J.P. Teti woke up Monday to learn his security, nay, his entire existence, had been threatened. The being that looks over his Philadelphia-themed dive bar in London was kidnapped over the weekend by a couple of British bandits.
They took Swoop’s head.
In an act so sinister that it has captured the attention of an international cohort of online crimestoppers, two bar patrons on Sunday evening appeared as though they were posing for a photo with an Eagles mascot head that has sat at the front of the establishment since a fan gifted it to the bar, called Passyunk Avenue, when the Birds played in London last October.
Instead of simply posing for a pic, the couple swiped Swoop and dashed down the street, disappearing into the ether without so much as a “cheerio!”
But as fast as they took the head, the international nightmare was over. A day after customers absconded with Swoop, he was brought back to his home at Passyunk Avenue “shaken, but unharmed and happy to be home,” the bar tweeted Tuesday.
Prior to this happy ending, the tale was an odd one. First of all, the thieves left behind some evidence: their “rucksack," said Teti, who’s from Lawrenceville, N.J., and owns the bar.
Inside the bag were “digestives” — British cookies designed to aid digestion — red Solo cups, various towels, pain medication, and condoms. (They probably could have used the protection. Teti described the couple as seemingly “intent on being intimately involved with each other later in the evening.”)
But even more important for those trying to track the perpetrators? “They paid their bill, stupidly, on credit card.”
But Teti said that, despite calling in the authorities, he believes in the “City of Brotherly Love” attitude and instituted an amnesty program. The patrons had until Wednesday evening to return the head, no questions asked. The 30 or so employees of Passyunk Avenue and its loyal London fans held out hope that honesty and good sense would prevail.
If they hadn’t brought him home safely?
“We will unleash the full weight of the British legal system,” Teti said Monday after the thievery.
This wasn’t the first time the bar, a Philadelphia-themed dive that opened in London last year and serves cheesesteaks, had been the target of such a crime. Once, someone stole a Sixers coaster off the wall. Very rude.
But generally, Teti trusts his customer base. It’s why the bar’s “Nick Foles shrine” features a Super Bowl helmet, signed by Nick Foles, within “grabbing distance.” Most of the folks who frequent this place would never dare take something so valuable, let alone a piece of memorabilia with the sentimental value of a giant cartoon bird head.
Had it not been returned, Teti had planned an aggressive missing-persons campaign to help return Swoop to his rightful home. Anyone with information leading to his rescue was eligible for a reward: a choice of a variety of Tastykakes and/or a citywide special -- a shot and a beer. The stakes were high.
There were also plans for “thousands” of fliers papering every inch of open wall space in London, Teti said, so there would be nowhere for the bandits to hide. Especially not with a giant bird head.
“These people will have no refuge. They will have no safe harbor. People who are their friends will turn on them," he said Monday, "when they realize the Pandora’s box that has opened.”
Apparently the British bandits didn’t want to take their chances.
This story was updated at 9:30 a.m. Tuesday to reflect that Swoop had been returned safely.