SEATTLE – Eagles fans have seen their future and it is . . . nice.
Maybe too nice.
Hundreds arrived here yesterday in waves of green, anxious to watch the Birds continue their march to the playoffs. They got a good look at the NFL’s newest palace, the state-of-the-art Seahawks Stadium – and a chance to imagine what’s in store for Philadelphia at Lincoln Financial Field.
“If the Linc is only half this good,” said Shawn Stevens, a Malvern resident who, like scores of others in Section 106, wore a No. 5 McNabb jersey, “I’ll be thrilled. “
Seattle’s brand-new facility is a place where the concourses are wide and the men’s room line is short. It is a stadium where the grass is green and the hot dogs aren’t.
Eagles fans, accustomed to crowded, urine-soaked conditions in the 700 level, marveled at a clean food court where they sell barbecue and latte.
“What’s that? ” I heard one mook from Shunk Street say, pointing to a maintenance worker carrying a long stick with bristles at the end.
“Not sure. I think it’s a broom,” said his buddy.
In the men’s room, I swear I had to stop one guy wearing a Birds sweatshirt when he started unzipping in front of a sink.
“No, no,” I told him, pointing to a row of sparkling urinals nearby. “Over there. “
Kidding aside, Eagles fans seemed unaccustomed to such creature comforts.
“No comparison,” said Mark Michael, a fan from Rising Sun, Md., when asked how the place ranks next to the Eagles’ home in South Philly. “It’s just so nice. “
The place has it all: giant high-def TV screens above the end zones, an excellent sound system, a view of the city skyline, cup-holders at every seat.
Inside, the beer vendor not only sells hefeweizen, he knows how to pronounce it. One of them, a local favorite named Scooter, hands out business cards that identify himself as “Chief Beverage Officer. ” Page him on his personal beer-line, and he’ll show up in your section with a cold one.
It was the word of the day, usually pronounced wistfully, with the jaw hanging in wonder.
“It’s a little too nice, if you ask me,” said John Mach of Germantown, Md.
“I mean, fans here just aren’t the same,” he continued. “They see me wearing green, and they say, ‘Have a nice game. ‘ “
In Philly, of course, out-of-town colors are greeted profanely.
More to the point, Seahawks fans are decidedly indifferent about their team. The upper reaches were dotted with hundreds of empty seats.
That’s partly because this is not a pro football town. Seattle gets more excited about the latest flavor of decaf at Tully’s than its terrific running back, Shaun Alexander. The local paper devoted more space to Division 4A high school playoffs than to yesterday’s matchup with the best team in the NFC.
“The [University of Washington] Huskies draw 72,000, win, lose or draw,” said Seattle Post-Intelligencer sports writer Angelo Bruscas. “And for a while, there were waiting lists for Seahawks seats.
“But ever since [former owner Ken] Behring tried to move the team to California, they left in droves. In this city, you only fill the stadium when you win. “
That won’t be a problem when the Eagles move into their new stadium next year. But that’s not what has me worried.
After spending an afternoon in this polished venue, I wonder if the Eagles’ fans will lose that gritty edge. When they finally get their taste of luxury, will we have the same fury, the same in-your-face attitude that makes us feared around the league?
Or will Eagles fans go soft when they can’t pee in the sinks? *