YES, EAGLES PRESIDENT Joe Banner acknowledged, he was surprised by popular reaction to the NFL's postponement of the Birds' game against Minnesota from Sunday to tonight. But not surprised the way you might think.
"It's been heartwarming," said Banner, who characterized calls and e-mails to the Eagles as massively, overwhelmingly thankful.
"I'm not sure I've done anything that's been appreciated this much in my 16 years here."
Banner was speaking in response to criticisms raised by Gov. Rendell and various pundits. He was particularly disdainful of yesterday's Daily News front-page photo illustrations, which depicted Banner, Mayor Nutter, team chairman Jeffrey Lurie and NFL commissioner Roger Goodell wearing oddly colored propeller beanies, above captions designating them as "wimps" for postponing the game.
"I thought it was a cheap, exploitive attempt to try and sell newspapers," Banner said.
Banner said he remained solidly convinced the league did the right thing. He said many fans had called who would not have been able to get to the game, and would have spent their ticket money for nothing. Banner said he had heard reports of problems with area mass transit late Sunday night, when fans would have been traveling home; he said many people had thanked the team for not putting them in that position.
"It's all been 180 degrees from what the governor is saying," he said.
Banner knows no NFL game had ever been postponed because of a pending snowstorm, knows the Eagles won the 1948 NFL title in the snow at Shibe Park - though he pointed out the official measurement was 7.4 inches then, for a day game, with about half as many people in attendance as would have gathered at Lincoln Financial Field Sunday night. And the '48 Eagles probably didn't have a third of their season-ticket base living in New Jersey, where the storm hit hardest Sunday evening.
He said the problem wasn't the amount of snow - much of the area ended up with about a foot, give or take a few inches - but the timing of the storm and the high winds predicted for late Sunday night.
"From 7 [p.m.] to midnight, we were supposed to get 1 to 2 inches of snow an hour, plus sustained winds of 30 mph, with gusts to 50," Banner said. He questioned how people would deal with maneuvering around the upper deck of the Linc in such conditions. Banner said the storm still would have been raging as the game ended and people struggled to their cars, in lots that could not have been treated during the game.
"We didn't want to have people stranded in the stadium overnight," he said.
"We can't find a situation even close to analogous," Banner said. He noted that only a few inches of snow, with little wind, fell during the famous New England-Oakland playoff game following the 2001 season, the "tuck rule" game that launched the Patriots' dynasty.
Al Michaels, who will handle play-by-play on NBC tonight, spoke by telephone on Comcast SportsNet's "Daily News Live" last night, and Michaels said from his experience shooting a standup at the Linc Sunday night, then traveling back to his hotel, he thought the correct decision was made, even though he said TV loves snow games, which tend to do very well in the ratings.
"How many fans would have shown up?" Michaels asked. "How many fans would have gotten home?"
The show's highly unscientific call-in poll last night reflected 52 percent of participating fans agreeing with the decision to postpone, 48 percent disagreeing.
The Eagles released a statement from Banner yesterday objecting to criticism of Nutter, who declared a snow emergency yesterday afternoon, which the NFL and the Eagles would have had to ignore to play.
"People are free to have their opinions on whether or not last night's Eagles game should have been postponed. That decision was ultimately made by the NFL. Any criticism of the Mayor, who was not involved in this decision, is completely unfair," Banner's statement read.