Empire State Building Surrenders to Philadelphia

Iconic tower goes green for Eagles.

AP/Matt Slocum
The Philadelphia Eagles head coach, Nick Sirianni, is doused by defensive tackle Fletcher Cox and teammates after the NFC Championship game January 29, 2023. AP/Matt Slocum

New Yorkers are waking up to a city that has surrendered its greatness in the world of sports, with the Empire State Building going green for the Philadelphia Eagles’ victory in the NFC Championship — a sad sign that the city of Mantle, Messier, and Manning is no longer content to root, root, root for the home team.

Two weeks ago, I wrote about the unifying power of sports after the New York Giants suffered a drubbing at the hands of these same Eagles. This remains true. However, short of a ticking time-bomb scenario, there is no way any New Yorker would put on the colors of a rival.

 The Empire State Building is sacred, and that none of the unremarkable structures in the City of Brotherly Love has ever or would ever adorn itself in the color of our many championship teams goes without saying.

What have they done to earn this great honor? Just seven days before, the Eagles head coach, Nicholas Sirianni, was mocking the Giants in their playoff game, mugging at a camera and cursing at officials, “I know what I’m f—ing doing,” demonstrating his lack of sportsmanship and class.

When the quarterback who led the Giants to two Super Bowls, Eli Manning, announced he’d break a pledge never to set foot in the city again to watch the game, he was welcomed by a billboard featuring two eagles.

Why reward the Eagles’ fan base, feeding their Napoleon complex with a spire in our great metropolis? Philadelphia is to be condescended to, not have its name in lights. On those occasions, say, when the Phillies won the World Series — twice, tied with the Mets — they were reminded of the Yankees’ 27 rings.

New York City-area teams have won eight Stanley Cups since the Flyers last hoisted it in 1975, the second of just two. The Eagles boast of a single Super Bowl to the five of the Giants and Jets. 

The Eagles aren’t hated simply because they’re from another city but because of what it represents, and their fans relish it. Philadelphia fans — rated as the worst in repeated surveys — are proud of having thrown snowballs at Santa Claus. As the chant goes, “We’re from Philly. We’re from Philly. No one likes us. We don’t care.”

As Jill Jonnes wrote in “Conquering Gotham,” one reason the glorious Penn Station was torn down is because of its name, not fully New York but Pennsylvania. Perhaps the Empire State Building feels Philly has so little, we can spare some crumbs, but why rob them of their identity with a leap onto the bandwagon? 

Besides, once a New Yorker is on board, the likelihood of being taunted with profanity, beaten, or even vomited upon — as a local hero, Matthew “Pukemon” Clemmens, chose to do on a little girl at a 2010 Phillies game — skyrockets.

Last year, I spoke to the announcer for the Eagles at Lincoln Financial Field. He reminds fans that the stadium has a judge and jail for lawbreakers to be prosecuted on site. “It’s a strange feeling,” he told me, “to be booed in unison by 80,000 drunken Eagles fans.”

The Founding Fathers spent long, hot days at Philadelphia crafting the Constitution, but when it came time to pick a capitol — and inaugurate the first president — they fled to NYC, because if government of, by, and for the people could make it here, it could make it anywhere.

The Eagles have only punched their ticket to the Super Bowl, not won it — and the football gods willing, they won’t. However, even if they do, the city will still have a chip on its shoulder because it knows it will forever live in New York’s shadow — a shadow that even the lights of our gleaming, alabaster skyline can’t lift.

The New York Sun

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