By Spike Eskin
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – There is throwing snow balls at Santa Claus. There is booing Darren Daulton’s children. There’s the court at Veterans Stadium. And there is cheering Michael Irvin’s injury. Those are the go-to stories that people use when discussing the dark side of Philadelphia fans.
While being taken off the field in a stretcher, suffering a career-ending spinal cord injury, Eagles fans cheered. Almost 15 years later, Irvin said that he and Eagles fans have a mutual respect.
“I meet guys all the time, guys from Philly, and they say ‘man I hated you, but I love you now man. You’re passionate just like I am, I love that. I love seeing it on TV.’ So, you know, I have an appreciation for that,” Irvin told 94WIP’s Brian Haddad on Saturday. Irvin is now a an analyst for the NFL Network. “My affair with Philly has been very intense. Very, very intense. Strong emotions when I was with Dallas. You know when I came out there when I first retired, and we would come out to do a game, and the people in Philly would say ‘we hate you!’ and the veins in their neck.”
Irvin still remembers the injury, and the hospital visit that ended his Hall Of Fame career, and he says it was all meant to be.
“I do believe in the spiritual side of it all, how things work. It was perfectly ordained,” Irvin said. “When I was laid up, when I was taken off the field in Philly, it was on a stretcher. They rushed me to the hospital. Of course Jerry [Jones] rides with me to the hospital and I’m sitting, I’m paralyzed, can’t move, and the owner comes in the room, and he just, you could tell man, he’s in a place, his lips are shaking, very emotional. Jeff Lurie comes in and I wanted to free him, but also share truth with him. And I looked over and I said to him, I said ‘I’m good,’ you know, and I said “I understand your people, they’re very passionate, like I am, they were just saying ‘get him off the field, he’s been killing us for ten years!’ And I do believe that that’s what it was. And honestly, to have shared that night with him, and then get the words that I get fifteen years later from fans saying that exact thing, that’s why I say it was ordained.”
Even though Irvin’s career was cut short by a brutal injury, and there is a constant flow of news suggesting that brain injuries in the NFL are commonplace, Irvin says he’d never sue the league. He also doesn’t take the side of President Obama, or other players who question whether they’d allow their children to play the game.
“I’m a football player. Seeing my [sons] play football, oh my god,” Irvin said. “My wife said, when they had the concussion thing on [television], she said ‘I’d rather the boys play basketball.’ I said ‘ok baby,’ just not to have any more arguments. And you know, not to uh, after getting caught in the hotel room and messing up all the things I’ve done. I said ‘yeah baby, whatever you want.’ But she said it to Michael and Elijah, my sons, and they said ‘yeah mom, we like basketball, but we’re football players mom, that’s what we are.’ And man, you’re talking about, my heart smiled from one side under my arm to the other, a huge smile.”
“It’s the greatest game in the world,” he said.
Irvin said he cried when he was finally inducted into the Football Hall Of Fame in 2007, and didn’t want to take his induction blazer even after the ceremony ended, and then, even later than that. “When I finally got in, I wasn’t taking that jacket off,” Irvin said. “When I came in the room, she was like ‘what are you doing? You’re not getting into bed with that thing on like that.’ Oh yeah baby, yes I am.”