Yesterday the Eagles announced that as the Chip Kelly era begins, training camp will no longer be held at Lehigh University. The Eagles will now have a closed training camp held at their practice center, the Nova Care Complex.
I have seen numerous media outlets praise this move, and say it signals a new era and that the Eagles will get more out of training camp without the distraction of players signing autographs and fans watching every play. That may be true, but as a fan, especially one who lives in the Lehigh Valley, this one hurts. I looked forward each year to going down to Lehigh and getting to be within feet of Brian Dawkins, Donovan McNabb, Brian Westbrook, LeSean McCoy, Asante Samuel, and all of my favorite Eagles. You just could never get this close to your favorite players. And when you went to Lehigh as a kid, it gave you some of the greatest memories of your life. I remember Hank Basket playing catch with me one year, and walking away just thinking how great of an experience it was, and it isn’t something I will ever forget. I also remember right as all the “Dream Team” drama started getting a high five from Vince Young and moments later getting one from Nnamdi Asomugha(before I hated him), and just feeling this sense of accomplishment.
And it wasn’t just me feeling like this. Fans would interact with players while they were playing. I remember one instance were a fan jokingly called out Stewart Bradley for dropping a sure pick, and the next play Bradley picked the ball off and jokingly said, “You like that?’, back to the fan.
Those type of stories will never happen at The Nova Care Complex. Maybe it is for the best. Ultimately I would enjoy attending a Superbowl victory parade more than Training Camp. And Kelly has said the Eagles will host some open practices at the Linc, so it isn’t like they are completely shutting the fans out. There just will never be the same type of fan to player contact that there was at Lehigh, which flat out sucks if you are a fan.