COMMENTARY | The Philadelphia Eagles have been on the decline for each of the past four seasons but they continue to be the talk of the town in Philadelphia. At a time when the city's hockey and basketball franchises each missed out on the postseason and the local baseball team struggles to find any positive consistency, the Eagles once again have shown they continue to be the top sports story in town.
Before writing this story I wanted to get a sense of the pulse of the Philadelphia sports fans. In a quick, basic poll conducted online, 60.94 percent of respondents said they believe Philadelphia is an Eagles town, with the other 39.06 percent suggesting it is a Phillies town. Those numbers were right about where I thought they would be. When mediocre regular season NFL football trumps postseason baseball in the TV ratings, the NFL clearly has the upper hand over Major League Baseball. The same holds true in Philadelphia.
The Philadelphia Phillies had a good run in town, taking the city by storm with a World Series run not so long ago and capturing a new generation of fans in the process, but the glory days of the Phillies appear to be fading rapidly. The timing could not have been worse for the Phillies, with the Eagles making a long awaited coaching change and rejuvenating interest in the football team. But was the interest in the Eagles ever really in decline? Perhaps it was more fatigue of the same story year in and year out that made it feel as though the Eagles were falling behind the Phillies, but the Eagles never truly became the city's second team.
"There is no question that Philadelphia is an Eagles town," Mike Missanelli, a sports radio host on 97.5 The Fanatic in Philadelphia, told me in an email exchange. "Though it has been a golden era of baseball here, and crowds have flocked to Citizens Bank Park, it's the Eagles who bring out the hard core passion in the Philly fan. Fans here live the Eagles, they merely visit the Phillies."
I attended the 2008 World Series parade after the Phillies ended the city's championship drought. To this day one quote from an anonymous fan sticks with me. As the city gathered on Halloween for a day-long celebration, I remember hearing one fan standing near me outside Citizens Bank Park asking his buddy, "Could you imagine if this was an Eagles parade?" He suggested the crowd would be doubled in size. That might be a bit of a reach, but it helps the point that Philadelphia is most certainly an Eagles town.
There we were, coming together as a city and fan base to pay tribute to the city's first major sports championship since 1983 and this fan is left wondering what it would be like if the Eagles were the team parading down Broad Street. As if it would be so different. Maybe it would. Who knows?
Those crowds flocking to Citizens Bank Park are also getting smaller as well. As noted by Philly.com , attendance has been down rather significantly this season as the Phillies struggle to play .500 baseball in the first couple of months of the season. While this apparent decline has been unfolding, the Eagles have seen new football coach Chip Kelly become crowd pleaser with his personality and honesty when discussing the team. The NFL draft raised some eyebrows with Kelly's first draft selections and mini-camp updates have people buzzing about the team as usual.
The NFL calendar helps set the Eagles up to be the talk of the town all year long. Even if the Eagles are not in the playoffs, sports radio phone lines will be jammed with fans wanting to rip the Eagles for not playing like one of the teams they just watched in a postseason game. The NFL Scouting Combine and NFL draft are set up strategically by the NFL to provide discussion following the Super Bowl, and it gives Eagles fans a chance to ask about and debate which college players their team should pursue. Free agency in the NFL is always a hot topic.
Kevin McGuire is a Philadelphia area sportswriter. Follow McGuire on Twitter.
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