By Bill Campbell
Will any baseball fan anywhere ever forget that Wednesday night in late September 2011, when another baseball regular schedule was racing to its irregular close? If it had been scripted, it wouldn’t have sold a copy because it played on so many emotions, in so many places. Joy and unbounded appreciation in the Philadelphia area, to be sure. Happiness in Tampa Bay. Surprise and disbelief in St. Louis. Shock and glum dejection in Atlanta and Boston. So many were so affected in so many ways that trying to recapture them all is almost impossible. If ever an example was needed to show that baseball is indeed our national game, one only had to have been on hand to observe the almost miraculous moments of last Wednesday in late September.
The action spread across the nation, thanks to our marvelous, modern day devices of communication. People seemed to be divided between a smile and a tear for a moment or for an hour or hours. It is possible to tape or record in some way the greatest shows ever and watch them again and again. But to fully grasp the moment of that particular Wednesday night, one had to be there – to exult in its triumphs and wallow in its misery. One had to live it. And only sports could present that. Only sports could allow us to capture the moment, live, endure and, most important, remember it. Thousands, maybe millions of people, all glued to the same event, following every move of the participants, everywhere. Someone got a clutch base hit and thousands of conversations began. An error was made and was verbally chastised in languages only the participants would understand. Or someone threw a ninety mile per hour fast ball that was flashed around the globe. To describe all this as an evening to remember is a massive understatement. Fans who have been watching baseball for half a century called it the most unforgettable closing night of a baseball season in the history of the game and one that had to be experienced to be completely appreciated.
And then came the 2011 Eagles and Andy Reid who continued to recite for the fourth time in a season that is just four weeks old most of the same stuff that we have been hearing for the past thirteen years. It’s the same old stuff about it being his responsibility to put players in the proper position so that they can win more games. And that he plans to work on that and to improve. He continued to answer most questions in generalities, none in particular. But there was one reply to note – something to the effect that the coaching staff will remain intact. And that he, indeed, is responsible for everyone, coaches and players, and they will have to continue to do a better job — which suggests that the improvement has already begun, although hard to notice.
I have been associated with the Eagles in one capacity or another for many years. The franchise has in general been operated by people who value good public relations. It was, indeed, a consideration during the Burt Bell days, through the ownership of the 100 Brothers and Leonard Tose and on and on through the present administration of Joe Banner and owner, Jeffrey Lurie. At least I always thought it was. But lately I’ve had some reservations. Making people angry and agitating them doesn’t seem to be a very good idea if good public relations is to be considered. Tickets for NFL games don’t come cheaply. Popular and well-run organizations have long waiting lists for season tickets and the Eagles are no exception. Producing a head coach to answer a few questions concerning the progress of a team seems to me a pretty cheap price to pay for retaining a team’s popularity. In whatever language Coach Reid speaks in his post-game press conferences, it is hardly the language of the average fan. And I have begun to wonder lately if ownership understands it any better. Perhaps we are all just missing something.
I referred to last week’s Eagles-Giants game as a “giveaway game” but it will take a more robust vocabulary than mine to describe the San Francisco loss. It produced, as one correspondent put it, the same familiar, predictable and unanswered questions from the two previous defeats. The Eagles’ defense, now coached by the former offensive line coach, has given up three straight fourth quarter leads. But Reid, in one of his few direct replies to a question on his day-after media session, did say that the coaching staff will remain intact. This statement was made in spite of the fact that the Birds have been outscored 36-0 in the last three fourth quarters. The alleged “dream team” now faces a much different and more difficult question. Buffalo and Washington were first looked upon as easy opponents when the schedule was introduced. Not so now. The question now becomes, Will the Eagles make the playoffs? When the head coach assures us that the Eagles will “continue to improve” it suggests, as mentioned previously, that the improvement has already started. Maybe we just haven’t noticed.
If you were collecting an album of quotes from Andy Reid press moments, here’s one you might have missed. Last Sunday a media member asked if Reid found it ironic that David Akers was on the opposite sideline and rookie Alex Henery was wearing Eagle green. Reid’s reply, which we should have expected, was, “I am not into irony.” Considering the ending of Sunday’s game, we could tell.
One last note, which has nothing to do with baseball or the Eagles, but does concern the Temple football team which I wrote on at length last week: it’s the same team that trounced Maryland by 31 points and a week later got trounced by Toledo by 23 points. Please call when you reach a decision as to which is the real Temple football team. Or better yet, call Steve Addazio.