The Chip Kelly era officially got underway last week as the Philadelphia Eagles opened training camp at their Nova Care practice complex in South Philly. For the first time the Eagles have decided to skip holding camp on a college campus in favor of the convenience of staying at home.
For many this is a sad development. Training camp had become a part of their summer routine, with lots of fans even incorporating a trip to Lehigh into their vacation. I never went that far, but it was a daytrip I made many times and that provided lots of memories.
The first time I attended Eagles training camp I was five-years-old and was with my Dad. It was on the campus of West Chester University, which seemed like it was hours away, even though it was only 45 minutes from our home. That morning’s practice was postponed due to fog and rain, but that almost worked out better because the 7-Eleven we stopped at had like five Eagles inside, including quarterback Matt Cavanaugh. I got the chance to meet real-life NFL players, which for a five-year-old is only about the most mind-blowing thing imaginable.
Two years later my old man took two friends and I up to West Chester again to watch both ends of a two-a-day. We brought Randall Cunningham posters with us. Every time he came on the field closest to where we were sitting, my friends and I would chant his name over and over again. The first time he pointed toward us, while the second time he yelled out to us. Then after practice he came over to us and signed our posters. This was 22 years ago and yet I remember almost every second of the day.
Then when I went to Lehigh for the first time my Dad somehow managed to score us VIP field passes. I got stepped on by Irving Fryar (which actually kind of hurt) watched Jon Gruden curse-out tight end Jason Dunn and stood within 20 yards of a live NFL goal-line drill (perhaps the most violent and riveting thing I have seen up close in my entire life).
All of these memories, plus many more, occurred because of the intimate setting of a college campus.
That has gone by the wayside, and to me it is incredibly depressing. Those events shaped helped me fall in love with the Eagles and created some of the great memories I had from childhood with my Dad. Yeah, they were only practices, but kids don’t care about that kind of stuff. Sure they would rather go to real-live games, but sometimes getting an up close and personal moment with your heroes is actually better than watching your team win.
Now kids won’t have that chance anymore. Sure the Birds will still offer the opportunity for people to see slivers of camp. Five practices will be open to the public (the first of which came one Sunday), but 50,000 people inside the Linc just is not the same. The Eagles did a disservice to their fans with the switch, particularly the young ones.
I’m sad for them, and I’m sad for myself.