March 21, 2022
There's a question young millennials and Gen Z kids across the Delaware Valley will come to ask one day.
"What was The Vet like?"
Veterans Stadium, a multi-purpose venue that became outdated almost the second it was officially opened, was demolished 18 years ago today:
March 21, 2004: Philadelphia’s Veterans Stadium is imploded. pic.twitter.com/ETt3mst4Et— This Day In Sports Clips (@TDISportsClips) March 21, 2022
When the Eagles didn't have a team with a winning record for their first seven seasons at the Vet, I can't quite fault the fans who braved the elements to watch a disastrous team for being so out for blood. Their quarterback was John Reaves in 1972. He started seven games and lost all of them. He completed 48.2 percent of his passes while throwing for just seven touchdowns against 12 interceptions. If you were going to get away with bringing an entire case of beer into a game, fans might as well have done it if they were going to be treated to that slop on the field.
As a soon-to-be 28-year-old dude, I never saw an Eagles game at the Vet. I've seen probably seen close to 100 at Lincoln Financial Field, but that stadium's atmosphere isn't in the same universe as what went on at the Vet. My father, an animated South Philly union worker who passed on his crazed love of sports to me, wouldn't take me to a Birds game there. The man who made it clear that Cowboys fans were the lowest of the low in the Philly region even thought the action went way overboard in the no man's land of the Vet.
"Oh, jeez." My dad says when I called him to see what the Vet was like for Eagles games. "The best part about the Vet is that everyone hated to come. Every opponent hated to come here. I was glad it went at the end. The 700 level? I could never take a kid there. It was nasty."
I remember waking up and heading towards the Sports Complex on that day in March 2004 to see the stadium I had known my whole life implode. Would any other city treat the demolition of a decrepit stadium as if it was a Spring Fling darty? It was only right that the ultimate party stadium in sports went down with the party of the year. Anything to have an excuse to drink before noon in South Philly, right?
It feels fitting that after the Vet finally went by the wayside, both the Eagles and Phillies experienced the highest highs in franchise history. The Eagles made the Super Bowl that upcoming season. About a dozen or so years later, they brought the Lombardi Trophy home. The Phillies made five consecutive playoff berths from 2007-2011, hosting two World Series and winning one.
A building that saw so many losses gave way to a period of Philly sports rebirth. The years of disappointment and irrelevance that made those eventual triumphs so special were forged at the Vet. Let it stand as a place that was simultaneously disgusting and glorious.
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