Editor’s Note: Roxanne Jones, a founding editor of ESPN Magazine and former vice president at ESPN, has worked as a producer, reporter and editor at the New York Daily News and The Philadelphia Inquirer. Jones is co-author of “Say it Loud: An Illustrated History of the Black Athlete.” She talks politics, sports and culture weekly on Philadelphia’s Praise 107.9FM. The views expressed here are solely hers.
As children, no matter what our life situation, we believe in magic. We believe nothing is impossible. We might grow up to be a super hero like the Black Panther, or a spaceship captain, or even sprout wings and learn to fly like an eagle. But then we grow up, life happens, disappointments settle in and we start to doubt the magic.
I doubted the Philadelphia Eagles were good enough to beat the New England Patriots, 41-33, last night. And I am ashamed.
How could I have lost faith in the city that gave me life, the city where my son was born, where I learned to double Dutch jump rope, bought my first house, got my first big job? I mean, Philly is where I fell in love with boxing, pro football and Randall Cunningham, the former Eagles’ quarterback great. Cunningham was the first black quarterback I ever saw play the game. Talk about magic.
Lucky for me last night, watching the backup Eagles quarterback Nick Foles and his team of underdogs convincingly beat the five-time Super Bowl winner Tom Brady and his superstar squad, I learned to believe in magic again. And it sure feels good.
It was clear that the Eagles came to win. Pink set the tone by belting out a rendition of the National Anthem so beautiful that IT felt like the ghost of that sweet songbird, Whitney Houston, was in the house. When Whitney sang the anthem in 1991, it was a chillingly proud moment for the nation, especially black Americans like me who still dream of a “land of the free.”
And Pink’s version brought those same chills. It was enough to make me forget – for a moment – about the protests we’ve seen on the football field this past year over police brutality and injustice in America. Though I was secretly wishing that Pink, who has been a poster child for gender and racial equality throughout her career, would raise a fist in protest after her song. Still, I’m sure the diehard Eagles fan and Pennsylvania native was caught up in the magic herself.
The power and the beauty of sports has always been that it can lift us out of our complicated lives and take us to a happy place. A place where racism, sexism and football concussions never existed. And don’t we all need that, if only to give us the strength to fight another day?
By the time halftime rolled around with the Eagles up 22-12, not even Justin Timberlake’s underwhelming halftime act could offend me, not much anyway. He shamelessly tried to associate himself with Prince’s legacy during his halftime tribute, but thanks to a Twitter storm and backlash from the late singer’s friends and family, he dumped the idea of performing with a Prince hologram for the show and used a projected image instead. Smart move.
Timberlake is no Prince, but he definitely has talent. It’s just annoying that he seems to have made a habit of boosting his star quotient by attaching himself to famous faces, and leaving a trail of mostly women in tatters after he leaves – whether it’s Britney Spears (yes, my side-eye of Timberlake goes that far back) or Janet Jackson, whose career was tarnished while Justin’s star rose despite his role in the 2004 “Nipplegate,” when he tore off part of Janet’s costume and bared her breast during a Super Bowl halftime performance.
Get our free weekly newsletter
Timberlake’s Prince tribute just seemed wrong. Not only because it’s public knowledge Prince was no fan of Justin’s – in 2007, he reportedly dismissed Timberlake’s hit “SexyBack” – or, that Justin is on record mocking The Purple One – but it seemed just one more sign of Timberlake using another artist’s talents to inflate his own image. One more example of white male privilege in full force.
But we’ll save that conversation for another time. For today, let’s just keep believing in magic.
Philly’s in the house, y’all!