Philadelphia Inquirer // “To save their team, Eagles fans need to save their green”

On 12/9/12, I published my first op-ed piece in the Philadelphia Inquirer.

Now that our beloved Eagles have been eliminated from the playoffs yet again, team owner Jeffrey Lurie has some decisions to make. Has Nick Foles demonstrated that he is a franchise quarterback? Who will be the next head coach?

We long-suffering fans have some difficult choices too.

Like so many Philadelphians, I grew up in an Eagles household. My father used to attend games at Franklin Field. He swears he was there when the fans booed Santa Claus, and he swears that Santa deserved it. I used to see games at the Vet as a kid, and loved the view from the much-maligned 700 Level. My prized possession is an autographed poster I received for my fifth birthday from Bill Bergey.

Lurie was born in Boston. He earned a master’s at Boston University, and his Ph.D. dissertation at nearby Brandeis was about Hollywood movies. His family had season tickets for the New England Patriots since the team’s inception in 1960. He was a devoted Pats fan.

The word carpetbagger, which originated in the 19th century, was used by Southerners to describe wealthy Northerners who exploited the depressed economic circumstances that followed the Civil War. Today, we apply the term to outsiders – developers, team owners – who move to an area like locusts to fill their bellies at the expense of the suffering locals.

In 1994, Lurie and his mother borrowed $190 million from the Bank of Boston and bought the Eagles from Norman Braman. As of last year, according to Forbes, the team is worth in excess of $1.6 billion. Give him credit – he made a tremendous investment. Now, I want us Eagles fans to be equally smart in our investments.

How much of that $1.6 billion came from me in the form of ticket sales, jerseys, parking fees, $5 beers? How much have you spent on Eagles merchandise in the past decade? A hundred bucks? A thousand? More?

It was totally worth it when we had that victory parade down Broad Street, right? Oh, wait. That never happened.

The Eagles have only been in one Super Bowl during Lurie’s tenure, and they lost Super Bowl XXXIX to those same Patriots Lurie grew up rooting for. Many of us associate that game with Patriots coach Bill Belichick’s cheating and Donovan McNabb apparently losing his Chunky Soup on the field.

After watching the Eagles’ sickening loss to Dallas Sunday, I sympathize with McNabb.

A significant amount of Lurie’s income derives from those merchandise investments that fans have made. From the Jeff Garcia T-shirt folded up, like this season, in a drawer, to Eagles bath mat sets ($29.99) to Eagles 14-inch nutcrackers ($39.99) to the jerseys that are required attire every Sunday ($39.99 to $249.99).

I have a number of those jerseys: Trotter, McNabb and, yes, Kafka, the quarterback who was cut so Nick Foles could play. I own a ton of winter hats, baseball caps, T-shirts, a raincoat, you name it.

But no more. I refuse to give Lurie any more of my money.

Don’t get me wrong. I love my team and always will. But I can live without an Eagles car mustache ($19.99).

If we want a better Eagles product on the field, we need to vote with our wallets. Nothing will change until those of us who bleed green refuse to support a carpetbagging billionaire Patriots fan. Stop buying Eagles merchandise until Lurie makes a serious commitment to improve the team and win the Super Bowl. Only then will we get the Hollywood ending he has promised us.