If you follow me on Twitter, Facebook, or even as I move around my neighborhood doing important stuff, you know I have some pretty intense passions and I am not shy in talking about them.
One of them is Philly Sports. I get all worked up with all the Philly teams. When Fall comes to Philadelphia, many of the leaves begin to fall in reaction to my intensity during an Eagles football game. Unfortunately, I’ve not yet made a game at Lincoln Financial Field, which may be good for the success of the team, since my attendance at an event does not guarantee victory. With my progressive lung disease eating up my fundage, I have to shout extra loud from home so that the team can be inspired by my fan-acity and WIN!!!
However, thanks to Klout and BarclayCard, I wound up getting a very exclusive invite to the super secret inner sanctum of the Philadelphia Eagles, the NOVA CARE COMPLEX practice facility. Built on the grounds of the old PHILADELPHIA NAVAL HOSPITAL, I had not been on those grounds since high school in 1971.
That date is now an infamous part of my personal lore. Each year, my high school, St. Tommy More, would do a variety show called THE FOLLIES. While not Broadway quality, it was GOLDEN BEAR quality and a high point of every year. In 1971, the school arranged for us to travel to the Naval Hospital and perform the show for the patients who were hospitalized there. It was a sobering and inspiring time for us and we put on one hell of a show, with one exception.
There had been an extremely forgettable Broadway show in the mid-60’s called MAGGIE FLYNN. It contained a song called THE THANK YOU SONG. The first line of the song was “Thank you eyes, for seeing popcorn poppin’”. The rest of the song got more insipid and it listed various body parts and what they could accomplish so that you would be thankful for them.
The problem was that we were singing this very happy song to an audience that included amputees, people who had been blinded, or were injured in war in some way. As soon as we started the number, we all realized that this was a very bad choice and that the number seemed to go on as long as World War II.
And now, 40 years after that major faux pas, I was once again welcomed to that land, though this time, I had no production numbers prepared.
I had been invited because of KLOUT, which is a service that aggregates and scores your impact and influence in the subjects that your love to talk about across all manner of social media. This score, from 1-100, is coupled with a method of highlighting topics that you have the most interaction in. In return, you might also be invited to try a product, offered a discount, or get invited to an private event for a related item in that topic.
Since I am a Twitter genius in all things NFL, including the Philadelphia Eagles, I was invited to dinner and a tour of the Eagles practice complex with about 100 other Klout users who are big Eagles fans. They especially wanted me there since my Twitter guidance was obviously key in helping them beat frowny-faced Eli Manning and the New York Giants the previous Sunday (though I am not to blame for them losing to the Pittsburgh Steelers the following Sunday. I only deal in successes.)
As I entered I was greeted by Heather from BarclayCards NFL Extra Points program and by Patrick Thomas, who is with Revenue and Brand Strategy at Klout, who was there to make sure that the evening was perfect and that the open bar did not extend to “take home”. The reception was held in the visitors lobby and did I mention there was an open bar? And nom nom finger foods?
And cheerleaders and Swoop, the Eagles mascot. And cheerleaders.
I also met @KimmayJ and @AWall299 at the event, who I’ve been friends with on Twitter for a while. And I mentioned the cheerleaders, right?
Before we got started, I used the little boys room which included this custom tile work on the floor. I made sure not to drip on it.
We passed through a hallway time line that was really fun to read and brought back a lot of memories and a few heartbreaks. They divided us into two groups because that made us less threatening to the facility. I was in Group Two, which meant that we had dinner first in the Eagles dining room. Smartly, knowing both football players and the fan base, the dining room was more cafeteria than Wanamakers Crystal Tea Room. Nothing worth breaking, nothing worth taking.
We lined up for dinner and I spied prime rib. I did not need to spot anything else because there was prime rib. Yes, bacon may have been a shiny object that could have distracted me, but for now there was prime rib! And I ate it. And it was good. But like all good things, it had to end. It seems the first group had gotten the idea that they also were hungry and entitled to a dinner, so we left some gristle for them and moved on to our tour.
While the place is pretty big, it is also pretty well organized and for much of it, just a bit normal. As an Eagles fan, I did not come to see normal. However, after stepping on the NFL logo for good luck, our tour guide showed us the first of an ever escalating level of coolness.
We looked at the practice field. Or should I saw fields, since they can fit three full football fields there. It was raining so I could not exhibit the fine footwork and razzle dazzle trickery that would make them sign me to a long term contract on the spot, so we just oohed and ahhed at the wet grass.
Meanwhile, defensive co-ordinator Juan Castillo tried to sneak behind us but I spotted him and said hello. Had this been last year, we all would have said something much more insulting but the defense is playing well, so Juan gets a warm greeting. He said hello and then disappeared, lest we decide to still bring up the previous season.
A quick update: the previous season and last weeks debacle against the Steeelers came back and got Juan. He is gone)
We moved on and passed a hallway with newspaper reproductions of big Eagles moments. You remember newspapers, don’t you? Those folded black and white sets of paper that you would buy and read and then leave around the house forever.
The level of coolness was about to get even cooler, but first, we saw…CLASSROOMS! Yep, the team, all those big guys, get to sit in desks and take instructed classes in a classroom setting. Still, it was cool to see even though it did not scream “tough guy football”.
“Tough guy football” was right around the corner. Yes, we got to see the Eagles gym. I go to a pulmonary maintenance gym for my progressive lung disease, but this gym made that one look like a phone booth by comparison. This place was huge and the equipment seemed to be designed for Norse gods. Amazing place and so much of it.
My nephew Jimmy and I met Travis Crittenden, one of the Eagles strength and conditioning coaches, who was just about or already had tortured some poor player with punishing drills. He stopped to talk with us and to take pictures, all the while apologizing for smelling like he had been working out all day, which he had and which he did. However, if a pro football person smells clean and fresh, they are not doing it right.
We pretended to be all powerful and work out, but mainly we touched the equipment, giggled and dreamed of what we could be but weren’t. Due to our weakness and the weight of the equipment, I did not try to sneak anything out of there.
Next stop was the coolest, the Eagles practice locker room. The coolness was dampened a bit by a strict “look but don’t touch” rule. Silly rule. However, we had ten minutes to run and see all the lockers and what the players felt was important to keep in them. Nothing scandalous. Damn.
Most touching was that some of the lockers had a card that had a quote from Garrett Reid, Andy Reid’s son who had recently passed away. It was sweet to see such a close family atmosphere in an arena known for toughness and strength. It showed that you cannot be strong without having the capacity to be tender. Very moving.
The final stop the Eagle film auditorium where we met Trent Edwards and Derek Landri from the team, who signed autographs and posed for pictures but did not rig the raffle so that I would win. They spent a few minutes answering some fun and slightly odd questions from us. I found out some of their favorite Philly dive bars and they are not unfamiliar to me.
The raffle was won by three other people, not me, but we did get the print that was given out at the previous Eagles game for Brian Dawkins number retirement ceremony. I also grabbed a picture with Patrick so I could show the Klout folks back in Philly how hard he was working and that I was not sneaking liquor out of the open bar area.
On the way out, I turned around and realized that I had actually done something that was a blast even though I had to do it with my oxygen tank and was a bit tired. It was great to get one more step past my fear of having to navigate a public event with a hose in my nose. I was actually damn proud of myself and damn grateful to Klout, NFL Extra Perks, Barclay Card, and the Eagles for the invite and the freedom.
I encourage you to keep up with your Klout score and the Klout website at http://www.klout.com . You never know when you can fly like I did with the Eagles that night.