In the world of sports cliches, “It’s a business” beats out “He’s a great guy in the community” every time. And thus, Connor Barwin is no longer a Philadelphia Eagle.
That’s a big bummer because Barwin, the Eagles defensive end who was cut on Thursday to save $7.75 million in salary cap space, really was a great guy in the community.
In Barwin’s case, that meant the music community and the city as a whole. The Detroit native put his money where his mouth was, leveraging his sports celebrity, unabashed indie music geek enthusiasm in doing good for parks and recreation centers and the children they benefit around town.
The most tangible annual event demonstrating that for the past three years has been an annual spring show Union Transfer to benefit Barwin’s Make The World Better Foundation, which is focused on rebuilding playgrounds and rec centers around town.
Barwin’s buddy Kurt Vile headlined the first one in 2014, and last year’s featured local luminaries Waxahatchee, Hop Along, and Amos Lee. The MTWB benefits are noteworthy, as Union Transfer booker Sean Agnew told me last year because they’re “not a party in his honor. [Usually celebrity benefits] end up being a costly party for a select group of people where almost all of the money goes to pay for their event. . . . Connor wanted to do these shows where 100 percent went to the cause.”
Among musicians and promoters in the music scene — and city officials like Parks & Rec head Kathryn Ott Lovell, Barwin has a reputation as a detail oriented wonk who shows up for meeting and takes note, rather than just poses for photo opps. His events raise money — close to $200,000 at last year’s MTWB show — and then he matches it with his own.
“The guy is the real deal,” Lovell said last spring. He bleeds green on and off the field.”
On a Thursday morning “Thank You Philly” Instagram post, Barwin said “I hope to see many of you at this our concert this year,” confirming that the MTWB benefit show will go on, in 2017 at least. (Acts have not yet been announced.)
Thank you Philadelphia from the bottom of my heart for welcoming me and for being the amazing city you are. Laura and I want to thank Jeffrey Lurie, the entire Eagles organization, and all the fans for their support. It has been an honor and a privilege to play for this historic franchise. The Make The World Better Foundation, will continue it's work to revitalize parks in the city. Our current projects at Smith Playground and Waterloo Playground are moving forward and very exciting. I hope to see many of you at our concert this year. I have learned from and cherish every experience I have had in the great city of Philadelphia and every snap I played as an Eagle. From the Lurie's, to my coaches, teammates, mtwb partners, and fellow septa riders thank you! Go Philly, Go Eagles . . . hope to see you in the playoffs!
A post shared by Connor Barwin (@connorbarwin98) on
That’s good, and one hopes they still happen after Barwin is gone. It’s a drag that Barwin will no longer be around for the duration of the football season, though. In a sports town obsessed particularly with the Eagles, with a burgeoning music scene that’s producing more first-rate indie bands than ever, Barwin has been a unique figure that links the two worlds.
He’s the 6'4", broad-shouldered dude you’d see at the Courtney Barnett show at the Electric Factory or Sturgill Simpson concert at the Electric Factory, who’d be happy to talk music with anybody who approached him, who couldn't believe they were actually talking to an Eagle. And, he would do his best to move out of the way so he wouldn’t block your view.
"People love, and are passionate about sports,” he told me one day after practice last spring, while wearing a JAWN hoodie. “And people love, and are passionate about, music. And that's me. That's who I am. And it's a lot of people. The more I get immersed in the Philadelphia music scene, the more people I meet who are die-hard Eagles fans. To me, this is a way to unite music and sports and allow them to work together to make a difference."
He’ll be missed.
What’s Connor Barwin listening too? Here’s a Spotify playlist
In 2016, we asked Connor Barwin to submit 10 songs for a Spotify playlist of his current favorite jams.
One — Beyoncé's Jack White collaboration "Don't Hurt Yourself" from Lemonade — is not on Spotify, so he was allowed to add a substitute, Andrew Bird's "Capsized." Barwin listed the tunes in no particular order, so feel free to hit the shuffle button. Sorry, "Fly Like An Eagle" is not included.
- Sturgill Simpson, "Call to Arms"
- Kurt Vile, "Dust Bunnies"
- Son Little, "The River"
- Hop Along, "Waitress"
- Waxahatchee, "Air"
- Andrew Bird, "Capsized"
- French Montana featuring Kanye West and Nas, "Figure It Out"
- Robert Ellis, "Maybe I'll Move to California"
- Karl Blau, "Fallin' Rain"
- Bishop Briggs, "River"
- Car Seat Headrest, "Drunk Drivers/Killer Whales"
- Madisen Ward and the Mama Bear, "Silent Movies"
- Amos Lee, "Chill in the Air"
- The War on Drugs, "Red Eyes"
- Grimes, "California"