Eagles fan celebrates championship by remembering his brother

By John Williams
March 1, 2018

Dan Haney was a true Eagles fanatic. Graphic by Hope Daluisio.

The hour and a half before kickoff of Super Bowl LII were the longest moments of Joe Haney Jr.’s life.

Memories of the Philadelphia Eagles’ 2005 defeat kept rotating in his head like the wheels on a car going 70 miles per hour. But all of a sudden, he felt some confidence in the team he had rooted for as long as he could remember.

Once Nick Foles caught a touchdown pass from tight end Trey Burton on what is now called the “Philly Special” play, Joe began to realize fate was on Philadelphia’s side.

Danny (left) and Joe (right) Haney are ready to watch an Eagles game on TV a few years back. Photo submitted by Joe Haney.

At halftime, after sensing how special the next two hours could be, Joe ran out to his silver Kia Optima so he could grab something that was extremely important to him: the urn with his brother Danny’s ashes.

Dan Haney struggled with drug addiction and was in and out of rehab for much of his adult life. In the summer of 2017, Dan was set to take a plane from Florida to be set up in a house in Philadelphia when he died of a heroin overdose.

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, the number of drug overdose deaths involving heroin have gone up exponentially over the past few years.

Back in 2015, there were about 13,000 deaths involving heroin overdose in the United States. Those numbers jumped up in 28 different states in 2016, with some states like Florida, Pennsylvania, Delaware and New Jersey increasing by over 40 percent. Maryland saw the greatest impact in heroin-related deaths in 2016, as their total rose nearly 59 percent from 2015-2016. According to the Center for Disease Control, heroin use has more than doubled over the past decade amongst young adults in the 18-25 age group.  

In August 2017, a Pew Research survey noted that 46 percent of American adults have or had a family member or close friend who has been addicted to drugs.

Joe Haney (left) and Danny  Haney (right) were very close when they were little. Photo submitted by Joe Haney.

“My brother and I grew up very close. We were only 10 months apart, so we shared pretty much everything from our room to our gaming console to our friends” Joe said.

Even though they would constantly bicker and get into fights, they always knew they had each others’ back.

As the two brothers got older, their relationship got a bit trickier. As they got into their teens, they began to butt heads even more to the point where the only thing they could speak of civilly was sports.

“He was just as much of a diehard Birds fan as anyone I knew,” Joe said.

As they got older they saw each other less and less, but every time they would interact going forward the Eagles and Phillies came up in conversation.

“It was really the last thing I can remember sharing with him.”

So when the second half of the Super Bowl was about to begin, Joe knew that Danny needed to be there to witness his Birds in the big game.

Joe watched the rest of the game with his older brother Bobby to the right of him and Danny’s urn to the left of him on the table.

The Eagles were up eight points with a few seconds remaining on the clock. Tom Brady hiked the ball and pegged a pass in the direction of tight end Rob Gronkowski. It felt as though time stopped as the ball spiraled through the air. Once the ball dropped to the ground after a swarm of Eagles defenders stopped Gronkowski in his tracks, it was a moment of euphoria for the Haney brothers and their friends.

“The last Patriots drive, we were all standing and Bobby came over to stand next to me and Danny,” Joe said. “When the ball dropped and they called the game, every single person in that house erupted. There were more hugs and tears than I could ever remember.”

Joe and Bobby called their father immediately after the game.

“I haven’t heard him that happy since before Danny passed,” Joe said.

The Eagles had won their first-ever Super Bowl title and were champions of the world. It was a feeling that the fan base had never felt before. Because of this, Joe felt a little bit of guilt creep in after the big win.

“I just didn’t think it was fair that we got to see it and so many people never did,” Joe said. “My brother and my Poppop, just to name a couple. I am not a rather religious person, but I do feel that somehow they know that this win was for them every bit as much as it was for us.”

When the city of Philadelphia announced the day of the championship parade, Feb. 8, Joe knew that his younger brother needed to be there with him.

“I have carried his ashes with me since the day I received the urn,” Joe said. “I keep it in my car at all times just so I know it is always close.”

“I always knew that they would be with me if I was able to go to the parade.”

Joe and his friends got to Philadelphia on Wednesday night so they could get into the city as easily as possible on Thursday morning. They started heading over to Broad from 19th and Chestnut at around 10 a.m. and the crowds looked like a sea of green and white. The atmosphere was tremendous.

“I didn’t know what to expect,” Joe said. “[Once we got there] you could sense something was different than your normal event, though. Every single person in the crowd was just happy. We were all a big happy family coming to celebrate the single most amazing season in Philadelphia sports history and not a single thing I can think of could compare to it— it blew me away.”

Another thing that blew him away was the speech made by Eagles center Jason Kelce.

“Not until I heard it did I think there was a player on that team that completely embodied the Philadelphia fan,” Joe said.

Joe is also looking into that Mummers outfit for next Halloween, for what it’s worth.

It was a perfect day for Joe and it was only made better by the fact that Danny was by his side the whole time.

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John Williams

John is a Sophomore Digitial Communications and Social Media Major at Cabrini College. He is an aspiring sports writer, who also is an editor for BlueLineStation.com. You can catch John's radio show "The Whole 10 Yards" on Fridays from 12-2 on Cavalier Radio, 89.1 WYBF-FM, or online at WYBF.com

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