Lew Hannah and Clarence Phillips were best friends.
Except during football season.
Hannah, from Vineland, was a huge Philadelphia Eagles fan. Phillips, who grew up in New York but lives in Bridgeton, roots for the Dallas Cowboys. The two spent many an autumn Sunday afternoon arguing about their favorite teams.
“That was always our biggest fight,” Phillips said with a laugh. “He loved the Eagles, and I’ve been a Cowboys fan all my life.”
Hannah and Phillips met 18 years ago, when both were working at the Woodbine Developmental Center. Over the years, they worked their way up through various positions to become behavior support technicians.
During football season, they usually would watch the Eagles and Cowboys games at one another’s house or at a nearby Buffalo Wild Wings.
“We always fought about our teams,” Phillips said. “My whole family and Lew was all about the Eagles. But we never let it affect our friendship. Lew wasn’t blood, but he was my brother.”
I never met Lew, but felt as if I knew him.
When the Eagles made a roster move, he frequently would ask my opinion on Twitter and/or Facebook and include his thoughts. During the season, he always tuned into my weekly Facebook Live chats to offer insights into the latest victory or defeat.
Hannah, a 2001 Vineland High School graduate, did not have Eagles season tickets but would attend a game or two each season and watch the others at home with friends or at sports bars. When the Eagles reached the Super Bowl two seasons ago, he watched the game at Dave & Buster’s in Philadelphia, then celebrated the 41-33 victory by attending the championship parade.
He was such an avid fan he told friends and family members that when he died, he wanted everyone to wear Eagles gear to his funeral.
The funeral was Friday.
Lew and a friend were on their way home from the Eagles’ preseason game against Tennessee on Aug. 8 when they were involved in a car accident. Hannah, 37, died a day later from internal injuries.
According to his obituary, he is survived by his 3-year-old son, Donovan Darius; companion Shikira Cozart-Wilson; parents Stanley Sr. and Cynthia; brothers Stanley Jr. and Jason; grandmother Essie Boose Hannah; and many other relatives and friends.
At his request, the mourners at Union Baptist Temple in Bridgeton wore midnight green. According to posts on his Facebook page, friend Quon Johnson wore his No. 17 Alshon Jeffery jersey. Cousin Reese Nouveau and her father donned Eagles shirts.
Upon learning of Lew’s passing, the Eagles sent a letter from owner Jeffrey Lurie offering their condolences and an autographed photo of Pro Bowl defensive tackle Fletcher Cox.
Phillips honored his friend’s wishes by wearing an Eagles shirt to the services.
But it covered his Emmitt Smith Cowboys jersey.
“Lew would understand,” Phillips said. “I’m just happy he got to see his Eagles win a Super Bowl.”
Even through the sorrow and tears, one more Eagles-Cowboys debate seemed fitting.
David Weinberg’s Extra Points column appears Wednesdays and Sundays in The Press.