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The Eagles' Sheldon Brown battling the Cowboys' Terrell Owens for the ball, has picked a fight with the front office, a fight he's likely to lose. As contract squabbles go, the fan loses, too.
The Eagles' Sheldon Brown battling the Cowboys' Terrell Owens for the ball, has picked a fight with the front office, a fight he's likely to lose. As contract squabbles go, the fan loses, too.
Posted: April 22, 2009

You lose. That's what this Sheldon Brown mess really means.

For a quick second, things were looking up. The Eagles made a big trade for Jason Peters, and the fans were optimistic for the most part. It was all so positive and sunny.

Then the clouds rolled in and covered the NovaCare Complex and things got very dark indeed. We should have known.

We've seen all this before. It's the same soul-crushing show as always - a strange, familiar drama with no protagonist to root for and no happy ending. Everyone in the production is a villain. Everyone yells at each other and points fingers. The audience pays top dollar to watch it. Then, in the end, the crowd goes home with empty wallets and splitting headaches, and no one in the cast cares.

If you like, you can take a side in the ongoing battle between Brown and the Eagles. You can decide that management is a bunch of no-good penny-pinching Stalinists who'd sooner lock their players in a grimy Siberian gulag than pay them. Or you can decide the player is a money-hungry troublemaker who has no right to complain and who should keep his mouth shut for once.

The choice is yours. But understand that you'd be picking between a millionaire and a billionaire, and neither of them thinks or worries about you even a little bit. A contract dustup between a player and a team is the sports equivalent of a gang war. That makes the rest of us innocent bystanders caught in the crossfire.

Brown is the 33d highest-paid corner in the league. That's not good. It might not even be fair. But he picked a fight when he sucker-punched the organization by openly complaining about his contract and demanding a trade. There was a better way to handle his situation.

The Eagles are just as culpable. Yes, these labor disagreements pop up all over the league, but the Birds front office has proved particularly inept at public and player relations over the years. Whether it's Lito Sheppard or Terrell Owens or Donovan McNabb or Jeremiah Trotter or Brian Dawkins or whomever, the Eagles seem to have just two strategies for handling insurrection and financial disagreements. They either stay quiet or do their best to stomp the malcontent into submission. In Brown's case, they appear to be going with the second option.

Now there's this terrible blood feud that doesn't look like it's going to end well. I suppose there's a chance both sides will calm down, make up and reach an equitable agreement. But I'm not counting on it, and you shouldn't, either.

At the moment, only two scenarios seem likely to unfold. In the first, the Eagles realize that Brown is going to be really unhappy if they keep him around, so they give him what he wants and ship him out of town. Since the Birds issued a statement that flipped their middle talon at Brown - the last line flat out said they won't consider trading him - I'm going to take their word for it and assume he's not going anywhere.

Which brings us to the second, more likely possibility: They give him the Lito treatment and tell him to suck it up. Maybe they punish Brown and let him collect dust or maybe they run him out there and make him play. Regardless of how often he's on the field, I can't imagine he'll be happy without a new contract.

If they trade him, the team probably gets worse. If they keep him, they'll be harboring a disgruntled employee with a giant yapper and a fondness for entertaining the media. Whatever happens now, it can't possibly help the Eagles win a championship, which is the only thing the fans care about. That doesn't mean the Birds can't or won't win a title next season. It just means this Brown business makes it harder.

That's what's so infuriating. Brown came along and started an unnecessary fire. But when the Eagles issued an incendiary statement that characterized Brown's behavior as "unfortunate" and "counterproductive," they chose not to put out that fire. Instead, they decided to create an inferno by dousing everything in kerosene and then stepping back to watch Philly burn.

At this point, it doesn't matter if Brown gets what he wants or if the Eagles make him submit to their will. It doesn't matter which side wins.

Either way, the fans lose.

Yesterday, the 76ers continued their weeklong (season-long?) please-pay-attention-to-us campaign by giving away an Acme shopping spree. A 76-second Acme shopping spree. Get it? Because it's a little subtle.

The lucky winner was Viola Young, a postal worker from Wynnefield.

I've seen other sprees on TV. The participants generally sprint around the store and crash into things, which is good fun to watch. But there wasn't much madness when the madness began. Young had a plan. She went right for the protein. (I would have cleaned out the Tastykakes, but that's just me.) She filled her cart to the top with chicken, turkey, shrimp, ribeye steak, sausage and beef tenderloin.

The bill came to an impressive $502.72.

I asked Young whether, in exchange for the team's generosity, she would attend Friday's home game against the Magic. She said probably not. What about watching it on television?

"Maybe," she replied.

Go Sixers. Catch the fever.

Contact columnist John Gonzalez at 215-854-2813 or  

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