The Implosion of a Billion-Dollar Franchise
In the autumn of 1954, my father went to Rome to research a biography of Clare Boothe Luce, playwright, wit, former congresswoman, and President Eisenhower’s Ambassador to Italy.
That was the year her husband—Henry R. Luce, founder of Time, LIFE and Fortune—launched Sports Illustrated to the astonishment of everyone who knew him, because Luce was emphatically not a sports fan.
The story running around Rome and New York was that someone inveigled Luce to go to a ball game at Yankee Stadium and he was stunned to see 50,000 screaming fans.
“How long has this been going on?” Luce reportedly asked his companion.
“A long time,” was the reply.
“This calls for a magazine,” Luce said, and the rest is history.
When my wife, Peggy, and I moved to Philadelphia—a sports-crazed city—in 1992, we were not sports fans.
Three weeks ago we were given tickets to the Eagles vs. the Chicago Bears, and as we made our way through the parking lots, I confess, I was as stunned as Harry Luce was 53 years ago.
The Philadelphia Eagles
During one of the roundtable discussions on television during the Eagles-Cowboys game last Sunday, it was mentioned that Jeffrey Lurie bought the Philadelphia Eagles in 1995 for about $195 million—a record amount for a sports team. They estimated that today the franchise is worth somewhere around $1 billion.
Over the past four or five years, Peggy and I have seldom missed an Eagles game on television. The team was hot and getting hotter.
TV sports coverage is all business—commentary, interviews, the game, taped replays of the most exciting action and a load of commercials. TV does not have time for “color”—the happy crowds, the busty cheerleaders who perform in brief two-piece outfits that feature hot pants, low-cut tops and bright pink pompoms, and the legion of characters on the sidelines—coaches, waterboys, medics, photographers, and TV cameramen.