I’m eating chips with French onion dip as I write this first column for Bleeding Green Nation.
I’m typing straight from Lititz, Pennsylvania, voted America’s coolest small town in 2013, the same year Chip Kelly first graced Philadelphia with his presence as Eagles head coach. Straight from my childhood home, to be more specific.
My name is Cody Benjamin.
And, believe it or not, I’m not your standard twenty-something who pretends to know things as he blogs from his parents’ home. Except, maybe, in this case.
Let me explain.
I grew up in South Central Pennsylvania with the Eagles. By sixth grade, I had learned how to defend Donovan McNabb far better than I had learned to master elementary math. By high school, I had begun to play reporter by turning a blog into press credentials for training camp. And by college graduation, I had written a book about how a certain football team from the City of Brotherly Love had influenced my life.
In 2016, Minnesota became my home. (Yes, I orchestrated the move to coincide precisely with Sam Bradford’s Midwestern voyage.) A full-time writing gig beckoned, as did the woman who is now my wife but only a half-committed Eagles fan.
Writing these words from the East Coast, then, you see, is a byproduct of a summer visit back home — old home. And it’s a visit back home in more ways than one.
The Eagles, as many of you surely understand, don’t just detach themselves from the fibers of your being if you relocate halfway across the country and resort to NFL Mobile, Sunday Ticket and 30-day streaming trials on game days. They followed me to Minnesota, where I’ve clung to Philadelphia colors in between factions of Cheeseheads and “Skol” yellers.
But coming back home, literally and figuratively, elevates the entire relationship. It rekindles the flame, if you will. It’s a reminder of all that fueled a devotion to the Eagles in the first place: The spine-chilling awe and boyish hope of a community united in passion for a team that just so happens to play nearby but dwells in a city that mirrors its grit.
No more than a few hours into my return home, I hauled some cardboard boxes out from under the bed in a room that once overflowed with Eagles decorations and at least still plays host to a 2004 NFC Championship poster. In one box, buried beneath a strewn pile of autographs, was a collection of “Eagles Insider” magazines.
The team publication went exclusively digital circa 2010 before fading into the Internet abyss. In its heyday, however? What a relic. One look at glossy covers that highlighted the highs (Asante Samuel), the forgotten highs (Kevin Curtis) and the lows (Stacy Andrews) of offseason headlines, or pillars of my Eagles upbringing like (another) McNabb rehabilitation, brought me back. Back to feeling like a kid.
In essence, that’s what this is all about. And when I say “this,” I mean a few things.
Firstly, I mean writing for Bleeding Green Nation.
It was one summer, probably right around the end of the Andy Reid era, when I, at least 6-foot-2, first encountered a fellow writer who was not only taller but way taller than me, and that man was Brandon Lee Gowton. He’s built something special here in a community that thrives off shared Eagles passion, and eight years after I first dabbled in that community as “kingmcnabb5,” I’m thankful Mr. BLG himself has afforded me another opportunity to ensure my blood runs green.
You can catch me writing over at CBS Sports and tweeting @CodyJBenjamin. But here, I’ll be privileged to contribute to the conversation, so long as BGN can fathom a young Minnesotan representing its kind.
More than anything, though, “this” is also about this next season of Eagles football.
Times change. Coaches, players, memories and even “Eagles Insiders” come and go. So do the seasons of football and, of course, the seasons of life. (It just got deep.) But there’s always something special about coming home. About feeling like a kid again.
Brandon and the guys have already outlined plenty of reasons to get excited about the 2017 Birds. For me, the on- and off-field promise of Carson Wentz is enough reason to tune in. Throw in receiving talent that should downright disorient us after years of lowered standards, plus the annual NFC East dysfunction that makes a division title seem far less out of reach, and you can see we’re all justified in tossing out at least one, “This is our year.”
Then again, maybe all the nostalgia has something to do with it, too.
The feeling of talking Eagles, straight from Lititz, Pennsylvania, with some chips and French onion dip on the side.