NFL's Super Bowl decision not a good sign for Eagles

A Maryland man who was arrested by Philadelphia police trying to eject several people from Lincoln Financial Field before the 2011 Eagles home opener was awarded $75,000 in damages Tuesday by a Philadelphia jury. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez/File)
A Maryland man who was arrested by Philadelphia police trying to eject several people from Lincoln Financial Field before the 2011 Eagles home opener was awarded $75,000 in damages Tuesday by a Philadelphia jury. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez/File)
Posted: May 24, 2014

The NFL announced on Tuesday that Minneapolis and the Minnesota Vikings' as-yet-unfinished football stadium would host Super Bowl LII in 2018, and this created two potential problems, one of which affects the Eagles.

The first problem is that, with hundreds of thousands of people flocking to town for the game, the likelihood that someone's left ear will freeze, fall off, and be lost forever in a snow bank has increased far beyond what is customary for Minneapolis in late January and early February. The second problem is the one that concerns the Eagles and more specifically their owner, Jeffrey Lurie.

Lurie and the people who work for him have made it quite clear over the last year that they're eager to have Lincoln Financial Field serve as the site, and Philadelphia as the host city, for a Super Bowl. Just days before MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J., hosted the first outdoor, cold-weather Super Bowl, Eagles team president Don Smolenski reaffirmed what Lurie had said during the NFL owners' meetings in July: that the Eagles planned to bid on a Super Bowl and that it would only help their chances if the New York/New Jersey game came off well. An Eagles spokesman confirmed Thursday that the organization's position hasn't changed since.

Whether Super Bowl XLVIII was a success, though, depends on how you experienced it. Over the week leading up to the game, New York absorbed all the events and hype, as New York often does for big events. Unless you were around Times Square, it was easy to forget the city was hosting a Super Bowl at all.

If you were scheduled to travel home the day after the game, you might have had your flight canceled because of a nasty winter storm that hit the region. And even if you ended up enjoying and appreciating the balmy, 59-degree conditions at kickoff, you might have just regained consciousness after having passed out on a packed escalator inside Secaucus Station.

Because the NFL was fortunate to have such favorable weather for the game, skepticism remains about the league's commitment to holding future Super Bowls in cold-weather cities with outdoor stadiums, according to a person with direct knowledge of the Eagles' thinking on the matter. The Vikings' new stadium won't present the same issues; it will have a fixed roof. "The roof in Minneapolis means everything," this person said, so it's hard to see how Minneapolis' winning bid helps the Eagles and Philadelphia much.

"It demonstrates the NFL's still open to the idea of a cold-weather city, but whether [the league is] open to the idea of a cold-weather city with an open-air venue is still to be determined," said Larry Needle, executive director of the Philadelphia Sports Congress, a division of the Philadelphia Convention and Visitors Bureau that works to attract sporting events and meetings to the region.

"It's obvious by the near miss they had with the weather [in East Rutherford] that it was not an optimal experience with the cold weather leading up to the game and getting hit on the back end. I'm sure it at least gave them some pause, but at the same time I'd like to think that that didn't by any means shut the door on the possibility."

Still, it's fair to wonder whether Lincoln Financial Field's opportunity has passed. The Eagles are in the midst of spending $125 million to modernize and spruce up the Linc - a natural refurbishing, since the place has been open for nearly 11 years now. But given its age and the need for those upgrades, the Linc doesn't fit the recent pattern that the NFL has established for weaving new venues into its rotation of Super Bowl sites.

Lately, the league has been rewarding franchises and cities that were able to persuade voters, no matter how minimal the tangible economic benefits to their regions might be, that funding a new stadium at least in part with taxpayer money was a good idea: the Indianapolis Colts and Lucas Oil Stadium in 2012, the San Francisco 49ers and Levi's Stadium in 2016, the Vikings and their venue in 2018.

"That seems to be the unwritten code for getting a Super Bowl," said former NFL agent and executive Andrew Brandt, who teaches at Villanova and Penn and analyzes the league for ESPN. "Honestly, everyone can understand the reasons you want it. It's an international stage with 100 million people focused on your stadium, your city, even your team to some extent. It's really a badge of honor. The question becomes getting in line."

As of Tuesday, that line has gotten longer. And colder.


msielski@phillynews.com

@MikeSielski

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