PHILADELPHIA – Paul Collier

Legendary running back Steve Van Buren has died, perhaps the greatest Eagle of all time (either him or Church Bednarik). Eagles fans who never knew who Van Buren was, most of whom weren’t even alive when he played, have been making a big deal taking time to remember the legend. This got me thinking as to why so much attention is being paid to a man who played more than 60 years ago. This is my reason why I join them in remembering the man who made Eagles fly:

 

When I was a kid growing up in South Central PA, I inherited a city, Philadelphia, as my home for professional sports. I grew up loving the Flyers, the Sixers, the Phillies, and most of all, the Philadelphia Eagles. At an early age, by the time I was all of 9 years old, the Green and White was in my blood. The site of those eagle wings on that green helmet gave me tremendous joy.

I latched on to a team not knowing anything about their history. I only knew coach Vermeil, Harold Carmichael, our star Wide Receiver, Bill Bergey, number 66 in the middle, Wilbert Montgomery and the Polish Rifle, Ron Jaworsky. I had no idea the love affair I was entering into, and the decades of close calls and disappointments I was committing myself to by signing up to the Green and White.

Years came and went. I can document these years by the stars who rose and fell in Veteran’s Stadium and Lincoln Financial Field. All the promise and all the predictions of glory and titles in August always died in December and January, and sometimes even earlier. I remember the tragedy of that 1980 Superbowl loss, when a touchdown that could have turned the tide for the Eagles was called back on a penalty. I remember the fizzle of Cunningham in the great fog bowl of 1988 against Chicago, and we all remember the winded Mcnabb at the end of the 2004 Superbowl loss.

These painful memories come almost every year, another campaign, another failure. 1960, the last year the Eagles won an NFL title, looms larger and larger as we grow further and further away from that moment when Bednarik and the boys stopped the Packers inside the 20 on the last play of the game, raising their hands in victory for the last time.

Had I known that I would be entering into a love affair with the Green and White that would produce, for me, over 35 years of heartbreak, woe, disappointment, anger, frustration, pain, agony, and grief, I might not have agreed to the terms of the contract. But I could not have known the heartbreak I was setting myself up to experience. I was not even aware that at the time I was entering into this relationship, I was tying my hopes to a team that had already seen over 15 years of disappointment, having, up to the time I fell in love with the Green and White (1977), never even BEEN to a Super Bowl.

I didn’t know who Chuck Bednarik was, let alone Steve Van Buren. The Eagles were Jaworsky and Carmichael and Edwards. This was all I knew.

As I grew older, I learned more about the history of my beloved Green and White, even about the Steagles, when the Eagles and Steelers combined rosters in 1943. I learned about the great late 40s, when the Eagles were the powerhouse of the league, winning back to back championships in 1948 and 1949, largely on the legs of Steven Van Buren.

These mythical championship years, along with 1960, were, and still are, the glimmers of hope for all Eagles fans like me, the ones who have been here decade after decade, through Cunningham, Ricky Waters, Mcnabb, Jaws, the late Clyde Simmons, the hard hitting Andre Waters, the preaching Defensive End Reggie White, the ‘new’ stars Desean, Vick, and now Lesean Mccoy. We’ve seen the Miracle at the Meadowlands and the Tampa Bay collapse.

We’ve witnessed 4th and inches in Dallas and 4th and 26 against Green Bay, only to be stunned by the Carolina beat down and the New Orleans drive that never ended. The Eagles fans out there reading this don’t need any clues to remember the hopes and disappointments I describe.

Yet, despite all these disappointments, this year, we Eagles fans, we loyal Green and White, turn on our TVs again, hoping Vick will stay healthy and Castillo’s Wide Nine won’t give up big run plays. Not a one of us, the seasoned ones, the veterans of heartbreak, would trade away our decades of disappointment to abandon our green and white. Not a one would dare waver and even consider divorce from our heartbreaking Bride. There is no other team, be they NFL, NBA, MLB, or NHL that could take the place of our beloved green and white.

The city of Philadelphia rises and falls with the green and white, and so do her adopted sons and daughters, sons like me, Paul Collier, hopelessly in love with this seemingly doomed team. We’ve cried with joy when Mcnabb and Westbrook downed Atlanta. We cried with agony when they lost to Oakland. And this year, we are readying our tissues, win or lose.

This is why we green and whites stop and pay tribute to a 91 year old man who played more than 60 years ago. Steve Van Buren is our beacon of hope, our desperate memory of glory, a memory made before most of us were even born. Steve Van Buren connects us to that perfect football moment in time when the green and white were victorious, the rulers of the NFL. He connects us to that place where hope lives, once again, for us to someday see that victory again.

Before I knew Christ as my King, there was nothing, not family, not anything, that meant as much to me as the Eagles. My life could rise and fall with their fortunes week to week. Now that I am in Christ, the Eagles are no longer my church, my religion. My focus, my love is in Christ and His Kingdom. I love people far more than I can ever love the Eagles. But after Christ, after the relationships in my life, this heartbreak team reigns supreme over all other teams in all other sports, and I too take time to remember when everything was right in the world of sports, when Steve Van Buren made Eagles fly.

 

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Keep reading below for the press release by the Eagles and videos on Steve Van Buren and the 1948 and 1949 NFL Championship Games–

Sports Headlines- philadelphiaeagles.com – Legendary RB Van Buren Passes

The Philadelphia Eagles today announce with deep sadness the death of Pro Football Hall of Fame running back Steve Van Buren. He passed away from pneumonia at the age of 91 in Lancaster, PA. He is survived by three daughters and a large loving family.

“On the field and off, as a player, a leader and a man, Steve Van Buren embodied the finest characteristics of our city and our sport,” said Eagles chairman and CEO Jeffrey Lurie. “He was a friend and an inspiration to generations of fans, and the model of what an Eagle should be.”

Read more at philadelphiaeagles.com

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Twitter remembers-

Tweets

Legendary Eagles running back Steve Van Buren dies at 91 http://wp.me/p14QSB-4IlU

Van Buren is the only Eagles player to ever lead the league in rushing, and he did it four times http://wp.me/p14QSB-4IlU

Eagles saddened to announce that Pro Football Hall of Fame RB Steve Van Buren passed away this evening at age of 91 in Lancaster, PA. RIP…

RIP Steve Van Buren a true pioneer and #EAGLES legend it was always a pleasure to shake his hand before some of my games.

Sad news this a.m. #Eagles Hall of Famer Steve Van Buren has passed away. Kids, if you don’t know him, wiki: http://bit.ly/SvZfwz

(Times Pic) Steve Van Buren had a difficult road to the top of the football world http://dlvr.it/2351m1 #LSU

Andy Reid on Steve Van Buren’s legacy http://www.philadelphiaeagles.com/news/article-1/Reid-Van-Buren-Ahead-Of-His-Time/d7021275-91c7-4647-b503-68300e68a14e … Watch the full video coming up on the Kickoff Show, starting right now

Remembering Steve Van Buren, who almost slept through the NFL championship game: http://deadsp.in/glQJcWZ

The #Eagles today announce with deep sadness the death of Pro Football Hall of Fame running back Steve Van Buren.

 

What the blogs are saying:

Steve Van Buren Dies

2 hours ago by krosspub
Remembering Steve Van Buren– the Green and White- a Tragic Love Story http://goo.gl/ksBP3 #eagles #nfl #sports #news #philiadelphia. Legendary running back Steve Van Buren has died, perhaps the greatest Eagle of all time (either him or
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