[size=18px]They're Ruining Fans' Reputation[/size]
BIRDS' BACKERS FORM A CHARITY TO HELP OTHERS IN NEED
HIS REAL NAME is Kevin Francis. But to regular readers of the fan-message boards on the Eagles' Web site, he's known as "MadAsHell," beloved scribe of hilarious and passionate rants about the Birds.
And last spring, he was in a bad way.
It could be nothing, his doctor had told him, or it could be really bad. The sooner they knew, the better his odds for getting back to posting 4.8 messages per day - yes, per day - on the boards.
But MadAsHell had no insurance to pay for the tests and treatment the doc ordered.
Word of his plight leaked onto the Web site's "Fan Zone" forums. And that's when he learned a beautiful thing: There's no love like the love of an online brotherhood whose blood runs Iggles-green.
Members with such screen names as "DrinkinAtTheLincoln," "ilikepargo" and "beermonkey" offered cash and auctioned off their coveted Eagles memorabilia to pay MadAsHell's medical bills.
"Whada_F" let fans make credit-card donations through his PayPal account on eBay.
And others offered prayers for the online orator they likened to barfly Cliff Clavin, the pontificating postman from "Cheers."
All this, from people who didn't know each other, for a guy they'd never met?
"When you're a regular on the boards, there's a sense of community," explained Thom Rouse, a New Jersey lobbyist and graphic artist who created a Web site to spread the word about MadAsHell's need.
"Even if you don't know each other face to face, you can still know people pretty well."
It helped that MadAsHell wrote about more than just the Eagles, said fan Steve Jones, a cop in Chester County. Catch him on a good day and you'd split your gut reading his freewheeling takes on everything from elderly drivers to office politics.
"He's just so funny - sarcastic, and dry," Jones said. "I identified with him."
In less than 3 weeks, the gang raised more than $3,000 for MadAsHell, who eventually recovered and resumed trash-talking Pittsburgh on the boards.
Right now, you should be shaking your head in disbelief.
Not only because this story belies the rep of Birds fans as cold and heartless people who once booed Santa off the field.
But because it doesn't end with MadAsHell's good fortune. Once the group saw how quick and easy it was to help him, they posted messages asking, "How can we do this for other needy fans?"
And so, last April, they launched "Fans Helping Fans" - a Web-based charity for Eagles fans in short-term jams.
Since then, the group has held fund-raisers and auctions to supplement the financial pledges that its founding, 10-member board (which now includes MadAsHell) committed to the cause. Next month, they will award their first grants.
Among the crucial requirements of grant applicants: They must write a convincing paragraph detailing their "history and experience as a Philadelphia Eagles Fan."
Do you love these guys, or what?
Beyond that, FHF is interested mostly in cases where a modest amount of money would make a big difference.
"Say a fan can't pay his heating bill. Maybe we'd buy him a tank of oil," said board secretary Emily Lawrence, a Morgan Lewis litigator whose firm established, pro bono, FHF's tax-exempt status. "Or maybe someone has started a job-training program and needs tools. We could do that for them."
Sort of the way family would, which is what FHF is really all about
: looking out for fellow fans, because, when you love the Eagles, you're family.
Once FHF has gotten into the swing of making wishes come true, they'd like to nudge fans in other cities into establishing similar charities. Because as far as anyone knows, nothing like FHF exists outside of Philly.
"It's a fantastic concept," gushed Tim McDermott, the Eagles' senior marketing director. "It really shows the incredible passion and compassion of Eagles fans."
Who, by the way, are long overdue for an image retooling, said Chris Weale, an FHF board member and rabid tailgater.
"We have a new stadium, a new practice facility. All we want now, besides a championship, is a more accurate image of the Eagles fan base. Some of those bad stories are true. But we're also loyal, caring and concerned."
Which MadAsHell can attest to firsthand.
He doesn't want to disclose his health scare. But, he said, "when I think of how they helped me, my heart swells with pride and faith."
As the FHF board likes to say, "That's what happens when you go from booing Santa to being Santa."