NFL says if Eagles go to the Super Bowl, fans can't watch the game at the Linc. Why not? | Ronnie Polaneczky
The $512 million Linc was built with $256 million from Pennsylvania taxpayers, yet most of them can't afford to step inside Philly's shrine to the Birds. It's time the masses got to see what they've been missing.
Vegas odds-makers are giving the Eagles a better-and-better shot of going to the Super Bowl this season. I'm already making party plans in case that happens. And I already know where I want to celebrate.
At the Linc, with 69,175 other fans.
How much crazy fun would it be to watch the Super Bowl on the Linc's fantastic 27-by-96-foot, Panasonic LED video screens with fans – jacked on hope and Schmitters – roaring loud enough to rattle molars in Delco?
But we're gonna have to persuade the National Football League to let us host a Super Bowl Watch Party at the Linc if the Birds get to the big game.
The league owns the broadcast rights to all NFL games and has a long-standing policy of forbidding "the mass, out-of-home viewing of preseason, regular-season, and postseason games," explained NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy.
Allowing mass viewing – whether at Lincoln Financial Field or a movie theater – would screw up the Nielsen-ratings system used to determine game viewership, he said.
Those numbers determine how much the networks, which buy broadcast rights, can charge advertisers for commercials. Which determines how much the networks are willing to pay for the broadcast rights. Which determines how much team owners will bank.
Bars and restaurants would suffer from mass stadium viewing, too, he said, since they do big business on Super Bowl Sunday.
"If you allow mass viewership, anywhere from 300,000 to 400,000 people across the country would not use the bars and restaurants that day," McCarthy told me.
All I'm asking, I countered, is that the NFL allow mass viewing of one stinking game – the Super Bowl! – in the home stadiums of the two teams competing that day.
"That's not our policy," he repeated.
Well, it ought to be. And I've started a petition on change.org that says as much. Because this would be the right thing to do for the fans whose rabid devotion lines NFL pockets.
Teams in other sports leagues have already organized such festivities in their hometown game halls, with resounding success.
Exhibit A: During the 2017 World Series, the (now champion) Houston Astros hosted stadium watch parties at Minute Maid Park when the team was away playing the Dodgers in Los Angeles.
"It was just like being at a real game," says Houston Chronicle metro reporter Dug Begley, who covered the mayhem. "The same nervousness and craziness. The fans really appreciated it."
Exhibit B: In June, the Pittsburgh Penguins hosted watchers at PPG Paints Arena for Game 6 of the Stanley Cup playoffs, which was broadcast from the Nashville Predators' Bridgestone Arena. The noise was off the hook.
Exhibit C: Last spring, the NBA's Cleveland Cavaliers hosted its arena watch parties when the team was away battling the Golden State Warriors. It was insanity.
Some wusses will argue that these warm-weather/indoor watch fests aren't comparable to a potential watch party at the Linc, because Philly's weather can be brutal in February, when the Super Bowl will be played. To these party poopers I offer the wisdom of Eric "EROCK" Emanuele.
"I'm a season ticket holder, and I've sat through freezing rain at the Linc to watch dreck," says Emanuele, the hilariously passionate cohost of the sports podcast 4th & Jawn. "No weather keeps a real fan away, especially not with this team right now."
Others will say it's unreasonable to expect the Birds to pick up the tab for opening the Linc on Super Bowl Sunday. But an NFL expert familiar with the stadium (he'd prefer to remain anonymous here) says the Eagles would easily break even on concessions and parking alone.
Besides, we just plain need this.
The news is heavy these days. North Korea is breathing down our necks. It seems as if every powerful man but His Holiness the Pope has been shoving his hands and flashing his glands where he shouldn't be. We've yet to dry out from Harvey, Irma, and other wet devils with deceptively dignified names. And we're at each other's throats at the smallest ruffle of a feather.
We need for tens of thousands of people to be physically gathered in the same place at the same time and in total agreement about why they're there and what they want.
Wouldn't that be refreshing in these divided times?
Then there's the fact that the $512 million Linc — home to just eight Eagles game a year — was built with $256 million from Pennsylvania taxpayers, yet most of them have never seen the inside of Philly's shrine to the Birds because the tickets are expensive. Isn't it time the masses got to see what they've been missing?
Finally, and most important, many of us will literally die before we'd ever again get to see the Birds in a Super Bowl. Watching the game together would let 69,175 fans experience a happening they'll never forget, whether the team wins or loses.
Eagles spokesman Anthony Bonagura says it's too soon to think about the Super Bowl, since the Eagles haven't even qualified yet for the playoffs. But here's the thing: If and when they do, it would leave us mere weeks to organize a Super Bowl Watch Party at the Linc.
Someone has to start thinking about this, people. And it might as well be me. So please sign the petition and let's get this thing started.
But don't look for Jim Kenney's signature there just yet.
I reached out to our mayor – as die-hard an Eagles fan as any – to ask if he'd get behind the idea of a Super Bowl Watch Party at the Linc. But he was so alarmed that I was writing about this before the Birds even clinched the NFC title that he wouldn't talk to me.
"He says you're jinxing it," said his spokeswoman, Lauren Hitt.
Snort. I haven't the power. But I do have a petition. And even if the snobby, grabby, greedy and slimy bean-hoarders of the NFL never give in on this, at least we can say we've shamed them for it.
That's a win I'm happy to live with.