As a boy growing up just outside of Philadelphia — some of my fondest memories of spending time with my father and grandfather revolved around sports.
I spent summer weekends at Veterans Stadium trying to catch Phillies foul balls, went to The Palestra for Big 5 Basketball, and made the August pilgrimage annually to West Chester University for the dawn of another Eagles season.

Blocking out Sundays to catch the Eagles game with my Dad wasn’t a choice in my household.

Nothing else at the end of the week was permitted to matter — and I wouldn’t have had it any other way.

Sports Are a Passion as Old as Philadelphia Itself

When a weary seventeen-year-old Benjamin Franklin walked out to an October sunrise some 300 years ago onto the Market Street Wharf in 1723 — he brought with him a love of sport that he would carry him for the rest of his life. Franklin’s passion was swimming, and he often went for a dip in the Schuylkill River. Swimming requirements in Philadelphia area high schools actually come in part from the efforts of Ben Franklin.

PHOTO: Wiki Commons

Like many of you, I come from a family of Philadelphia sports fans and passionate writers. Nope, it doesn’t go together like a horse and carriage. My grandpop saw the Eagles at Training Camp in 1934 at Atlantic City, hid in the restroom at Connie Mack Stadium to see a free second game of a Philadelphia Athletics double-header, and listened to the Eagles win Championships in 1948 and 1949.

He always told me how they should have won it in 1947.

When it was my Dad’s turn, he grew up loving Philadelphia sports, too. He watched the Eagles win a Championship on the day after Christmas in 1960, LaSalle College rise to one of the top college men’s basketball programs in the country in the late 1960s, and saw The Fight of the Century when Philly’s Smokin’ Joe Frazier defeated Muhammad Ali in 1971.

You’ve probably already guessed what Philadelphia passion they passed along to me and what we discussed each Father’s Day in June when everyone was together. They taught me to weather the losing seasons for that feeling of euphoria. I saw the color on their cheeks and the celebration in their faces when Brad Lidge struck out Eric Hinske to win the World Series for the Phillies in 2008. And when the Eagles secondary knocked down the last-gasp Tom Brady Hail Mary Pass a decade later in the Super Bowl. Those moments were ours.

PHOTO: Wiki Commons

“If you want to write well,” they said, “write what you love.”

That’s exactly what I did.

Benjamin Franklin was actually estranged from his son William — who was exiled from America for being a loyalist to the British cause. William left America in 1782 and would never return (however, he attempted to mend the relationship with his father in 1784.)

Shortly after arriving in Philadelphia, Franklin became a writer and publisher. As depicted in the show Franklin on Apple TV+, Franklin traveled with his grandson (William Temple Franklin) overseas, where he visited his son William one last time in 1785.

PHOTO: Wiki Commons

After Benjamin Franklin’s funeral in Philadelphia—attended by nearly 20,000 people in 1790—William Temple Franklin honored the memory of his Grandfather by taking the writings that he had been bequeathed and publishing them into an autobiography in London and Philadelphia between 1816 and 1819. The autobiography included his experiences and love for swimming.

When my father cleaned out my Grandpop’s nightstand in 1989, my Dad’s book was resting on the top of my grandfather’s pile of great reads. When I did the same for my father thirty-three years later, the article on top of my Dad’s pile?

That article was mine.


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