Pulse: Sports: Bird Power

Being the Eagles’ partner isn’t always fun and games

In their contract battle with Terrell Owens, the Eagles have held to a pretty consistent line: They wouldn’t renegotiate T.O.’s deal because, well, an agreement is an agreement. “Our position has always been that he has a contract and he needs to honor it,” team president Joe Banner said in August. But it seems that in the months before T.O. tried to use his leverage to get out of what he considered to be a bad contract, the Eagles found themselves in an unfavorable contract situation of their own, and lobbied successfully to change it.

The Eagles have long held their television partners to strict guidelines; for example, post-game clips of Reid addressing his team in the locker room are available only after wins, are usually restricted to 30 seconds, and can’t be used again after game day. But their iron grip tightened last year after the team signed a one-year deal with CBS 3, making it the “official Eagles station” in exchange for cash, airtime and promotions. Late in the season, when the team wanted to run commercials for its “One” advertising campaign, the Birds were close to their limit for freebies. Pay for more airtime out of their own pockets? No. Instead the team asked CBS 3 to hand over more free time, and the team got it. In January alone, the Eagles were given a third as many free spots as they’d used from April through December.

It wasn’t the only time the team took advantage of its leverage. On one occasion, station sources say, Joe Banner even called CBS 3 brass to complain about on-air comments he perceived as critical of his organization, saying, “Does [your anchor] know we’re partners?” Banner says he doesn’t remember making that call.
“In some ways, it can be an unholy alliance,” admits Beasley Reese, CBS 3’s sports director. Yet CBS 3, along with Fox, WPVI, NBC 10 and Comcast SportsNet, bid for a chance to dance with the team again this year. The winner was WPVI. Though you probably won’t see Jim Gardner hoisting a foam finger at 11 o’clock, the team has already made an impact on Action News: On the night his rivals led with the deaths of two state troopers, Gardner opened with a report from training camp. Days later, the Eagles reportedly instructed sports director Gary Papa to avoid contract talk while he reported from the sidelines during a preseason game; when he asked malcontent Brian Westbrook about his status anyway, Papa was yanked from the broadcast.

Butt Seriously

12 Grand for an Eagles Seat? 

If your favorite store were moving across the street and the owner asked you to help underwrite the move, you’d probably scoff. Many Eagles season ticket-holders did just that a few years ago when Jeffrey Lurie announced they’d have to spend as much as $3,145 each on Stadium Builder Licenses that would then allow them the privilege of being able to buy season tickets at the new Linc.

But four years later, paying for the right to keep buying seats has paid off. Once viewed as an onerous tax on fans, SBLs have turned out to be as wise an investment as a Rittenhouse condo, now fetching 200 to 400 percent of their original price on the open market. The Eagles have no plans to crack down on these fan-to-fan SBL sales, as long as buyers warrant that they’re not acquiring the SBL for profit and each license is transferred no more than once a year. “It’s good to be popular,” says Eagles ticket chief Leo Carlin.

The secondary market is so hot that Northeast mortgage agent Jeff Weinberg has established an online brokerage at PhillySBL.com, where he takes a commission for finding buyers for SBL owners looking to sell high. With the team’s season-ticket waiting list at over 60,000 names, Weinberg says it’s worth paying the price to cut to the front of the line. “They’re  tiny pieces of real estate that will continue to provide rent year after year,” he says. “Welcome to America. You have to pay to play.”  — Mattathias Schwartz