please do so, it’s both funny (how everyone picked on Randall, some good Buddy stories) and sad (the aftermath of Jerome’s death, how everyone picked on Randall, and the personal issues of some of the players) but it’s a great book with Reggie featured prominently and Jerome’s influence felt throughout that season.

  19. 19 Anonymous said at 1:33 PM on September 30th, 2011:

    That is a great book. Mark Bowden is an amazing writer and had a great story to tell.

  20. 20 Mac said at 2:01 PM on September 30th, 2011:

    Greatest defense of all time. I still feel mournful that the 87-92 birds did not win a Superbowl… yet the more I think about it I wonder if it actually mattered. Does winning a Superbowl validate a team? I don’t think so. Not too many weeks of football go by without me talking about the “body bag game”. I was trying to remember how many QBs Gang Green put out of commission… I am thinking that one season it was like 21? I am pretty sure it was more than 16. My girlfriend is quite a bit younger than me and a Raven’s fan (so she loves good defense) and she went a bit slack jawed when I told her about that stuff the first time.

    A few months back we had a conversation about Superbowls vs. Great Memories. I think I have decided which side of the fence I’m on in that conversation.

  21. 21 Anonymous said at 3:35 PM on September 30th, 2011:

    man … tommy … you’re a great writer. Your emotion pours into your words. I came to the US in 2000 and became an Eagles fan in 2003. Talk about perfect timing … right when the Eagles were soaring. I never knew the pain of being an Eagles fan … but im getting it now. Bringing the lombardi home will be one of the most wonderful experiences all of us will ever have. Fly Tommy Fly … and keep writing these excellent articles. GO EAGLES.

  22. 22 Jon Blank said at 3:38 PM on September 30th, 2011:

    Norman Braman. Possibly the biggest duchebag in all of Philly sports.

  23. 23 Alex Karklins said at 3:57 PM on September 30th, 2011:

    I remember seeing the news of Jerome Brown’s death on the local news along with the clip of Reggie White’s announcement at the Vet. That collective gasp from the stadium crowd is unforgettable. I also remember being angry at Jerome for his recklessness, and what I thought was his selfish behavior (which it was, given that he took his nephew with him). Later on, I realized that his recklessness and unpredictable nature was what made him so great to begin with. If he had slowed down his off the field behavior and read the bible instead of partying every night, I doubt he’d be half the player he was. It would be like telling Reggie to tone down the religiousness and have a couple of beers with the guys. It’s unfair to think things would have been better if Jerome tried to be more like Reggie.

    One thing that can’t be denied is that he was the guy having the most fun out there on the field. Reggie was by far the greatest Eagle, but I enjoyed watching Jerome more than anyone else on that defense.

  24. 24 Mac said at 5:26 PM on September 30th, 2011:

    No one can deny the amount of passion both of those guys had on and off the field. Have we ever had another duo who brought the fire the way they did? Has the league ever seen that pairing of talent and drive? And for the Eagles to have 2 players like that at one time… well, Rich Kotite proved that it wasn’t just the coaching winning games.

  25. 25 Alex Karklins said at 1:50 AM on October 1st, 2011:

    Absolutely. Who knows what would have happened with a halfway-decent head coach?

  26. 26 Scott Buchanan said at 4:03 PM on September 30th, 2011:

    Reggie actually lived about 5 houses down from me on Lake Norman when he died..I remember hearing ambulances really early that morning and then around 9am that morning my neighbor comes over and says Reggie died in his sleep..

  27. 27 Anonymous said at 5:13 PM on September 30th, 2011:

    What city was that? I was down in Cornelius for July 4th and wondered where Reggie had lived in the area.

  28. 28 Scott Buchanan said at 7:12 PM on September 30th, 2011:

    It was Cornelius Tommy..We both lived on Connor Quay Rd at the time of his death ,I moved about a year after his death and I think Sara sold their house about the same time.The one memory I have about that whole deal is coming home the night after the service and seeing Brett Favre standing in Reggie’s driveway..Sara still lives in the area and is running a real esate firm last I heard.

  29. 29 Jonathan Pitone said at 5:52 PM on September 30th, 2011:

    Tommy, pretty remarkable how often you and I share memories. We must be just about the exact same age. I, too, cried at Dr. J’s final game. I remember he actually had a great game in that finale and I truly wished he was not done. It was rough watching them lose his finale to a team that they usually beat in the playoffs. The run used to be Milwaukee, then Boston, then LA. I have this Jerome/Reggie tribute taped. Looking forward to it. I still view Jerome’s death as the beginning of the end of what could have been the greatest Eagles team ever. I felt that way the day he died and I still feel that way.

