[Ed. note: The following post was authored by Shamus Clancy, who attended Connor Barwin's second annual benefit concert. Shamus writes for the Philadelphia Daily News and Liberty Ballers. Follow him on Twitter: @shamus_clancy.]
Hopping out of my Uber ride (R.I.P. Nick Foles' #brand) on 10th and Spring Garden on Saturday night, I headed over to the entrance of the Union Transfer for the Make the World Better Foundation (MTWB) benefit concert that Connor Barwin hosted. As I waited outside the venue to get my ticket scanned and wrist stamped, Howard Eskin walked up to the line wearing a checkerboard button-down shirt and boat shoes, looking like an indie rock show veteran.
"Oh," I thought to myself. "This is going to be a good night."
And it was. Good music. Good beer. Good people. The lead singer of The Suffers summarized the atmosphere of the Union Transfer perfectly at the beginning of the band's set, saying, "There's two things people love in Philadelphia: sports and music." Barwin is using his connection in both worlds to impact South Philly with MTWB.
I spoke to Barwin two weeks ago at Eagles' OTAs about the concert and where the the money being raised, as all proceeds from tickets and drinks at UT went towards MTWB, goes to. I told him that as a native South Philadelphian, I loved the whole project and the work that he has continued to do for my surrounding neighborhood since joining the Birds two offseasons ago.
Bearded, helping out South Philly and taking SEPTA all around the city, Barwin doesn't seem too different than me after disregarding his rugged good-looks, muscles on muscles and his propensity for throwing quarterbacks to the ground. Besides all of that, we are one in the same.
Getting back to Union Transfer, Eagles players obviously populated the place. While I was in the bathroom, a tipsy guy using the urinal adjacent to me struck up a conversation.
"Are you a gambler?" he asked.
"Uh, not really, no."
"I wanted to know what the Eagles odds to win the Super Bowl are."
"Oh, they're 25-1 to win it."
He really liked those odds, disgusted at the idea that any team in the NFC could be better than the Eagles in 2015. He asked every new person that walked into the bathroom if any team in the NFC could beat the Eagles until Beau Allen finally strolled in. Beau, unsurprisingly, thinks the Eagles are pretty good.
I ended up shaking Allen's hand, introducing myself as a reporter. Not necessarily the best place to formally meet Beau, but I'll take it.
Leaving the bathroom and hanging in the back bar area of the venue, I saw the proposed designs and layouts of Smith Playground, the park on 24th and Jackson that the concert is benefiting. It didn't hit me until then, despite talking to Barwin previously and researching a few things regarding the foundation, that this playground is where I had my football practices throughout grade school.
Not just mess around two-hand touch, but actual practices for St. Monica's CYO team. At 6'1", I'm about the same height I now that I was at 13. I was the Tra Thomas of CYO football. My earliest time playing organized football was on that field exactly a decade ago this August. The field was in pretty poor condition then, missing upstanding field goal posts, hashmarks, and the general feel of a football field, so I can only imagine how it looks now.
It's been in dire need of help and I'm so glad that Barwin and these other benefactors are seeing that the playground gets it.
While the talk of Chip Kelly's #culture can come off as contrite and even a little annoying at times, it feels like he's assembled a group of good football players who double as genuine good guys, enjoying their post-minicamp freedom while shooting the breeze with fans and helping out a cause that could help create the next great Philadelphian athletes.