BIRDLAND: Declaring War On The Fans

BY JOE PAONE IGGLES CORRESPONDENT Yesterday, my dad and I headed out on an absolutely beautiful fall afternoon to watch the Eagles commit football against our most despised rival, the evil Dallas Cowboys. We even arrived earlier than usual just to enjoy the weather, sights and sounds.

We had no idea we were entering into some kind of sick, mean-spirited psychological experiment courtesy of the very team we’ve loved unconditionally for decades.

I’ll always remember yesterday as the day the Eagles organization turned on its own paying customers. And it’s going to take me a long time to forgive Eagles management for what went down.

This isn’t about bad football. Going in, that was largely assumed. Most of us expected the Eagles to blow chunks out there, and we weren’t proven wrong. There were so many new faces in my section (including the cock-a-roach Dallas fans who got the seats behind us and beside us) that a lot of people were just kinda gawking at their surroundings and not really emotionally invested in the game.

No, this is about an aggressive and cynical assault on our ears and our liberties.

I don’t know if Jeff Lurie has been boning up on CIA psychological warfare techniques or 1984 or what, but what transpired yesterday at the Linc was an absolute abomination. The very gameday experience—one thing the Eagles have consistently done right since their stadium opened for business—became, for want of a better word, torturous. My dad’s been a season-ticket holder since 1966, and I’ve never seen him so upset about things that had nothing to do with the game.

The first harbinger was the unusually large police/security presence at the Pattison Avenue SEPTA station. Well, it is the Dallas game, we thought.

When we entered the stadium, however, we were struck by a number of unusual things.
Dallas fans were walking around pretty much unscathed both physically and verbally, and there was absolutely no juice for the game. No “E-A-G-L-E-S”, no “Dallas sucks”, no “Tony Homo”… nothing of the sort. Not terribly surprising. Sign of the times in Birdland, really.

The unusually heavy security presence inside the stadium was definitely notable. We’re not talking about the civilian security people with the brightly-colored windbreakers. We’re not talking about Philly cops in their standard uniforms, a common sight at the yard. We’re talking about a whole bunch of guys in paramilitary gear, with their pants tucked into their boots. Enjoy the ballgame, fans!

Even that was understandable, if unnerving. 4:25 game, Dallas, we get it.

But what really shocked us was the ear-shattering assault of the PA system. At first, I thought it was meant to energize the Eagles players who were on the field warming up. Maybe they needed some extra-loud hip-hop jamz to get fired up for the game. Annoying, but hey, we figured we’d stand in the concourse and let it slide.

But it was just as assaultively loud there. And the PA remained that way for the entire game—except for when, in a delicious bit of irony, the whole PA system crapped out during the Eagles player introductions and even into the national anthem… on Veterans Day no less. My dad and I actually suspected that the PA system was so overloaded that it blew a fuse or something. But once it was restored, it was just as deafeningly loud as it was before.

If you weren’t there, you can’t really appreciate just how painfully loud the PA was. You’re talking to a guy who plays very loud rock music in small rooms without earplugs. I might be stupid, but I know “loud” intimately. The volume was so high that my dad and I couldn’t even have a conversation, and we were literally screaming at each other. Seriously. It was that loud.

One theory has it that the Eagles were trying to drown out boos and “Fire Andy”s during a nationally televised game. If so, they didn’t need to worry, because at this point we’re largely too disgusted and jaded and sad about this season to make a passionately huge stink. The garbage on the field speaks for itself.

My theory is that the Eagles were punishing the paying customers for our insolence and discontent. I know that sounds paranoid, but that’s the only logical explanation. Numerous people must have complained about the sound. Stadium workers must have told their supervisors about it. Yet nothing was done.

Reports today also say that fans were forced by security to take down “negative” signs and even remove the paper bags on their heads—the accepted universal sign that your team is terrible. Now, to be fair, the Eagles have never allowed signs in the Linc, but given the state of the franchise right now, it’s not a particularly endearing course of action to be so fascist about them. It’s rather tone-deaf actually. Kinda like the Phillies continuing to slap us in the face with Tom McCarthy night after night, year after year.

Well, guess what? The Eagles’ next home game is also a national telecast, this time on ESPN’s Monday Night Football. What will the fan response be? I’m actually angry enough to consider a fan boycott, but we all know those stunts never actually work. Regardless, one of two things will happen: nothing (because at this point who really cares anymore) or… something ugly. It won’t be a normal night at the ballpark, that’s for sure. I’m immensely not looking forward to it. But I’ll be there to witness any further atrocities.

We pay a lot of money to attend these games. For most of us, it’s a major financial commitment. During years like this, it’s more like a sacrifice. I’m extremely insulted that we, the paying customers, were treated like wretched criminals yesterday.

Oh… on a football-related note, Nick Foles looked pretty poised out there. Good for him. Let’s hope our craptastic O-line doesn’t get him killed next week.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Joe Paone has attended nearly every Eagles game with his dad since 1978 and he has the lasting psychological scars to prove it. He also runs a PR firm, plays rock music, and hunts New Yorkers for sport.