Eagles’ owner eager to aid NFL’s plan

PHILADELPHIA -- Jeffrey Lurie is happy to help the NFL take over the world.

For a guy who owns a franchise in maybe the most parochial and traditional market in the country, Lurie keeps pushing the Eagles to the forefront of the league's movement to capture the attention of everyone in every audience it can.

The Eagles played on Christmas afternoon last year when the holiday fell on a Monday, which set the precedent for what the NFL will do this year: have two games on Wednesday, Dec. 25. Now they'll open their regular season on Friday, Sept. 6, in Sao Paulo, Brazil, and the notion that people in other countries might not be as passionate about American football as Americans are doesn't seem even a consideration for Lurie and his peers.

If there are markets to be tapped and even a dollar more to be made, the NFL will give it a go. The league appears bent on making every day of the week open to pro football, and it definitely wants to expand internationally, and Lurie has made the Eagles one of its flagships in the pursuit of those goals.

"It's probably the biggest area of growth for the National Football League," he told reporters Tuesday at the league's owners meetings in Orlando. "We are not a sport that has had tremendous global expansion, global growth. It's about to happen."

The funny part is, Lurie once wasn't so optimistic or enthusiastic about the NFL's potential growth beyond this country's borders. In October 2005, in fact, he dared to cast some doubt on the prospects for expansion that he's so quick to tout now.

The Eagles were coming off their first Super Bowl berth of his tenure, and the league was preparing for its first international regular-season game: the San Francisco 49ers vs. the Arizona Cardinals in Mexico City.

Lurie liked the idea of a game outside the U.S. ... for the Cardinals. The franchise was a bottom-feeder. The Cardinals weren't selling out Sun Devil Stadium, and State Farm Stadium wasn't opening for another year. So to Lurie's way of thinking, Arizona could afford to give up a home game and reap the publicity benefits of playing in Mexico. But he wasn't certain that playing a regular-season game abroad would ever be feasible for the Eagles.

"I don't know if it really ever could be," he said then. "I just don't know. It's a little easier to plan a preseason game and then recover from that. I don't know what the extent of the disadvantage would be of playing a game, not in Mexico or Toronto, but in London or even Beijing or Shanghai. Maybe you pair teams going into bye weeks.

"It needs a lot of thought. You don't want to create any competitive disadvantage. On the other hand, it would be great to showcase the NFL in wonderful places like London and Shanghai and Mexico City and Toronto."

Nearly two decades later, all that caution and concern is little more than an afterthought. The league and its broadcast partners can conspire to change a team's schedule in the middle of a season, and concepts such as "competitive disadvantage" and "player safety" hardly seem considerations. The fans who follow the sport most closely here are treated more and more like second-class citizens. The reach is all that matters, regardless of the unintended costs.

"So proud to be an ambassador for the NFL," Lurie said. "I think it's America's most incredible potential export. Most things in America that are really popular become extremely popular globally. The NFL hasn't yet. It's about to have a chance to be. And so to be a part of that, to represent a really good football team that's exciting to watch, I think will be great for Brazil and South America and for the public to see down there."

Jeffrey Lurie has seen the light. Forget settling in on Sundays anymore. Forget the stability and normalcy and rhythms of what an NFL season once was. He and the league's owners are doing all they can to turn pro football into a seven-days-a-week sport, anywhere they want, anytime they want, because we can't get enough.

Seventeen games now. Eighteen games soon enough. One week in Brazil, the next in Philadelphia, someday on the dark side of the moon. Welcome to the revolution. It'll be streamed on Peacock.

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