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Sunday, February 23, 2020

Incredible: Superfan John Hartnett set to attend 300th straight Eagles home game

John Hartnett Eagles fan

The Philadelphia Eagles on Sunday will look to improve to 5-4 when they host the Chicago Bears, and potentially begin a winning streak following their Week 8 victory at Buffalo. The same day, one of the team’s biggest fans will be celebrating a major milestone in a streak of his own.

John Hartnett, who has been a fan of the Eagles since the early ’70s, will be attending his 300th straight Eagles home game. Hartnett also synced up the day so it would mark the 400th NFL game he has attended.

This week, Larry Brown Sports spoke with Hartnett to get the story behind the incredible streak.

Hartnett told Larry Brown Sports that he attended his first Eagles game in 1970 after a friend invited him to go. The 64-year-old was in high school at the time, and the Eagles were playing at Franklin Field. Harnett says the Eagles lost to the Cowboys that game, and it was kind of boring (records show they lost 17-7).

So when did things change?

The following year, the Eagles moved into Veterans Stadium, and Hartnett gave it another shot. He went to a game in 1971 on Halloween, and the Eagles beat the Broncos 17-16.

“The place was jumping,” Hartnett says, and he was hooked.

He went home and called the Eagles, they sent him a brochure, and he signed him for season tickets for the 1972 season. They made the Super Bowl in 1980, so he didn’t have to wait too long for success, though they didn’t win it all until the 2017 season.

Though Hartnett first bought season tickets in 1972, that’s not when the streak started. The streak, which he counts as home regular season and playoff games, began in 1983. The one exception to the streak was the scab game in 1986. He justifies his absence as not counting towards the streak by saying “if the real Eagles didn’t have to show up, why did I?” and says he got approval from a Philadelphia media member, who applied that ruling.

The last non-scab Eagles home game he missed was on December 4, 1983 against the Rams. Since then, he has attended 299 straight Eagles home games.

Sunday will also mark his 400th game attended. Between 1970 and the start of the streak in 1983, he attended 94 games. He has attended some road games as well, including ones at Atlanta and Green Bay this season, so that the 300-game streak would also mark his 400th game.

For a fan who has been to games spanning five decades, what has been the biggest change he’s noticed? The price was the first thing to come to mind.

When Hartnett first bought season tickets, the price was $5 per game on a 14-game schedule. With seven home games per year, that worked out to an extremely affordable $35.

“I literally pay more to park my car at each game now,” Hartnett states.

Comparatively, when the Eagles moved into their new stadium at Lincoln Financial Field in 2003, Harnett paid just over $3,000 as a personal seat license.

What was the closest John came to missing a game during the streak? He says he nearly did not make the Tuesday night game in 2010 against the Minnesota Vikings that was moved due to a storm. Hartnett missed work that day because he was sick and says he nearly didn’t go to the game, but decided to attend to keep the streak alive. The game was won by Minnesota 24-14 and is known as the “Joe Webb game” because it marked Webb’s first career start as a quarterback in the NFL — one he surprisingly won.

Asked for one of the craziest things he’s seen during his years attending Eagles games, he says there are fights in the stands all the time. But he recalls the time a guy set his pants on fire as the craziest.

“He had a propane tank and mounted a showerhead on it and lit it, and they were using that to keep warm in the parking lot. And this guy was standing next to it and didn’t realize his pants were on fire and put it out using his beer,” Hartnett recalls.

His best memory, of course, was when the Eagles finally won the Super Bowl.

When asked what is it about the Eagles that has made Hartnett such a dedicated fan, he acted like I had asked the dumbest question in the world and answered bluntly, “It’s Philadelphia, everybody loves the Eagles.”

These days with high-definition TVs and great home setups, the appeal of watching a game from the comfort of one’s own home has increased. Asked why he chooses to attend games instead, Harnett has a simple answer.

“Of course it’s easy to watch from home, but it’s nothing like being in the stadium.”

Below is a chart Hartnett has used to track the games he has attended that includes the team’s record for games he’s attended.

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