Two friends of mine scored free tickets for the Eagles-Lions game on Sunday.

Despite the snowy forecast, they still decided to make the 120-mile journey from the Hanover area to Lincoln Financial Field.

One friend roots for the Eagles, while the other is a Redskins fan, but they still manage to co-exist quite nicely.

That wasn't the case at "The Linc." The Redskins fan made a critical error in judgment. He dared to wear a Redskins jacket into the game. The Philadelphia fans took immediate offense and rained down verbal abuse upon him.

In a way, the Redskins fan should consider himself lucky. The abuse he absorbed was only verbal.

A Lions fan wasn't nearly as lucky. A 33-year-old man wearing a Lions hat and jersey was physically attacked by at least two men wearing Eagles jerseys while nearing the Philly subway to go home.

The moral of the story here?

The NFL game experience is becoming less and less appealing all the time.

After all, here are a few fans who braved some really nasty weather to attend a game, and all they got for their efforts was abuse, both verbal and physical. My friends left the game after the first quarter and endured a six-hour ride home on dangerous, snow-covered roads.

It hardly seemed worth the effort.


The Philadelphia experience gets even worse if the Eagles lose. A recent report by Birds 24/7 said disorderly conduct arrests more than tripled following an Eagles loss, compared to an Eagles win. Thank goodness the Eagles dominated the Lions on Sunday, or things could have gotten really ugly.

Of course, Philly does have a reputation for being a very tough sports town. Eagles fans once booed Santa Claus and Veterans Stadium had a courtroom built into the facility where unruly fans were taken for quick judgment and sentencing after committing crimes.

Philadelphia, however, is not alone in experiencing problems with verbal and physical abuse. It happens at NFL venues all across the country, to one degree or another. You combine a predominantly adult male crowd loaded with testosterone and a highly competitive atmosphere, and stir with copious amounts of alcohol, and you're going to have some problems.

But fan abuse is not the only issue that detracts from the NFL game-day experience. There are also outrageous prices for concessions, parking and tickets. If you're a season-ticket holder, you also have to pay full price for preseason games, which may be the single-biggest rip-off in sports today. And then there are seat licenses for the right to buy those season tickets, which can cost thousands of dollars.

It makes you wonder why anyone actually goes to the game. After all, you can sit in your warm, comfy easy chair at home and watch all the action on a big-screen, high-definition television. You can hear all the commentary and watch all the replays, while also checking out other action on NFL Red Zone. And you can do all that while drinking and eating for 10 to 20 percent of the stadium cost, while you car is parked for free in your garage.

Seems like a no-brainer.

Actually, more fans are staying home. According to a recent Associated Press story, in 2008, only five teams played to stadiums that were less than 95 percent full. That number has doubled this season. Teams often boast "sellouts" with thousands of empty seats in the stadium.

Even a team with a rabid following such as the Pittsburgh Steelers is not immune. Their game on Nov. 10 against Buffalo at Heinz Field featured about 5,000 empty seats.

Fans here in York County may be even more inclined to stay home. After all, there are no NFL stadiums within easy driving distance. Baltimore is the nearest NFL city, but it's still about 50 miles from Continental Square. York to Philadelphia is about 95 miles, while York to Pittsburgh is about 225 miles. For Giants or Jets fans, the journey from York to East Rutherford, N.J., runs about 180 miles.

Those trips become even less appealing when you factor in the costs and the sometimes nasty environment.

Yes, watching an NFL game in a packed stadium in an electric atmosphere can be exhilarating. And tailgating with your friends and fellow fans can be quite enjoyable.

But at some point, the attractiveness of the game-day experience doesn't seem worth the aggravations that come with it.

The NFL may be fast approaching that tipping point.

Steve Heiser is sports editor of The York Dispatch. He can be reached at