Today, the Oakland Raiders jumped through the final re-location hoop as NFL owners voted in favor of moving the franchise to Las Vegas.
This got me thinking…. What if the Philadelphia Eagles just left Philadelphia? Obviously, this would never happen. Philadelphia is a far bigger and better market than the bay area, and the Eagles will never leave. But, let’s just take a ride for a second and project what exactly would happen in our beloved metropolis….
I’m 27 years old. It’s April of 2024 and I’m the General Manager of the Philadelphia 76ers. (From 2017-2024, my life took a couple wild turns). It’s early morning and I roll over in my queen bed in my apartment near Rittenhouse Square. I do the usual morning phone-check, except now it’s 2024 and all I have to do is yell, “Phone! Morning break-down, please!”
(See, it’s in the future now, and we no longer really have to actually manage our phone with our own hands. The voice command systems on our phones are so advanced that they’re almost technological servants.)
Phone, in spooky, automated voice: “Email from Sam Hinkie: “Jack, would love to talk trades… The playoffs are coming up and I know you’re going to win it all, but amid free agency in the summer, I’d love to work out a deal. Give me a call at some point.”
*At this point, Sam Hinkie is the GM of the Los Angeles Lakers*
Phone: “Email from LeBron James: “Jack, was wondering if you’d like to get dinner with my wife and I next we-”
Me: “Delete, I’ll call him later today.”
Phone: “From Twitter: “6.8 Billion people liked your tweet from last night. Another 4.5 billion retweeted it.”
Me: “Cool. Nice.”
Phone: “From ESPN, Owners have voted to relocate the Philadelphia Eagles to Stamford, Connecticut. According to Adam Schefter, New England is sick of only rooting for one winning team, and they could really use another one. Belichick will coach both and turn the Eagles from a cellar-dweller to powerhouse, thus providing the New England people with double the joy”.
Me, to my wife: “Honey, the Eagles… They… They just left.”
My wife, who is just waking up and rather annoyed at my phone speaking really, really loudly: “I know, Jack. I just heard your phone. It was really loud and I wish you would turn the volume down for those updates, especially in the morning. Sucks about the Eagles though. What am I going to do about my season tickets? Do they transfer to Stamford?”
Me, on the verge of tears: “I’m gonna go downstairs, get some breakfast.”
Phone: “Would you like me to put some coffee on?”
Me: “Yea, that’d be great. Thanks, phone.”
I lumber downstairs and flip on my TV, which is the size of my entire living room wall. Adam Schefter is live on the 8 a.m. Sportscenter breaking down the newly incarnated Stamford Eagles.
I open the fridge, pour myself a delicious glass of orange juice, and pop a bagel down in the toaster. My wife comes down and I greet her with a fresh cup of coffee.
It’s a Saturday, so I don’t have to go to the office today, but the weather is supposed to be great, so I figured I’d go on a nice walk through Rittenhouse to put aside the sudden lack of Eagles football in my life.
Me: “Phone, raise the blinds, please”
I peer outside, expecting to see warm, spring sunlight glistening off of the bushes and flowers in the adjacent park. Instead, rain streams down the window pane amid blasts of thunder and lightning. I approach the window and peer outside. The once fruitful and lively Rittenhouse Square is a barren urban wasteland rife with tumbleweeds and browned flowers. The grass and bushes have died. The trees, which had recently blossomed signaling the beginning of summer, have that naked, winter appearance once again.
That’s weird, I think to myself.
Parc Bistro, along with every other restaurant bordering the square, has neglected to put away their porch seating during the storm, and the chairs and tables alike have blown out from their awnings and are strewn across the city streets. But, it’s not a problem, because there’s not a moving car, taxi, or bus in sight. It’s as if Rittenhouse had become a foreign dystopia overnight. I raise these concerns to my wife, who seconds them, but also suggests that we head down to the river after the storm passes and take a walk down Kelly Drive.
I hesitantly agree, but all the while I’m worried about my city. Surely, the Eagles move couldn’t have taken this big of a toll this quickly? Right? Someone tell me I’m right.
