Next time you read that Eagles fans are an abrasive, callous bunch, or that Andy Reid is a dry, emotionless coach, remember August 9, 2012. Four days after Reid lost his oldest son Garrett, 29, to an eight-year battle with drug addiction, Eagles fans put their softer side on display.

The toughest moments in life often bring out the best in people, and that was the case during a stoppage in play in the preseason opener between the Eagles and Steelers at Lincoln Financial Field.

After the video board displayed a message from the Reid family thanking the Eagles, their fans, and the Philadelphia community for support during what must be the worst week of the Reids’ lives, fans rose to their feet and gave the humbled head coach a standing ovation.

They followed it up with a chant of, “Andy! Andy! Andy!”

It was a rare, poignant moment in which the top layer was stripped away by both sides. They shed their labels.

This week, Reid was vulnerable.

This week, Eagles fans were compassionate.

“That stuff is so humbling and I take that as a compliment to my son and my family,” Reid said. “That’s a humbling thing and I appreciate every bit of it. Listen, we feel the love and during these kinds of times, that’s important.”

After Reid showed more emotion publicly than he probably ever hoped he’d have to, Eagles fans demonstrated their respect and, dare I say, love for Reid.

Never has the City of Brotherly Love felt more aptly named.

The same fans who spent the better part of last season calling for Reid’s job and who often toe the line between attacking Reid’s professional work and taking pot shots at his waistline rallied around one of their own.

Last year, they chanted “Fire Andy! Fire Andy!”  Last night, their “Andy! Andy!” chants showed that deep down they respect the oft-embattled head coach, even though they’re frequently enraged by his in-game decisions.

It was as if they took on the role of a big brother, saying, “I can make fun of my little brother, but you better not say a word.”

Unfortunately, this time life did say its piece, hitting hard. All the fans could do was give Reid a figurative hug.

Earlier in the night, Garrett Reid was honored with a moment of silence before the national anthem.  Usually, at least one over-lubricated or disrespectful fan takes it upon himself to shout something banal during those moments.

Perhaps the press box insulated the noise, but I’d like to believe there was nothing to be heard until the moment ended and fans gave Reid a rousing cheer.

In a rare show of gratitude, Reid lifted his cap to the fans.  When the noise did not subside, he raised his hat again with a twirl, thanking the crowd for the support.

After the game, Reid deviated from his usual press conference routine.  Before listing the Eagles’ injuries, he again acknowledged the fans.

“First of all, I’d like to thank the fans for the support, I mean they were unbelievable tonight,” Reid said. “From me and my family, [they went] above and beyond – we do appreciate that.”

At some point this year, Reid will hear boos. Perhaps after a burned timeout or a poorly used challenge. But not right now.

It would be wrong to say the ever-tumultuous relationship between Reid and Eagles fans turned into a love story last night, but for at least one chapter, you could feel the love.

Ryan Messick covers the Eagles for 97.3 ESPN FM.  Follow him on Twitter.

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