Eagles-Phillies rivalry is a good thing for fans

Eagles general manager Howie Roseman and Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. have both made big moves this year. (File photos)
Eagles general manager Howie Roseman and Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. have both made big moves this year. (File photos)
Posted: August 15, 2011

Now that the dust has settled a bit on the Green Sox scandal, let's consider the whole thing from a different perspective.

Let's acknowledge that the Eagles don't love the Phillies, and the Phillies aren't all that fond of the Eagles, either. Take it from someone who has been a beat writer covering both teams and has been around both franchises as much as anybody: That has been the dynamic for nearly 20 years, since both teams sought escape from crumbling Veterans Stadium. The most recent public manifestation came with Joe Banner's comments in Sports Illustrated.

The ire of the professionally ired was raised when Banner compared the Eagles' recent free-agency splurge to the Boston Red Sox instead of the Phillies. In a summer of historically positive vibes in Philadelphia sports - the Phillies have the best record in baseball, the Eagles appear loaded for bear (and the Bears) - Banner provided red meat to the eagerly outraged.

OK, fine. Banner chose the Green Sox analogy over tossing roses and baby's breath to the Phillies, even though the Phillies better fit the point he was making. They won the World Series in 2008 and have been aggressively upgrading their team ever since. The professionally ired and easily outraged see Banner's slight as petty and a Very Bad Thing.

But is it? Maybe everyone is looking at this whole thing from the wrong angle. Maybe this friction between the Phillies and Eagles is the best thing that's happened to sports fans in this city since 1980, when the Sixers, Flyers, and Phillies reached the finals and the Eagles were on their way to Super Bowl XV.

The crucial moment in all of this came as both the Phillies and Eagles were moving out of the Vet. The Eagles were in that golden period when it seemed certain Andy Reid and Donovan McNabb would win a Super Bowl together. They reached their first two NFC championship games during the final two seasons at the Vet, and played the next two at Lincoln Financial Field.

To say this was an Eagles town at that point would be an understatement. They were the focus of most of the enthusiasm, passion, controversy, and criticism while the Phillies, a decade removed from their most recent postseason appearance, were struggling for a foothold.

They found it, and there's little doubt the Eagles' towering popularity was a motivating factor. Where a number of baseball teams settle for the fresh revenues provided by new ballparks, the Phillies seized their moment. As the Citizens Bank Park presses began printing millions of new dollars, the Phillies reinvested in their team.

The alternative was a return to irrelevance when the novelty of the new ballpark wore off. Ask the Pittsburgh Pirates, whose attendance in gorgeous PNC Park plummeted with the team's winning percentage. In a market dominated by the Steelers, who have accomplished more than the Eagles in the same time frame, the bar is very high.

So yes, the Eagles set the bar. And yes, the Phillies cleared that bar and raised it.

If you believe the animosity runs one way on Pattison Avenue from the NovaCare Complex to the Bank, consider the clubhouse celebration after the Phillies won the 2008 division series in Milwaukee. As champagne sprayed in celebration of the team's first postseason success in 15 years, one high-ranking member of the organization giddily shouted, "[Obscenity] the Eagles!"

The debate about Philadelphia being a Phillies town or an Eagles town is a waste of words. It is a great sports town, period. There is plenty of room for the gamut of pro and college sports.

But if the Phillies' rise in popularity, as measured by sellouts and merchandise sales and percentage of local media attention, has annoyed anyone over at NovaCare, and if that annoyance helped drive the Eagles' aggressive approach to this offseason, how is that a bad thing?

There is no doubt things with the Eagles are a little different. Reid and Banner seem looser. To a longtime observer, the feeling is that they tried for over a decade to do things a certain way. And that certain way was undeniably effective. It seems more incredible than ever that Reid took this team to five conference championship games without winning a Super Bowl.

So why not go for it in a slightly different way? The lockout helped provide a onetime opportunity to load up with free agents. Many of them chose the Eagles precisely because of the credibility Reid and the team established over the past decade. They want to win it all.

The Phillies already have and are ideally positioned to do so again. Maybe that makes more than the Eagles' Sox green. And maybe that little extra nudge is going to lead, finally, to a Lombardi Trophy.

Two parades in four months or two franchises living in mediocre harmony? Not a tough call.


Contact Phil Sheridan at 215-854-2844, psheridan@phillynews.com, or @Sheridanscribe on Twitter. Read his blog, "Philabuster," at go.philly.com/philabuster. Read his past columns at go.philly.com/philsheridan

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