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Linc’d for Life: a Tribute to John Thomas Casper

1 June 2021 Uncategorized

Ever since I can remember, there have been two constants in my life. Being a diehard Eagles fan and my best friend, John Thomas Casper. Luckily, our dads are both diehards as well and we were lucky enough to be tasked to carry the torch for the next generation of Eagles fans.

I am truly blessed to say that some of the best moments in my life came as a result of these two constants and more often than not, my favorite memories were a combination of the two.

Unfortunately, the Eagles have sent me into a deep state of sadness and confusion more often than not. If you’re a diehard you get it. You just want to wash the loss away and get to the next game.

Now, all I want to wash away is the loss of John, because without him, not only will being an Eagles fan never be the same, life will never be the same.

Our story started on Parham Road in Springfield, Delco. 340 Parham and 240 Parham to be exact. Ed Casper and Ed Mallee were diehard Eagles fans who spent their free time teaching their children how to bleed green. My dad worked at the Vet and had season tickets. Mr. Casper had his season tickets and enjoyed so many games with his son, John. Christopher John Mallee and John Thomas Casper were destined to be great friends.

Whether John and I were at school, with our youth sports teams, or just out with friends, we were side by side and had a bond nobody could break. Grade by grade, we were at the same school, and were college roommates our senior year at West Chester University both pursuing a career in teaching. He was always in the stands at my football games cheering me on. He loved his music and he truly had a gift. I would be his hype man and always give him feedback. JT Casper was always sharing his stories through music and I know people will keep listening.

I’ll always remember the day I asked him if he wanted to be roommates for senior year. I told him that the Eagles were going to win the Super Bowl and that we had to experience the journey together. Without hesitation, he was on board and the best year of my life had commenced.

The Underdogs

Going into my senior year, I had a lot going on back home. My family had lost our home and for a month, I was sleeping on a mattress on my uncles floor. John was one of the few people who knew because I was embarrassed and I knew he never judged me. We both had our struggles in life and were always there for each other. I was just grateful to have a roof over my head but even more blessed to have a friend like John. I told him that I was more motivated than ever and that we both had so much to prove and would always have each others backs.

We were each others biggest fans and supporters.

As I decorated my side of the room with Philly sports memorabilia and my insane amount of stuff I always thought was necessary to survive, John came trucking up the stairs with a poster in his hands. He looked at the 12 posters I put up, made a face then unrolls a Family Guy poster with Peter Griffin and a chicken promoting a fight. Proudly he taped it to his wall above his bed. His entire side of his room was a blank white wall and just that lone poster. Every time our friends came over, sarcastically they’d say, “I wonder whose side is whose?!”

John and I were opposites in so many ways, but we were inseparable. Even though we were the same age, I always treated him like my little brother. The dude would ask to borrow my hats and cologne, but more importantly, he’d always say he looked up to me and appreciated me setting a good example. I just hope he knows how proud of him I was and still am.

Before I had any idea that life would take me down the path it has, John loved to go to me when it came to talking sports. He’d ask me all kinds of random questions about Eagles, their opponents, and we’d always make our own ranking lists. He always told people that I was the sports guy. Most people wanted me to shut up during the Eagles games as I analyzed each play, but he loved hearing my perspective of the game.

As the Eagles kept rolling in 2017, he started to believe my vision more and more. There was just something about that team and I truly believed they’d be the team to break the curse. John and I have watched the disappointment in our fathers faces every season, so we knew we were spoiled in our lifetime as Eagles fans and were just making the most out the magical season.

We watched every game together. We’d always call our dad’s after games and say, “this is the year.” Unfortunately, where we’re from, things only go well for so long. You’d think the Wentz injury was the worst thing at the time, but our two close friends passed just weeks apart. At that point, Nick and Sean were the fifth and sixth friends I had lost since graduating high school just 3 years ago.

I always told John that I worked so hard because it was the only way I knew how to honor our friends and let them live their dreams through me. Just always wanting to make them proud and keep their memories alive. We said that the Eagles were definitely winning now and it was destiny so we all got to celebrate our team and honor our friends.

One of my favorite nights ever was the NFC Championship game against the Vikings. All day, we just were excited and going nuts. We saw the Vikings fans doing their chants in Philly and said they’d regret it soon. And oh boy did they. After the Patrick Robinson pick-6, I was just waiting for the cops to show up at our house for disturbing the peace and being too loud. Music was blasting all the way down Church Street.

As the clock hit zero, we all ran outside. I had my 2004 NFC Championship flag in my hand and was sprinting up and down the street. John was in his Jerome Brown jersey speechless and just jumping up and down as our friend Matt was running around with a football and recreating plays from tonight’s game.

