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Monday, December 27, 2010

Eagles are NFC East Champions; Two-Day Delay Could Hurt

Despite having their game postponed until Tuesday night due to a snowstorm, the Philadelphia Eagles clinched the 2010 NFC East Division crown yesterday when the Giants lost.

It may be faint praise at the moment, as the division is occupied by some bad teams. Washington is just terrible, the Dallas Cowboys are an underachieving squad (though not as much as the media suggests – they’re not that good), and the Giants look like they simply will not recover from their collapse against the Eagles a week ago Sunday. But winning the division is still an accomplishment, and anyone claiming that they saw this coming is drinking too much eggnog.

Even the most optimistic fan viewed this season as a rebuilding year, hoping the Birds could eke out a winning record and maybe – just maybe – sneak into the playoffs. We were supposed to be finding out what Kevin Kolb is really all about, and now we’re watching the amazing comeback of Michael Vick.

Of course, being Philadelphia fans, we’re already looking ahead to how we’re getting gypped in the potential playoff run. Normally, I like to rip this type of thinking, but with the postponement of the Eagles Sunday night game against Minnesota until Tuesday I am fully on-board with the “Philadelphia is getting screwed” mentality.

Everyone in the media seems to be lauding NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell for postponing the game due to public safety concerns. There’s no question that the game could have been played, but concern over fans getting to and from Lincoln Financial Field in the snow is the reason that the game was played. In fact, Sunday on Facebook 97.5’s Tony Bruno ripped fans who didn’t like the postponement, saying, “Guys, have you looked outside and at the forecast? This storm is getting bigger by the hour and winds will be gusting to 50. So, fill up the lots during a blizzard and then what happens to all of those cars buried in their spots after the game at 11pm? Morons can’t drive to begin with, now how do they get out with cars inches apart and no way to plow or clear it. This is about safety and bad timing, not greed.”

Now we know why Bruno plays so many “drops” of the same ridiculous sound bites over and over to eat up time during his show. (That’s when he’s not ripping bloggers and telling listeners what he doesn’t do. There ought to be a new drinking game based on how many times Bruno says he won’t watch meaningless Bowl games.) He’s apparently not too big on thinking things through.

Completely in sync with the colleagues Bruno constantly says he isn’t like, he has missed the point. The game was absolutely postponed until Tuesday night for financial reasons. Minnesota played an “extra” Monday night game just two weeks ago against the Giants. But because it was a regional Fox game, the networks didn’t really care.

Now, because the Eagles-Vikings game was the national Sunday Night Game on NBC, there’s suddenly a problem with playing the game on Monday night because ESPN is airing Monday Night Football. Both networks want the only game on in prime time.

The NFL is choosing to make its network partners happy at the expense of fairness.

The Eagles could very possibly be playing for a bye week in the first round of the playoffs next Sunday, but will be doing so with just 5 days to prepare and recuperate from the Vikings game. If the Eagles win on Tuesday and the Packers defeat Chicago next Sunday – both very possible outcomes – the Eagles would be playing for the second seed and a bye in the playoffs. The extra week off is known as a huge advantage in attempting to reach the Super Bowl.

The NFL easily could have played the game on Sunday, and offered refunds to ticket holders who could not attend. If they wanted to err on the side of fan safety, great. They could have played the game on Monday night and worked out a deal with the networks.

They chose not to because it would have adversely effected their bottom line in a relatively minor way. One day of losing a percentage of one game’s gate receipts and, at worst, the total loss of fees for a network airing one prime time game wasn’t going to put the NFL in the red. The league’s bottom line probably would have barely noticed the loss.

Is the NFL refunding tickets for fans who can’t make the game Tuesday? Don’t bet on it.

I don’t mind the league postponing the game due to the weather, although it seems rather odd. This is football, after all. I’m not even sure the Eagles won’t beat Dallas even with short rest.

But postponing the game an extra day to make the networks instead of assuring that the Eagles weren’t put at any more of a competitive disadvantage than was necessary was weak. It was all about money, and when that same mentality deprives fans of football next season with a potential lockout, no one will be praising Goodell.

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