How can you tell we are at the low point of the NFL offseason?
Because someone decides to bring up Santa Claus and the Philadelphia Eagles.
This time it’s Sports Illustrated and their incredibly insightful article titled “The Most Hated People, Places And Things In The NFL”. Along with the New England Patriots being named “Most Hated Team” and Washington Redskins owner Dan Snyder being named “Most Hated Owner” the Eagles, or more specifically their fans, won the honor of being named “Most Hated Fan Base”.
Raise your hand if this doesn’t surprise you in the least.
To the rest of the country, Eagles fans have long held a reputation of being a boorish, stupid, cheesesteak loving group that watched games in a stadium that included a jail and a judge. We cheer when opposing players get hurt and booed at the 1999 NFL Draft when the Eagles chose Donavan McNabb with the second overall pick.
And of course you can’t talk about Eagles fans without bringing up the tale of the late Frank Olivo. His story has become the stuff of Philadelphia legend as fans continue to tell the story of the day he was the victim of an unruly, upset fan base that decided to show their dissatisfaction with the franchise by hurling snowballs at Olivo when he went on the field dressed as Santa Claus.
Unlike most Eagles fans who are taken aback when something like this inevitably happens, I look at it as a point of pride and lament the fact that this fan base has lost something unidentifiable but very special during the Jeffrey Lurie Era of Eagles football.
In the days of the 700 level, back when it was the most feared place to watch an Eagles game and not a sports blog, teams were scared to play here. They were terrified of Veterans Stadium and a playing surface that could end your career if you didn’t know where to run. They were intimidated by a team that played hard, took no prisoners and would just as soon leave you on your back, bleeding, then help you up.
But most of all, opponents were scared of the fans.
Eagles fans screamed, threw things, fought, cheered, booed and were an embarrassment to the NFL. But they also gave the Eagles a home-field advantage that was tough to beat. There were few teams during that era that could muster that kind of passion from their supporters and have it on display at each an every game, win or lose. It was not a place any team wanted to have to come into and try to win.
Somewhere between Santa getting pummeled by snowballs and the dream teams and the now eco-friendly Lincoln Financial Field, we as a city and a fan base have lost something. We are still passionate, but it is a much more tempered passion that might be more respectable, but doesn’t put the fear of God into anyone anymore, and hasn’t for quite a while.
Sure, the “Eagles fans threw snowballs at Santa” story does get old and after 50 years you would think a publication like Sports Illustrated would have moved on. But I can’t help but look at Philadelphia having the “Most Hated Fan Base” and not have it put a smile on my face.
What I wouldn’t give to have those days back again.