Two weeks later, the Eagles finally sealed the deal and brought the Lombardi back to Philadelphia. For a solid month, nothing else mattered then being with John, our friends, and my family. I’ll never forget wearing my Eagles gear Monday thru Sunday and just having the time of our lives. I am so thankful for that time in my life.

However, in this life for every high, the lows hit more often and harder.

Back to Reality

Even after college, John and I remained extremely close and talked everyday. Anytime one of our sports teams was playing, we’d either be at the game or doing our play by plays. We did fantasy football together and were on the same softball team with our friends (shoutout to the Barnaby Bullies). I remember when we first made our softball team. We had just lost another one of our friends and thought that this league would help bring us all together and give our friends a reason to be more responsible.

John loved that team and being apart of something with our close group of friends. All he did was text me about how to get better and how much fun he was having and saying it was like old times because him and I have been playing ball together since we could hold a bat. I just loved seeing him just genuinely enjoying life and being with our friends.

Unfortunately, life happens and schedules change, and John grew further apart from the team. I always made sure to update him on the team, and how all our friends were doing. He just loved being there for you and was always genuinely happy for your success. He always made sure to text you on holiday’s, your family members birthday’s, and be there for your birthday. I can’t remember a birthday when he wasn’t there to give me a hug and dap me up.

During the draft, I am usually so busy and he knew that. But as usual, he would always share my content and tell his family and students about players I hyped up. We’d talk everyday about what the Eagles needed to do to get back on top. Just a month ago we grabbed breakfast and laid our Eagles draft plans out. I dropped him off after and his dad came out and of course we had to talk about the draft. Just a few weeks ago, we grabbed cheeseburgers and I spent about 30 minutes explaining why the Sixers were going to win the finals. Even when we disagreed he’d say, “I don’t know man, but you know more than me so I’ll trust you.”

Last Tuesday, I told John that I got my dream job and he was so excited and said he knew I would be great. I am so thankful I got to tell him the news and got his vote of confidence. We were busy that day and couldn’t meet up for lunch but knew we’d talk Wednesday during the Sixers game so we said our goodbyes. We both did not know that was the last time we’d ever speak.

All day Wednesday, I was wondering why he never got back to me but I knew he couldn’t use his phone when he was teaching. The worry didn’t set in until after the Sixers game and he didn’t respond once. For years, we talked every game so something didn’t feel right. You never want to think the worse, but I knew I wouldn’t sleep if I didn’t find out what was going on.

The nightmare was real and my best friend was gone…

In that moment, I couldn’t make sense of anything anymore. Eight of my close friends were all gone from my life before the age of 26. They were good people, the best people. It just didn’t make sense. But that’s just it, it’s not supposed to make sense, but that’s reality. I knew life would never be the same but I had to keep going and make my boy proud.

Forward, Always Forward

Hills and valleys.

That’s what I always told him when things weren’t going well. Always have a positive attitude and not to react to anything negatively. We would argue about things but he knew my heart was in the right place and that I was just looking out. I hope he knows how proud of him I am for waking up and facing life’s battles everyday and always being the light in the room for everybody he met.

I remember how excited he was to come to his first 4th and Jawn tailgate. He just loved how friendly everyone was and how we had created a great atmosphere for everyone to meet and cheer on our squad together. He always told me how he just knew I’d end up doing something related to the Eagles. It’s going to be difficult watching games and being in the Linc without my guy. No one understood my fandom more than him and no one believed in my vision more.

So if you are reading this, please, please reach out to your people. Any argument, big or small, is not more important in the larger scope of the situation. If you are struggling in life, just know that you matter, your problems matter, and that there is always someone there for you. The bravest thing you can do is take the first step and then just keep moving closer to the best days of your life.

Life is so beautiful. Even in the struggle, you can find beauty. You can find growth. You can find the best version of yourself. Just stack positives and it will keep the negativity to the side.

Day by day people. Let’s come together and put a stop to this. We have to stop spreading hate and negativity in this world. A world where we all look out for each other, because life is hard, but it gets a lot easier when you work together. That’s the type of world I want to live in, because without John, there’s a whole lot less things to smile and laugh at. I’m just grateful for the time and memories we have created. Life will never be the same without him, but his legacy will live on through me.

John, I will be cheering twice as loud at games, running twice as fast around those bases (maybe 1.5 times because you were slow as dirt), and loving our people twice as much because you were all heart, I am going to miss you but just know I’m going to keep making you proud. Until we meet again. As Always, Fly Eagles Fly!