I go upstairs, shower, and get cleaned up for the day. The storm still rages outside, delaying our walk, so my wife and I decide to head down to Jim’s Steaks. Surely, even with the pounding rain, South Street would be a bit more lively on a spring Saturday. We walk outside, and immediately, the umbrella I was using just to get to my car blows straight out of my hand. My wife and I run half a block to our car and jump right in.
I turn on the ignition. The stereo is set to KYW 1060, but there’s nothing but a droning static sound. That’s weird. KYW is ALWAYS on the air. I flip through every station, AM and FM, but all of them provide that same, ugly, monotonous static. This is eerie.
I pull out of my spot and start the journey eastward toward South Street. Beyond there just not being a single other car on the road, even the stoplights were out. All the street signs had blown over, and almost every building was spray-painted with some Stamford slander. Stray cats and dogs roamed in front of my slowly moving Audi as we patrolled the streets of what once was Philadelphia.
We approach Broad Street, but as we cross and look both north toward City Hall and south toward the Navy Yard, nothing. Nothing but parked, abandoned cars and tumble weeds. On South Street, Jim’s Steaks was closed… Closed! At noon on an April Saturday! But, the door was open…
At this point, I had ventured across the entire city and had yet to see a human being other than my wife. Cautiously, my wife notched the door open and peeked inside. Nothing. The usually charming and nostalgic celebrity photos lining every wall were cracked and shattered – especially the ones of Eagles legends.
Slowly, we make our way upstairs, and as we transcend the final step and peer into the almost empty cafeteria seating, we see a man lying underneath a far table. As I get closer, I realize it’s Eagles owner Jeff Lurie. Worrying that he’s dead/dying, I rush toward him and shake him. He awakes in a confused drunken haze, and peers into what felt like the depth of my soul and says “Jack, we tried. We tried, man. I promise.”
Side note: At this point, Jeff and I are great friends. Everyone in the front office of a Philly sports team knows that it’s like a family. I’m tight with all the owners and GM’s, but specifically Lurie. Really a stand-up guy who helped show me the ropes.
“What do you mean, Jeff?” I utter.
“I tried to keep them here. I fought. Stamford is no place for an NFL team. The Eagles belong in Philly. The Eagles are Philly,” Jeff explained.
It was then it hit me… I didn’t live in Philadelphia anymore. This wasn’t the fifth or sixth largest city in the country. It wasn’t a big market, there was no brotherly love. I mean, shit, the best cheesesteak place wasn’t even open at noon on a Saturday. I needed to do something.
It was then that I contacted my various friends throughout other areas of the city. Sure enough, they found the same things I discovered. University City was all but abandoned, North Philadelphia up by Temple was no more than an urban ghost town, and the heart of South Philly had lost all its gusto.
After hours and hours of calling all the Philadelphia TV and radio stations, I finally got through to the folks at CBS. Apparently, the Philadelphia media took the Eagles’ departure just as hard as the rest of the city – they totally shut down all business operations. I explained that they needed to broadcast what exactly was happening to our city. Eventually, the CBS people agreed, and sent some news trucks out to the various regions of the city and began broadcasting on channel 3. It was then and only then that the Philadelphia faithful were fully aware of exactly what had come of their city.
At this point, it’s about 4 in the afternoon, Jeff Lurie is sitting in my backseat, and we’ve been driving around for several hours examining the city. The zoo animals are running rampant. Unfortunately, a couple of the giraffes ran straight into the Schyukill and are currently floating downstream. The Franklin Institute has turned to rubble, and the Rocky Statue has (somehow) vanished. Maybe the storm blew it away? I’m not sure.
So, yeah. Philadelphia is a ghost town. After raiding an open grocery store devoid of employees and stocking up for the week, my wife, Jeff, and I returned home. Still, no humans out and about. The storm raged on. It was like a scene out of Zombieland or I am Legend. Philadelphia was a barren urban dystopia.
I don’t know what will happen tomorrow. I don’t know what will happen the next day. I really don’t know what will happen when the NFL season kicks off in the fall. But, what I do know, right now, is that the Eagles are Philadelphia. Not only do the Eagles not exist without Philadelphia, but Philadelphia does not exist without the Eagles.
That fateful (hopefully fictional) Saturday morning in April of 2024 emphasizes just that.
Please, Eagles. Never, ever leave us.