Saturday, September 6, 2014
Inquirer Daily News

Phillies, Eagles are each other's biggest rivals

Philadelphia Eagles coaches using signs to set up plays. (AP Photo/Nick Wass)
Philadelphia Eagles coaches using signs to set up plays. (AP Photo/Nick Wass)

In February 2014, the Philadelphia Eagles rewarded linemen Jason Peters and Jason Kelce and receiver Riley Cooper with multi-year contracts, ensuring the young players' job security and keeping three valuable assets of Chip Kelly's successful 2013-14 campaign in place.

A few days later, the Eagles agreed to a one-year with wideout Jeremy Maclin, after the former first-round pick missed the entire season with a torn ACL.

The Eagles public relations department was raucous with the news, shouting it out over every social media outlet and watching it be lapped up by fans and journalists, who ran with the story, firing out  over-saturating analysis and breakdowns that keep such a simple story on tongues and finger tips for days.

The team is growing more powerful, stable, and impressive, rather than the cracking and imploding that had capped off the 2012 season and ultimately led to the firing of head coach Andy Reid.

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  • Thousands of sunny miles away, out of the reach of the slush-retching northeast skies, the Phillies followed their individual narrative threads back to Clearwater, Florida. After two losing seasons, they did so quietly, but still, baseball was starting, whether there was a dreary melancholy attached to it or not.

    For the entire winter, baseball teams and the sites linked to them generate empty, space-filling content, breaking the occasional interview or trade, but for the most part, there's a lot of pulling hair out due to the lack of content and then wondering if the preceding hair-pulling was worthy of a morning post.

    Now, though, baseball has returned, players are in uniform, and things like the equipment truck leaving or the assistant hitting coach’s birthday didn’t have to qualify as news. Every pitch, swing, steal, and stumble was worthy of reporting, and there wasn’t anything that could bury it from the front page.

    Unless, of course, there was some kind of critical Eagles signing, but when has that ever coincided with a big Phillies development?

    The answer is, almost always. And it’s getting difficult to ignore.

    It doesn’t take a historian to tell you this was an Eagles town, and it doesn’t take a psychic to tell you it will probably soon be once again. But in the middle, the Phillies were the team to beat, culminating with the 2008 World Series championship.

    Even then, during their title run, the Phillies' locker room celebration included a dig at their cross-sport rivals.

    “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!’”

    --Phil Sheridan, Inquirer 

    It’s an odd, unspoken dynamic that only exists in snickers and apparently, jubilant, drunken shouting by an anonymous millionaire. But many writers will tell you it’s there, whether you want to hear or care about it or not.

    Let's take a look back at some of the "coincidences" involving the two teams battling for front-page coverage since the Phillies won the World Series just over five years ago:

    + The 2009 Eagles powered to a 45-38 victory over the Giants in Week 14 to take control of first place in the NFC East. Sick of the noise, two days later, the Phillies announced a trade that got them Roy Halladay, the best pitcher in baseball.

    + The Phillies were starting 2010 without Cliff Lee, but fans deemed Halladay a worthy replacement. They stampeded down to Washington for the season opener to see Halladay pick apart the lowly Nats, which he did. The Eagles weren’t about to let this pass, and had their own field trip to our nation’s capitol days later; but only one of them went, and he technically wasn’t an Eagle anymore. Word of Donovan McNabb’s trade to Washington briefly eclipsed whatever the Phillies were doing, which to the Eagles’ chagrin, turned out to be “winning their division, again.”

    + Later that year, the Eagles were celebrating a big late-season win over the Cowboys in mid-December. Three days later, the Phillies announced the re-acquisition of Lee, possibly the biggest statement in their team history, as it added an unorthodox fourth number one starting pitcher to their rotation, and indicated that Philadelphia was a place top-tier athletes wanted to play, even if they had to take less money to get there. The press was still bubbling about Lee after the following week – Miracle at the Meadowlands, Part II, and two weeks later, when the Eagles shocked the region (and Jen Utley) by signing Michael Vick.

    + The Eagles took DE Brandon Graham with their first pick in the 2010 NFL Draft, and four days later, while the internet filled with Graham analysis, the Phillies announced they had picked Ryan Howard to be their first baseman for the next seven years, in what was nationally recognized as one of the most oddly-timed overpays in baseball history. The Eagles countered with the announcement of their $12.5 million contract extension for Kevin Kolb, which had its own flaws.

    + Few things in Philadelphia were as vibrant as the sports scene in summer of 2011. The Phillies had four aces while the Eagles kept assembling what were thought to be,  at the very least, helpful free agents. Eagles reps sat confidently at a microphone following practice to announce that Nnamdi Asomugha would be patrolling the secondary, which took focus off the dominant Phillies - until hours later, when they fixed their right field problem by announcing the acquisition of Hunter Pence.

    + 2012 Eagles training camp opened in the wake of the lukewarm Phillies' biggest news of the season - a $144 million, six-year extension for Cole Hamels, announced a day after full team workouts began at Lehigh.

    + Obviously, the “Nnamdi Asomugha” thing didn’t work out, as did neither the Eagles in 2012 nor Andy Reid. The Eagles replaced their head coach with Chip Kelly, who was scheduled to oversee his first ever NFL preseason game against the Patriots on August 9. It would have been the gem of the sports page, had the Phillies not announced the contract extension of their beloved second baseman Chase Utley on August 7 – something they could have announced pretty much anytime.

    + On May 22, 2013, the Phillies made their annual Alumni Weekend announcement: Curt Schilling would be going on the Wall of Fame, and Brad Lidge would retire as a Phillie and throw out the first ceremonial pitch to kick off the celebrations on August 1. The Eagles had some alumni news of their own days before on May 14, when Donovan McNabb announced on the radio that he would be signing a contract to retire as an Eagle.

    It was widely assumed that the one-day deal and ensuing ceremony would occur when the Eagles faced the Chiefs in September. But the Eagles, having known all summer the Phillies’ plans for that weekend, abruptly announced on July 28 (a Sunday), that McNabb would sign his deal to end things as an Eagle the following day, despite the fact that their ceremony to honor him and retire his number wouldn’t come until September, when the Eagles played the Chiefs. That left only two days between McNabb's and Lidge's retirements, just enough time for video of Riley Cooper using a racial slur at concert to hit the web. We'll chalk that up to another "coincidence."

    Common sense tells us that some of these may be unavoidable collisions of two teams in the same town; that if you brought in announcements from the Flyers and Sixers as well, you could concoct a four-team battle for the public's fleeting focus. But those close to the teams have hinted or just blatantly stated that there is some resentment between the two. 

    Though with confirmation, we wouldn't get to speculate wildly about every little thing.

    Can you think of any examples that we missed? Leave them in the comments section below.

    Justin Klugh
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