Before the Philadelphia Eagles Week 11 game against the New Orleans Saints, there was an impromptu retirement ceremony at HeadHouse Plaza at Lincoln Financial Field. Frank Emanuele, an original member of the Philadelphia Eagles Drumline, was handed the sticks one more time and performed. The familiar energy and rhythm filled the air as the Drumline drew their usual crowd of fans.
“It was totally spontaneous. I didn’t know I was going to play. They handed me a pair of sticks, and I was like ‘okay, time to go,” said Emanuele.
My pops had to retire from the #Eagles drum line this year. He was an original member, but after 10 years he needed hip surgery and just couldn’t do it anymore. This was the first time he watched them from this side of the drums. They let the old guy hold the stick 1 more time… https://t.co/UriG6LXCsD pic.twitter.com/6kNvSpkbKu
— EROCK (@EROCK_Eagles) November 22, 2021
Emanuele had hip surgery and after ten years of carrying around a 30-pound bass drum, simply couldn’t do it anymore. He retired from the Philadelphia Eagles Drumline but for Frank Emanuele and his family of passionate Eagles fans, the beat goes on. Like so many others, the Eagles are a part of the daily rhythm of lives and conversations for fans in Philadelphia and beyond.
A different path to becoming a fan
Emanuele’s path to becoming an Eagles fan isn’t as straight as a “go route.” Eric Emanuele, Frank’s son and Philadelphia Eagles social media super-fan recalls that while growing up, his father hated football season. Instead of his father teaching him to love the Eagles, it was his mother, Susan, and her side of the family who were the passionate Eagles fans who passed down their love of the Birds to Eric and his brothers.
“For years we tried everything we could to get him involved with the Sunday tradition. We couldn’t pull it off,” said Eric.
When the Eagles started forming a Drumline about eleven years ago, Eric called his father to tell him he should audition.
Frank started playing the snare drum when he was eight years old and played the snare all through his life in bagpipe bands. He auditioned at the Novacare Complex with about 200 others.
However, when he looked at the audition music for the snare drum, it was full of symbols he was not familiar with. He knew he could play the music, but he couldn’t pull off the stick flip theatrics. So, he decided to take a look at the bass drum music (despite never playing bass drum). He practiced and picked it up.
“For some reason they liked me and chose me,” said Frank.
“When he made the Drumline we were ecstatic because he was a part of Eagles Sundays. He had to be there,” commented Eric Emanuele. “Most fans live their whole lives and sit in the stands and maybe get to step foot on the field a few times. He fell in love with the team through playing on the Drumline.”
Bringing the Linc to life
The players, coaches and front office get the media attention. Howie, Jeffery, Nick, Fletcher, DeVonta, Jalen.
We are on a first-name basis with people we will (probably) never meet or stand in line next to at Wawa. They are the ones who put together the team on the field, they are the team on the field.
But so much more makes the team. The names used to be Donovan, T.O., B.Dawk. The names on the back of the jerseys change. Sometimes quite frequently.
But what about the security guard who high-fives you on the way into the Linc? The behind-the-scenes people who tune up the Rocky fight song, launch the fireworks, and make a Philadelphia Eagles game day an experience?
Behind the music
The Eagles 24-person Drumline practices once a week on Monday nights. In addition to game day they do side gigs ranging from Eagles charity events, perform at the Thanksgiving Day parade, and are available upon request (and for a fee) for parties.
For Eagles home games, Emanuele would arrive at the Linc “super early” and do mic check on the field with the Drumline while the stadium was empty.
Then, they perform at certain parking lots on different Sundays and work their way back to the Linc. At every Eagles home game, you’ll hear their sounds reverberating through HeadHouse Plaza and before the Star-Spangled Banner.
When not performing during the pregame or the first half, they are in the bowels of the stadium and in a green room where they can watch the game. Before the two-minute warning they do a quick show, then it’s all about finding a spot to watch the second half. Frank Emanuele returns to Sec. 225 to join Eric, and the rest of the family.
“I loved getting there early because you could see everything evolve and come alive,” said Frank Emanuele. “It’s kind of magical. It’s the dawn of the game. I can’t imagine what it’s like being a player and running on the field. For that small, little piece of me to be on the field was an honor and a privilege. It was a thrill. It was fun and that translates to your performance and helps the whole Drumline and energy. Every once in a while when they would win a game I would say, ‘hey I had something to do with that.’”
Super Bowl LII
As a member of the Eagles Drumline, Emanuel traveled with the team to London for games which was his first time ever outside of the country.
“A lot of doors were open because of the Eagles.”
But there is one memory that is in another stratosphere than the rest.
In the weeks leading up to the Eagles Super Bowl LII matchup against the New England Patriots, the Drumline performed on a number of shows as the region reached peak Eagles frenzy.
Emanuele and the Drumline joined the team in Minneapolis, but the rest of the family remained at home. However, they were all with Frank on the field at U.S. Bank Stadium on Feb. 4 2018. Gregory, Emanuele youngest son, passed away at 25 years old. His ashes were in Emanuele’s pocket and the whole family was in his heart.
“The family was all together,” said Eric. “We were there with pop.”
Frank pauses for a beat. He steadies his voice then it builds with more energy.
“That was the best week of my life. Going to the Super Bowl, coming back and being in the parade. I will never come down from that high. It was the absolute best,” said Frank Emanuele.
The Drumline joined the Super Bowl afterparty. “The place was going crazy..the happiness..the joy,” recalled Frank. Some celebrities made cameos and Frank would text Eric asking who certain people were he didn’t recognize.
“That’s Cardi B,” Eric remembered texting back while celebrating on Broad Street.
A few days later at the Super Bowl parade, the Drumline was perched on a flatbed.
Eric Emanuele was at the Eagles parade with thousands of Eagles fans and then…
“To the day I die I will never forget…when those buses came down there was my father in the Super Bowl parade. We locked eyes and he waved. There goes dad, there goes the Lombardi Trophy. Pinch me, I gotta be dreaming. This can’t possibly be real.”
“This is family”
Frank Emanuele and the rest of the Eagles Drumline got Super Bowl rings (not the diamond-encrusted ones the players received). It has his name on it and it sits front and center on the mantle of his home in Stockton, New Jersey. Now, on Eagles game days, Frank tailgates with the family and joins them for the whole game in Sec. 225.
Through his Twitter, Instagram and YouTube, Eric aims to bring the Eagles game day experience to Birds fans who might not be able to make it to the Linc. Of course, it doesn’t end after the final seconds tick off the clock. The Eagles tweets and memes go on all week.
“I’m fortunate to be there every Sunday and have been brought up this way. I meet up with so many Eagles fans on road trips and they are ravenous. My goal when I started out was to bring Eagles fans as close to the team as I know they want to be and bring them the authentic game day experience that I am fortunate enough to have.”
After bringing his father, the reluctant holdout, into Eagles nation, he’s the perfect person for the job.
“I just wanted him to be a part of it. He’s all in. Tradition is a big thing with us and so many families have been fortunate enough to find this common ground called Philadelphia Eagles football. We know where we are going to be on Sunday. This is family.”
All photos c/o Eric Emanuele