Let’s cut to the chase, Philly. We aren’t getting the Super Bowl Watch Party we wanted at Lincoln Financial Field.
Despite thousands of signatures on my “Free The Super Bowl” petition on Change.org, not a single ticket-taker or Schmitter-maker at the Linc is preparing for 69,175 Eagles fans to watch the Big Game on those 27-by-96-foot, Panasonic LED video screens.
God, what a memorable, thrilling, once-in-a-lifetime civic moment it could have been for so many of us to cheer together in the stadium where the team clinched its Super Bowl spot.
But grieve not over your green-frosted football cake. The Eagles will snag a spot in next year’s Super Bowl (that’s my hope and I’m sticking to it).
So the fact that we didn’t #FreeTheSuperBowl in 2018 does not mean this fight is over, baby.
It’s only just begun.
In the meantime, what have we learned?
1) The No Fun League is stupidly behind the curve in forbidding fans to watch postseason away games in their hometown teams’ stadiums. In 2017 alone, baseball watch parties were held for the World Series (in Houston, for the Astros); hockey watch parties for the Stanley Cup (in Pittsburgh, for the Penguins); and basketball watch parties for the NBA Finals (in Cleveland, for the Cavaliers).
By charging a small admission fee, the Cavs used the occasion to raise $850,000 for charity. The Eagles could’ve used a Super Bowl Watch Party to do the same for the Eagles Charitable Foundation. But no.
Thanks for nothing, Roger Goodell.
2) NFL teams have been holding their own away-game watch parties anyway. They just don’t call them that.
On Oct. 15, our loathed rival, the New England Patriots, hosted its 12th annual “Game With The Greats,” where fans mix it up with former Patriots at Gillette Stadium for an “away-game viewing party.” They were invited to sit in the stands and watch on the Jumbotron as the Pats clobbered the New York Jets at MetLife Stadium.
This flew in the face of the NFL’s prohibition of “the mass, out-of-home viewing of preseason, regular-season, and postseason games.” Such viewing allegedly screws up the Nielsen-ratings system used to determine game viewership numbers that networks use to charge advertisers for commercials.
So did or didn’t the NFL get to account for the eyeballs at the Gillette that day? And why couldn’t it use the same method – or lack thereof – to allow for other stadium watch parties? Hell, the Eagles themselves televised the Patriots-Jaguars game on the Linc’s screens Jan. 21, so that fans arriving early for the Eagles-Vikings game could watch it.
A Linc employee told me that the stadium was about half full – about 35,000 fans – while the second half of the game was on. NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy sniffs at the incident, saying that the Linc broadcast was not part of “a standalone event. [Fans] are going to Lincoln Financial Field for the purposes of watching the Eagles play a home game.”
Which, Nielsen-wise, is a distinction without a difference. The bigger point is that the NFL could allow fan watch parties for the Super Bowl. It just doesn’t want to.
3) Ed Rendell, the Birds’ most ardent fan, thinks in-stadium/arena watch parties make “abundant sense because there is nothing like sports to unite a community.”
Get real for us, Governor.
“The NFL’s excuses are cow dung,” says Rendell, who once bet $20 that a fellow football fan couldn’t hurl a snowball onto the field of Veterans Stadium during an Eagles-Cowboys game. The fan wound up hitting a Cowboy in the back. “Nielsen can get its numbers by how many tickets were sold or given way.”
Besides, he says, attendance at the hometown stadiums would be “120,000 at the highest. That’s a fraction of nationwide viewing.”
Or 0.108 percent, if you figure that last year’s Super Bowl pulled in 111.1 million viewers.
Latanya Dunaway Clement, proud mom of Eagles running back Corey Clement, says a watch party would reward the fans whose devotion inspires her son.
“Anything to support the people who support the Eagles would be wonderful,” says Clement. “Why not?”
That’s what I’ve been asking. And I’ll keep at it all this year. So keep signing and sharing the petition.
We’re gonna need those signatures in 2019.