Lurie And The Eagles’ Latest “Green Scheme”

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I typically try to avoid the topic of sports because I think there are others out there who can speak more knowledgeably on the subject than I can, but I have to chime in at this point concerning the professional football franchise in these parts.

It’s bad enough that the Philadelphia Eagles allowed three of their All-Pro players to walk away from the team (linemen Tra Thomas and Jon Runyan – the latter is unsigned at this point, though I’m quite sure he’ll end up somewhere, probably Washington based on their penchant to sign almost-used-up veteran players for too much money; even though Runyan’s best days are done, loyalty should count for something, however – and, worst of all, defensive back Brian Dawkins, the heart and soul of the defense).

It’s also bad enough that they signed Lorenzo Booker last year as sort of a “zig-zag” running back alternative to Brian Westbrook, the main “go to” offensive option and possibly the most beaten-down athlete on the planet, and then allowed Booker to disappear (and allowed their other main “straight ahead” runner Correll Buckhalter to go with Dawkins to Denver, apparently leaving only Tony Hunt as a viable option, with Hunt coming off a concussion from last year).

It’s also bad enough that they’ve signed offensive lineman Stacy Andrews from the Cincinnati Bungles as supposedly the solution to the offensive lines woes created by the departure of Thomas and Runyan, telling the fans that, hey, he’s the brother of fellow Eagles O lineman Shawn Andrews, so YOU KNOW that will be a good thing (perhaps, but the last time the Eagles signed a player who was a family member of another player, it was wide receiver Jabar Gaffney, the brother-in-law of cornerback Lito Sheppard, and the Eagles cut Gaffney before training camp was over a couple of years ago…and did I mention that Sheppard has left also, which is probably the least surprising move of all?).

(Oh, and I also forgot to mention that tight end L.J. Smith has packed his bags as well, probably the only one of theses moves where I think the team achieved a “net plus” with a player departure – looks like it’s Brent Celek’s job to lose at this point.)

And it’s also bad enough that the team trades down in the draft every single year so they don’t have to pay first-round-draft-pick money to someone in the second round or lower who inevitably underachieves for them (I’ll admit that wide receiver DeSean Jackson is a notable exception so far).

And given the fact that the Eagles reached the Super Bowl in 2005 but, aside from that, have won NOTHING for over 45 years, how can you feel anything but disgust over the fact that owner Jeffrey Lurie, as noted here, recently joined a club of billionaires while he pinches pennies, ensuring just enough productivity from his team to sell out his stadium for a minimum (and usually sometimes a limit) of eight home dates every fall?

Update 3/13/09: I forgot that they also made it to the Super Bowl in 1981, though they lost to the Oakland Raiders, just for the record.

Fed up yet? Well then, get a load of this recent post from Will Bunch (linking to John Gonzalez of the Inquirer) that tells you of Dan Leone, “one of the team’s many game-day stadium employees at Lincoln Financial Field. For longer than that – for his entire life – he’s been a fan of the franchise,” as Gonzalez tells us.

And Leone was hardly a typical fan…

Leone grew up in the shadow of Veterans Stadium in a red-brick rowhouse near 10th and Oregon. As a kid, he’d walk over to see his beloved Birds play. The trip was never easy. Leone has a neurological disorder called transverse myelitis. Because it causes muscle fatigue and limits the range of motion in his limbs, Leone was sometimes forced to use crutches as a child.

When he grew older and the Linc opened, Leone crossed his fingers and filled out an application. The Eagles hired him almost immediately. He was ecstatic. Leone called his friends and family and gushed about going to work for the team he’s always loved. He couldn’t have been happier if he’d been named the Eagles’ starting quarterback.

On game days, Leone served as the west gate chief. The gig required Leone to hustle to different areas of the stadium as needed. That was tough. His left leg is weaker than his right, and standing for too long gives him severe pain in his right knee and hip because that’s where he shifts all his weight. While on duty, he sometimes needed a wheelchair to get around.

“They had me running all over the place like a nut, but I didn’t care,” Leone said. “I was so proud to work for them. It was my dream.”

If you’ll note what I said above, I used the past tense to describe how Leone feels about the team, and it’s because…well, he was upset that Brian Dawkins was allowed to walk, so he vented on his Facebook page as follows: “Dan is [expletive] devastated about Dawkins signing with Denver. . .Dam Eagles R Retarted!!”

Well, of course it got back to the Eagles right away, and Leone found himself fired after a 10-minute phone call with Rachel Vitagliano, the team’s guest services manager.

Wow, all it took was to swear a relatively mild oath at the team (and misspelled at that, which is a minor point I know)…and a man’s career with his employer is over??!!

Can somebody please tell me when exactly we turned into the United States Socialist Republics? Apparently, I missed that memo (oh, and Bunch also tells us that the Eagles coerced radio station WIP into suspending on-air host Angelo Cataldi for two games for referring to the front office as “Nazis” – I’ll admit that I have a hard time working up sympathy for Cataldi, but yep, that’s ridiculous also).

If anyone reading this post, Bunch’s spot-on commentary or Gonzalez’ article happens to be an Eagles’ season ticket holder and they STILL decide to re-up with these ingrates, then I honestly don’t know what to say except that you’re as heartless as the team’s management.

“How can you say that? Besides, under the NFL’s blackmail blackout agreement, the games have to sell out or they won’t be televised locally! You wouldn’t want that to happen, would you?”

You wanna bet?

There aren’t enough hours in the day for me to vent properly on the matter of the hypocrisy of the oh-so-august National Football League; I’ll merely leave that alone and say that you’ll be much better off to spend some time with your family instead (or here’s a revolutionary thought – try reading a book!) and deprive Lurie of a bit of his riches (he hasn’t approached the status of former owners Norman Braman, to whom Lurie pales in comparison as a tightwad, or Leonard Tose, who almost moved the team to Phoenix to pay off gambling debts, but he may before he’s done).

So just imagine Lurie and his cronies taking a good, long look at a whole bunch of empty seats on Sunday, and think about the ad revenue lost by the league and his team, and realize that it’s the most appropriate payback the team’s front office deserves.

And then do all that you can to make that mental image a reality.

And if you find that you STILL need motivation, imagine Dan Leone trying to find a job.

Update 3/13/09: As noted here, Thomas said he “wanted to stay” – need I say more?

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