  30. 30 Anonymous said at 6:53 PM on September 30th, 2011:

    `For sure in an alternate universe, we have a great collection of rings. ……….. and Kotite is in the HOF 😮

    I can see through that film why he is not liked now.

  31. 31 Mac said at 7:58 PM on September 30th, 2011:

    Off topic…. This week we get to see the LB that I wanted 2 years ago… Navorro Bowman. Having said that I am excited to see what Rolle can do. If we get a good effort out of him and Allen looks healthy, this defense gets much better.

  32. 32 Anonymous said at 10:35 PM on September 30th, 2011:

    Great stuff. This article, and all of you guys’ responses in the comments section, show what TRUE Philly fans are like. Throw out all of the “booing Santa Claus” garbage. This is true fandom.

    I’m 23 years old. Despite growing up in Philly I was always a Phillies and Flyers fans first. Attended and watched those two teams for as long as I can remember. I didn’t become a hardcore Eagles fan until about 1999 or 2000. Thats when I became old enough to understand and appreciate the beauty of the game. I haven’t missed a single game since. But my Grandfather and (especially) my Dad raised me on the stories of all Eagles lore. My Dad was always especially impassioned about Gang Green and those late 80s/early 90s defenses.

    My father and I had the great fortune to attend the Eagles/Pats super bowl in Jacksonville(which, even in a losing effort, was the greatest father/son experience I’ve ever had), and it was quite special to be there with other Eagles fans outside of the stadium before the game, chanting “Bring it Home for Jerome.” I could see the tears welling up in my Dad’s eyes and thats when I really realized how big of a deal it was for him to be there, after 40 years of watching the Eagles, now watching them in the Super Bowl with his son. After something like that, the loss barely even mattered. We drove home after the game laughing and smiling, even though we were only moments removed from one of the most devastating losses in franchise history.

  33. 33 Anonymous said at 12:49 AM on October 1st, 2011:

    Great story. I was broke at the time of the SB and going wasn’t an option. I’ve wondered if we ever make it back if I would want to go or would be happier watching on TV, since that’s my normal routine. I hope I face that decision in the next few years.

  34. 34 Anonymous said at 3:01 AM on October 1st, 2011:

    Believe it or not, I got the tickets for free. My grandfather works in soliciting and then distributing food and medical supplies for the Navy. One of his co-workers in Jacksonville had two tickets and had no interest in going, and gave both tickets to my Grandfather for absolutely zip.

    And despite being alive and watching the ’48 and ’49 championships, despite being a season ticket holder since ’58 and being there for the 1960 championship, despite being arguably THE biggest Eagles fan in the family… my Grandfather insisted that my Dad and I take the tickets and go together. He said him and my dad had a lot of great Eagles memories, and it was time for us to make some of our own. A gesture I will never forget.

  35. 35 Anonymous said at 12:49 AM on October 1st, 2011:

    Great story. I was broke at the time of the SB and going wasn’t an option. I’ve wondered if we ever make it back if I would want to go or would be happier watching on TV, since that’s my normal routine. I hope I face that decision in the next few years.

  36. 36 Anonymous said at 2:52 AM on October 1st, 2011:

    I still vividly remember that Sixers-Milwaukee series. It went 5 hard-fought, down-to-the-wire games. The last game, Dr. J had an open mid-range J at the buzzer to win the series – it clanked off the back rim and that was that. I was heartbroken. Then Milwaukee went on and lost 4-0 to the Celtics and I realized that that Sixer team wasn’t as good as I had hoped. Thus, even though he missed that last shot, that was the way for Dr. J to go out, rather than potentially losing 4-0 to your most bitter rivals.

  37. 37 Eric Weaver said at 10:32 PM on October 1st, 2011:

    Watching old footage like that makes me yearn for the days when this team had a defensive identity. And had leaders and guys offenses feared. Cole is about the closest thing, but teams more so worry about him rather than fear him.

    It’s just really an indictment on Andy as a drafter that he’s invested the majority of his picks on the defensive line and secondary positions and he’s essentially come out on the wrong end the majority of the time.