My dearest Northeast Philadelphia,
Please allow this letter to serve as an ode to you. Because, as I’ve learned in my 29 years of living and breathing, you can try to take the kid out of the Northeast, but you can’t take the Northeast out of the kid. Trust me, I know.
Growing up here, on Ashburner Street in Holmesburg (where my mom still lives), wasn’t always a smooth ride. In fact, as a redheaded only child who received his fair share of teasing during eight long years at St. Dominic, I honestly couldn’t wait to leave you. For the longest time, I viewed you as a place that didn’t recognize ambition, an entity that shunned those who dared to dream big outside of your walls.
Alas, my winding exodus took me to locales near and far, places I dreamed of but never truly believed were attainable. First came high school at Penn Charter, where the BMW’s and Mercedes Benz’s driven by my classmates were in stark contrast to my 1995 Dodge Neon with an odometer reading six figures. I felt out of place, sure, but I also sensed opportunity, one that could take me far away from your suffocating confines.
I got into all nine colleges I applied to (humble brag), and the next step of my journey took me to Hofstra University on Long Island, where I began my lifelong dream of studying to become a sports journalist. I was the sports editor of the campus newspaper for three years, and traveled up and down the East Coast broadcasting athletic events for our school’s radio station, WRHU. Ultimately, these experiences turned into a summer internship at USA Today between junior and senior years, a gig that included me covering the Heisman Trophy ceremony the year Tim Tebow won (perhaps you’ve heard of him, Eagles fans?). Surely, my chariot awaited, one that would take me far, far away from you to become the next great American sportswriter.
Then, a funny thing happened, even if it was anything but to me at the time. I graduated in 2008, the same time the recession hit like a Mike Tyson uppercut. That, paired with the fact that newspapers shifted their focus from print to digital platforms, left me adrift at sea without a lifejacket. I got chewed up and spit out by the same vehicle that was supposed to take me away from you.
Without a job or anywhere to turn, the only place to go was home. I moved back into my mother’s house, begrudgingly, while planning the next step. Sometime between working at Barnes & Noble and waiting tables at Torresdale-Frankford Country Club, the Northeast Times, my neighborhood publication, found me bobbing aimlessly in an ocean of failure. Even though all I ever wanted to do was go somewhere else, you and the Times threw me a raft when you just as easily could have let me drown. I wouldn’t have blamed you.
I started out as a freelancer for the Times in the fall of 2009, writing one sports story a week between then and February 2012 (save for a six-month period I spent living in Austin, Texas — don’t ask), when I took over as sports editor. What happened over these past three-and-a-half years has been something truly remarkable.
I don’t have the space here to list all of the various student-athletes, coaches, athletic directors and parents who helped turn this into the best first job anyone could have asked for, but let it be known right here that I appreciate each and every one of you. You let me on to your fields, into your schools and inside your homes to tell your stories. For that, I will be forever grateful. We truly had something special, and I won’t soon forget it.
I guess now’s the time I should state the true purpose of this column, before it gets misconstrued for an obituary or a bad break-up letter. Some of you who know me already know, but for those of you who don’t: this will be my last edition as sports editor of the Times. Getting closer to my 30th birthday has had me thinking about new challenges, and one came across my desk recently that I simply could not pass up.
So I will be moving on to work for Topps, the trading card conglomerate that is headquartered in Manhattan, New York City. The Concrete Jungle, where dreams are made … at least that’s what they tell me. While there will be some writing involved, this new position will be just that: lots of new. I will be mainly designing digital trading cards for Topps’ NFL mobile app called Huddle, where I will be met with many new challenges, none bigger than trying to design cards of Eagles players quickly enough before Chip Kelly trades them away.
I’m a writer at heart, all the way down to my soul, so even though I’ll be shelving it temporarily, I have no intentions of retiring from the game. Quite the opposite, actually. Maybe I’ll freelance for some big-name outlets in NYC; maybe I’ll start my own website; or maybe I’ll finally sit down and write a novel, which is something I’ve dreamed about since a cross-country road trip in 2009 showed me just how vast this world really is. Hopefully, you haven’t heard the last of the name Ed Morrone. Stay tuned.
But before I do go, I have to offer my sincerest of thanks to you, Northeast Philadelphia, and all of your wonderful denizens who took me in off the street and allowed me to start reconstructing a life for myself when I had nowhere else to go. There was a time I thought I was better than you, when really I needed to come home to be reminded that I am you. That fact will never change, nor should it. We may not always agree, but still, we take care of each other.
I start my new job on Aug. 10, but I’ll still be here, at least for now. I just moved into my dad’s house in East Torresdale, where I will commute — at least for now — to the Big Apple. Sorry New York, but you don’t get to have me all to yourself just yet. So if you see me out and about frequenting the many different Wawa’s our fine neighborhoods have to offer, be sure to say hi. If not, write me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org; I’d love to hear from you. All of you, because hey, we made some real magic together these last few years.
No matter where this new job takes me down the line, I realize now that you’ll always be home, even if it took me forever to ingest this fact. You gave me wonderful friends, the best parents a guy could ask for, a girlfriend I love and plan on marrying and, most of all, you provided both the stage and audience to remind myself there is no better job on this planet than telling a story.
I’ll miss you all and I’ll miss this newspaper, but as Maximus’ friend Juba said inside the Roman Coliseum at the end of Gladiator while paying tribute to his fallen comrade:
I will see you again, but not yet … not yet.
With sincerest love and gratitude,