Santoliquito: Do We Really Miss The Vet?
By Joseph Santoliquito
Philadelphia, PA (CBS)–Face it, there is no vibe at Lincoln Financial Field. No fear factor. It’s sterile, and clean, and fan-friendly, and all those other goody-goody things contemporary venues all aspire to be—a luxury amusement park with goal posts that basically serves as a sports facility. It’s a place to bring the family on a Sunday. Complete with cotton candy and anything else you could want.
So when opposing teams come here, it’s truly heaven. It’s not in the back of their minds that at any moment they could blow out a knee, or concern themselves that some loon is targeting them with a flare gun.
Something or someone has to be blamed for the Eagles’ 10-game, 14-month home losing streak, right?
Let’s blame the Linc.
It’s why some miss Veterans Stadium. That old edifice was a dump. But it had character, they say. It was the world’s largest rat hole, complete with the rats. It’s where a fan actually did shoot a flare gun in the middle of a Monday Night Football game. It’s where Chicago Bear Wendell Davis’ kneecaps rolled up into his thighs. It had its own parking lot symphony of guttural, wrenching puking.
It had color, too, though those hues were often brown or yellow. And if you’re willing to believe it, the 700 level impacted games, channeling a subliminal fear into the minds of opposing teams.
“Nobody wants to come to the Vet. That’s why I love it,” former Eagles defensive tackle Darwin Walker once said. “It’s dirty, it’s nasty. I think of it like a ghetto. Nobody wants to walk into the ghetto. But this is our ghetto.”
From above, the Vet even resembled a large toilet. In fact, more than a few patrons probably slipped on a used diaper walking through the main concourse. So just imagine what must have gone through the minds of opposing teams as they flew over the Vet, what ill fate was awaiting them below once they stepped foot on the treacherous Vet turf.
What’s missing most are the colorful fans that once populated the Vet’s infamous 700 level. You know the type. The stupefied, cave-dwelling denizen that would urinate in the sink and be so enraptured by the Eagles that they would stay from start to finish, regardless of the score—if they knew the score.
Those wonderful, obscenity-chanting miscreants have been weeded out—and the intimidation factor has gone with them, if you’re willing to believe that, too. One thing is true about the old Vet fanbase: They stayed.
If the Eagles get down big this Sunday to the Washington Redskins, how many fans do you think will stay until the end, regardless of the score?
Recent history, regrettably, says not many.
Droves were escaping to the parking lot in previous losses to the Dallas Cowboys and the New York Giants. With 10 minutes left against Dallas, the Linc was less than half full.
Reviving the Vet’s mystique, its peeling paint, its spotty elevators, its lack of sophistication, its throaty, frothing masses, won’t ever be duplicated. Thank God.
What needs to be appreciated is that Lincoln Financial Field is a true palace. It’s refined and really is a place where a family can enjoy a football game. Unlike the Vet.
And it has nothing to do with the Eagles losing ways at home.
As legend has it, when a visiting team came to the Vet, they not only had to worry about the Eagles, they had to harbor some faint thoughts of whether their knees would hold up on the catching, concrete turf, the drunken loads, if the rats would infiltrate their lockers, and who knows what else along with it.
If you’re willing to believe that.
Missing is a lost fear factor that now only the Eagles can reclaim when a team visits the Linc.
As it should be.
Joseph Santoliquito is a contributing sports blogger for CBS Philly.