If you’re an Eagles fan, it’s hard to forget the first game you attended. The sights and sounds unfolding as you make your way to your seat are indelibly etched in your brain.
Derek Godwin has lived in Ocean City, Md., his entire life, raising a family while working as a foreman at the city’s Convention Center. Though he’s 51, life was always too busy for the lifelong Eagles fan to carve out enough time to see the Birds in person.
That will change in January, when he’ll finally have the opportunity to watch the Eagles play in person, against division rival Washington.
In a video shared on Twitter that has gone viral, the father of two got emotional when he realized a heartfelt tribute from his younger daughter, Dayona, included two tickets to the Eagles’ Week 17 game at Washington’s FedEx Field.
“Stop playing,” an emotional Derek said as he opened the ticket, which accompanied a touching Father’s Day letter Dayona also shared on Twitter.
The video certainly came at the perfect time for Philadelphia sports fans, a bit of happiness dropped amid the misery of the Sixers’ Game 7 loss to the Atlanta Hawks.
“It’s been amazing to see how many people were touched by the story, and just how we can all come together and rejoice,” Dayona said, surprised by the overwhelming reaction from fans across the Delaware Valley.
Dayona said she became an Eagles fan because of her father, a Birds acolyte who swallowed the frustration of every loss and cried after the team won its first Super Bowl. Growing up, his cousin rooted for the Dallas Cowboys, so she said her father started rooting for the Eagles to be part of the rivalry.
But Derek was equally committed to supporting her passion for basketball, which she played throughout high school and during college at the University of Maryland Eastern Shore.
The only problem was the start of basketball season occurred at the same time the Eagles were playing. So Derek chose to spend Sunday afternoons with his daughter on the court rather than in the stands watching football.
“He just prioritized me, along with my mom. They were committed to just being there supporting me doing everything I had to do,” Dayona said. “He put his wants to the side for me.”
Now that she’s graduated from college and her father is nearing retirement, Dayona thought spending an afternoon in the stands would be a fitting way to pay back all the support her father showed her over the years. She wanted to surprise him last year, but the pandemic robbed them of the opportunity to see a game in person.
So when the Eagles’ schedule was released last month, she and her mom quickly teamed up to snag a ticket for a game against Washington, which is closer to Derek’s home than Lincoln Financial Field. Dayona said a trip to Philadelphia might happen next year, if they can manage to find tickets.
“He’s just super excited. You’d think he was a little kid on Christmas just opening his presents,” Dayona said. “Making my dad happy is everything.”