Q & A with Susan T. Spencer

How Leonard Tose’s daughter survived the Eagles’ locker room, the meat business, and guys named Mickey the Bully

When Susan Tose Spencer became the Philadelphia Eagles’ vice president, legal counsel, and acting GM in 1984, she was the only woman ever to hold those titles in the NFL. (Twenty-six years later, she still holds that distinction.) Spencer, who also found success as an owner of meat-processing plants, became an expert at navigating businesses largely populated with men; she’s just published a book, Briefcase Essentials, which helps women survive and thrive in male-dominated businesses by using their inherent strengths as women. Along the way, she tells some fun and juicy stories about guys like Mickey the Bully, a knee-groping deli executive, and her days at the Eagles, where, she recounts in the book, she learned to laugh at such nicknames as “the wicked witch of the Vet.”

Q: Were there any advantages to being the first female VP, GM and legal counsel of the Eagles in the 1980s?
A: Absolutely. I had a unique opportunity to run the business side of football and discovered that gender has nothing to do with making good business decisions. [Two cost-cutting decisions Spencer made weren’t too popular, she writes in her book: “When I replaced the jumbo jet with a smaller plane, forcing the press to fly commercially, the press took it personally. The final straw was when I substituted hot dogs and Philly cheesesteaks in place of the gourmet lobster and filet-mignon sandwiches that the press had enjoyed for many years at Veterans’ Stadium.”][SIGNUP]

Q: Your father, legendary Eagles owner Leonard Tose, was a beloved and flamboyant figure in Philly, a “folk hero” as you call him in your book. What’s your favorite memory of him?
A: My dad was happiest when he was helping others. Watching the energy and enthusiasm he put into starting the Ronald McDonald House charity, and the look on the faces of many of the parents that were helped by his efforts, was Leonard at his very best.

Q: You’ve changed careers several times — you’ve been in dress manufacturing, the NFL, and the meat business, which you decided to get into, you write, after realizing in the late ‘80s that Atlantic City casinos had to give a certain percentage of business to minority-owned businesses. What would you tell someone who has lost a job, or is looking for new opportunities in this economy?
A: I would tell them to read every local paper from cover to cover for a few weeks. See if there are any ideas that stand out. Go online and investigate topics that are of interest to you, and pursue those that do. Finding a new direction is heavy-duty homework, but if you put in the time, you’ll find those opportunities.

Q: You have a great scene in your book when, as Eagles GM, you were called into the locker room by then-head trainer Barney Howard, and on cue, the entire team dropped their towels. You then nicknamed one linebacker “Big Deal,” which conjures some interesting images. Care to name any of the players there that day?
A: I believe in the old adage “never kiss and tell,” but my book does have some great Eagles anecdotes.

Q: Do you still watch Eagles games?
A: Absolutely. Once an Eagles fan, always an Eagles fan.