After 40 years, an Eagles fan flies the nest

Steve Hoffman of Lansdale never considered himself an animal rightist. He said he's just a regular animal lover with a rescue cat, who brings ribbon-tied cases of Milk Bones to his customers at Christmas and every now and then helps others who can't pay their vet bills.

What was his other passion? The Eagles. That was until Friday when he learned the team had signed convicted dog killer Michael Vick.

"This just freaked me out," said Hoffman, 62, who owns an auto parts business and has been a season ticket holder, since - as he put it - "the days at Franklin Field" - at least 40 years he figures. He and his now-grown daughter bonded over football when she was a small child and enjoyed games together for decades. 

"I'm having a real hard time with this" he said. "I think it's a disgrace."

Hoffman heard from the Eagles on Friday in an email to premium ticket holders urging them not to let "this distract from the relationship we have with you" and urging them to join the team in its "support and optimism for Michael."

Hoffman wrote back:

"I'm struggling with the fact that I can not get out of my mind the sounds of helpless animals that screamed for their lives as they were hung, electrocuted with jumper cables, strangled and drowned."

The six season tickets - including two box seats - will be sold or donated to charity he said. The Eagles paraphernalia is going to Goodwill.

Hoffman says he's still steamed at the Eagles for bringing on board a "murderer."

"People can do bad things, but this is worse," he said. "People can defend themselves. Dogs can't."

 From now on, Hoffman said he will root for other Philadelphia teams, especially the boys of summer.

"My daughter and I will have plenty of fun at Phillies games," he said.

Here's the correspondence the Eagles sent to premium ticket holders on Aug. 14 concerning the team's decision to sign Vick:

You are our most valued customers and we understand that this decision may result in some personal soul-searching for you, along with some public debate in the coming days and weeks. We do not want this to distract from the relationship we have with you, and we remain fully committed to putting the highest-quality product on the field and delivering wins to Eagles fans.

We have seen a tremendous outpouring of support from fans, but we also acknowledge there are some people who will struggle with our decision to give Vick a second chance. I am attaching here a statement that Joe Banner, our President, wanted me to share specifically with you. Please connect with us directly with any questions or concerns you may have and we will help however we can.

"We appreciate that this is a complicated and personal issue for many fans and Eagles partners and premium clients. It was complicated for us as well, and we sought the counsel of several quality character individuals when making this decision. Tony Dungy, Roger Goodell and the head of the National Humane Society have invested considerable time with Michael Vick and feel confident that we have made the right decision to give him a second chance.

The ultimate decision upon us was this – if a person made a terrible mistake and then paid their debts to society, was deeply remorseful and turned their life around completely, and not only lives a life of virtue themselves but is investing time to make sure others don't make the same mistakes, would you be willing to help this human being move forward? Would you give them a second chance?

We appreciate the complexity this creates for some partners and premium clients and ask that you join us in our support and optimism for Michael as he commits himself to showing Philadelphia and the country he is a changed human being.

I encourage you to visit when you have a moment to watch the replay of the press conference which is happening today at 11am. You will see the Michael we have come to know – someone who is remorseful and committed to showing everyone he has learned from his mistakes and that he is a changed person."