Dawk's gone and it hurts

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Brian Dawkins' fiery spirit ignited the Eagles and won him an enduring place in Philly's heart.

Still angry? Still have a knot in the pit of your stomach that won't go away and hurts something terrible? Still wondering how you'll go on?

You're not alone. Brian Dawkins spent 13 years in Philadelphia. Relationships don't usually last that long around here. If they do, they generally sour. But we were sweet on him, almost all of us, until the very end.

And now he's gone. And now you're upset. That's natural. That's what happens when you watch a person you care about move off to Denver to shack up with someone else. It breaks your heart.

It's a shame. He was Philly's kind of guy - a human hammer who crushed countless nails for our amusement. His enthusiasm was infectious and equal to ours. Sometimes it seemed as if he was the only one who cared as much as the people who bought his jersey and wore it faithfully every Sunday.

A lot of athletes have come and gone, but few connected with the city the way Dawkins did. He understood Philly, understood our mood swings, understood that sometimes we show our love by showing our teeth. He didn't judge us for that. He accepted us. When Jimmy Rollins called the fans front-runners, it was Dawkins who defended Philly and explained that it's OK to be emotional because that's the way he is, too.

It's tough to say goodbye to someone like him. It's even tougher to imagine him wearing orange next season instead of midnight green. People are having a hard time processing it.

I heard someone on the radio say he was so mad he was going to give up his spot on the Eagles' season-ticket waiting list. And I received an e-mail from another fan who said he was "outraged" and wanted to "organize a boycott" of the organization because the Eagles failed to re-sign Dawkins. He wasn't sure what the boycott would entail or how to execute it, but he was desperate to wound the Birds because the front office had wounded him.

The sentiments weren't unique. Eagles fans everywhere were crushed by this.

"Brian is one of the best players in franchise history and one of the most popular players to ever play in the city of Philadelphia," Andy Reid said. "The Eagles organization, as well as the entire fan base, will miss him, not only as a player but as a tremendous person. This is the toughest part of my job, no question."

For the fans, it's personal. For the Birds, it's business. A tough one, as Reid admitted, but a business nevertheless. Dawkins was offered a crazy amount of money for a 35-year-old safety. He took it, and the Eagles let him. Frankly, it makes sense on both ends. That's the way it works in sports. Everyone looks out for himself, and nothing is going to change that.

Right now, that's hard to accept because it hurts. And it will continue to hurt until someone new comes along. Which is where the Eagles' business interests dovetail with the fans' despair. The Birds have to acquire a new safety to take over for Dawkins. They'll never find someone to replace him in Philly's heart. But they absolutely must find someone to replace him on the field.

If they do that, if they bring in a new safety that plays well, the city's sorrow will subside. If they don't, if the Eagles hire someone on the cheap or someone who struggles, then that sorrow will morph into something far nastier and negative. And rightly so.

It's a job for Reid and the Birds. That's fine. But they'd better do it well.

I've never been a huge fan of Spike's Pros Vs. Joes. But I give the producers credit for quality casting. The new season will include everyone's favorite unemployed Pro, Pacman Jones. (I wonder if they tried to spring Rae Carruth and get him involved, too.)

Jones was released from the Cowboys in January after ESPN reported that he had been tied to yet another shooting. Forget about his run-ins with the law. When Jerry Jones is willing to put up with Terrell Owens but not Pacman, you know the guy is bad news.

But Pacman remains convinced he'll play in the NFL again. To stay in shape, he'll tackle fat, slow, middle-aged men on a cable television program. Seems like a smart move. I'm sure he'll be back in football any day now.

In the interim, set your TiVo.

So long, Lito Sheppard. My tape recorder and notebook will miss you. . . . BetUs.com says the odds of Michael Vick's returning to the NFL are 1-3. The Raiders are the most likely to sign Vick at 3-1, followed by the Cowboys (4-1), and the Browns, 49ers, and Bengals (all at 5-1). I'll take the long shot and go with the Lions (10/1). Detroit has always been good at making bad decisions. . . . If you're free Saturday, Tony Paciente, a childhood friend, is holding a charity Beef and Beer at the Neumann College gym in Aston at 6:30 p.m. Tony's 2-year old son, Luca, was diagnosed with ependymoblastoma, a rare form of cancer. Tickets are $35 at the door, and will help pay for Luca's medical expenses. Checks can be sent to Luca Paciente in care of Donna Paciente, 42 Gallant Fox Drive, Media, Pa. 19063.

 


Contact columnist John Gonzalez at 215-854-2813 or gonzalez@phillynews.com.