Braman would score with Philly by selling Eagles

March 06, 1994|By Bill Lyon | Bill Lyon,Knight-Ridder News Service bTC

PHILADELPHIA -- Norman Braman would be better off without the Philadelphia Eagles.

And vice versa.

So it would be beneficial to all around if Braman sells the team.

The sooner the better.

If not to Jeffrey Lurie, the minor-league Hollywood producer and reputed tire-kicker whose dreams apparently exceed his financial reach, then to the next serious suitor with the checkbook and the clout to match his mouth.

The city long ago wearied of Braman.

And his contempt for Philadelphia, in turn, is undisguised.

He is an absentee landlord whose penurious ways have not only alienated, but infuriated, Eagles zealots.

He has owned the franchise for nine years and repeatedly has shrugged off buyers, insisting that the Eagles are not for sale, that they are his passion.

Now, though, there is reason to believe that Braman has lost his zest for the fight.

He has been ground down by his constant battles with the NFL. And the NFL has more lawyers, more money, more resources than Braman. In the long fight, he cannot win.

Nor can he marshal allies from among other owners, most of whom now shun him. Once they listened to him -- especially when he helped make them even wealthier with revenues from merchandising. But as soon as it became apparent that he had angered the league by threatening lawsuits over free-agent compensation, they didn't know him.

Increasingly, Braman has found himself alone on a tiny island that seems to shrink with each sunset.

The crusher came last season. Last winter, he gathered Eagles executives, told them he was a "visionary," that his business acumen would carry the franchise through the new era of free agency.

He made bold and brazen promises. The team finished 8-8. Publicly, the owner lauded that record, achieved as it was despite a crippling run of injuries. Privately, he was devastated. His grand plan was just short of a disaster.

Then he raised ticket prices.

Again.

Last winter, he said privately that he detected "a meanness of spirit" in Philadelphia that he didn't recall from his childhood. He has never seemed to fathom that he generates much of that spirit with his aloofness, his apparent arrogant disregard of the public, and his often destructive tight-fistedness.

a businessman -- and a self-admitted ruthless and relentless one at that -- Braman understands that timing is everything. And the timing could not be better for him to sell.

And there is every reason to believe that the Eagles now perch on the lip of an abyss.

As soon as this season, they could finish last in the NFC East, depending on how many more key players they lose, and depending on whether the free agents they sign and the draft choices they make are any better than in their recent, mostly calamitous, history.

Braman relishes a good fight, but this one has been going on a long time, he has no one else standing beside him, and he has just recuperated from a debilitating illness.

There really is no reason for him to stay on as owner.

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