Will the Real Joe Banner Please Stand Up?

When he first came to town to run the Eagles, Joe Banner was known as a smart guy and a generous, sensitive soul. Then Eagles Nation got ahold of him — and made him the most hated man in Philadelphia

Then, softly, he thanks his new friend for coming by, and Joe Banner returns to talking about what it’s like to be him in this city. First of all, he and Lurie want to win, desperately want to win, the Super Bowl. The idea that they’re not obsessed with winning it drives him crazy. And:

“When they talk about the organization being greedy — I couldn’t be more clear how false that is, and how unfair that feels, and I would be lying if I didn’t admit that bothers me.” In fact, he points out, pretty much every team ends up spending the same amount of money, as limited by the league’s salary cap.
The problem is, with Joey from Roxborough calling up WIP and railing that that freakin’ Banner is a cheapskate, the little guy who thinks he’s so smart but didn’t re-sign my favorite player, an image has spread into the general consciousness like poison dumped into a well.

Never mind that the Eagles have been very good for a decade, and keep knocking on the door of a championship. There’s only one question to supply a necessary tension, to keep the drama going year-round: What’s keeping them from busting through?

Every drama requires a villain. Banner — he’s from Boston, for chrissake. He’s cheap, he’s cold, he’s controlling, he’s arrogant, he doesn’t care — not the way we care. Keep saying it, over and over, and it becomes the truth.

But who is this guy, really? Only one thing’s certain: Joe Banner, spontaneously cooing sweet nothings to a baby — who could possibly believe that?

He was always small — he’s five-foot-five now, his mother Micki alleges — and when Joe was young and growing up outside Boston, he was teased. Micki, 83 years old, tells a story of early fierceness, of six-year-old Joseph allowing a much bigger friend to take a toy of his, waiting a half-hour, and then pushing him down the stairs as a warning. But she also remembers a more wrenching problem: how Joe was too small to play sports in public school, where he was known as Shorty.
His parents moved him to a small private school, where on the first day a classmate wondered how he could possibly be old enough for seventh grade, and where, at 14, he took part in a school fund-raising car wash and managed to drive one car into a pond because … he couldn’t reach the pedals. The story’s still infamous school lore.

But Banner found an escape: camp. He says that if we want to understand who he is, what he became, we need to understand his camp experience at Skylemar in southern Maine. It’s where Banner’s sons, Jason and Jon, 15 and 13, now spend seven weeks of their summers playing sports.