Son returns to stadium of father’s last cheer

Father and son. Credit: Steve Kearney Jr.
Father and son. Credit: Steve Kearney Jr.

Steve Kearney and Steve Sr. had just left their seats in section 111, row 6, at Lincoln Financial Field with two minutes left in the Sept. 19 game against the Kansas City Chiefs and started to climb the steps.

As they reached the top, dad, 58, stopped.

“I just need a minute,” he said. He sucked on his inhaler. After a few more steps, he took another break. “I’m just going to run to the bathroom real quick.”

Three minutes later he emerged, and then immediately sat down on the concourse floor. “You have to get help,” he told his son.

In the bowels of the stadium, as EMTs began to remove his black Donovan McNabb sweatshirt, his eyes rolled back into his head and he went limp. His heart stopped.

“Holy s___,” Steve Jr., 31, said. “I’ve never seen anyone die before.”

A combination of CPR and electric shocks brought him back, but didn’t save his life. Doctors explained that Steve Sr.’s left lung, clipped after surgery to remove cancer, burdened his heart. He died two weeks later at Jefferson University Hospital. He was in a coma for all but the last four days.

On Sunday, Steve will attend his first game at the Linc since his father began his descent.

“Just driving by there one day, it took me right back to that night,” he said. “I’m going to probably replay it through my head, and do the exact route that we walked, do that walk myself.”

“I feel like I have to relive it to move past it,” he added. “But I don’t think I’ll ever get over it.”

He’ll bring a buddy, and meet one of his dad’s best friends, who sits nearby.

Steve Sr., a 1973 graduate of West Catholic High School, was born in Philly. So was Steve Jr., who now lives in Cinnaminson, N.J. Father and son have been going to games together since Steve Jr. was five.

“Our relationship was built on sports,” Steve Jr. said at his dad’s memorial service. “He coached me in youth sports. So many Phillies and Eagles games and wrestling events — that was just our thing. And it just so happens that at the end of his life, that’s where it all culminated.”

Steve Jr. has twin boys aged three. He said as they grow, they’ll sit in the same seats where Pop-pop saw his last game.

“They’ll be Eagles fans,” Steve Jr. said. “Can’t let them like the Cowboys.”

____________________

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