Eagles Fan Has Banner Days
John Rodio doesn't have to speak. He uses sign language.
For the Oct. 11 game between the 0-5 Redskins and the 0-5 Eagles, he hung a huge banner at Veterans Stadium that read, MAY THE WORST TEAM LOSE.
When Jimmy Johnson spurned the Eagles' coaching job to remain a Fox analyst, the people's hero known as Sign Man left a 32-foot message: HEY, JIMMY, FOX YOU. When the Eagles were known around the league as being too nice: WE NEED THUGS, NOT HUGS.
Rodio, 34, is a landscaper from Hammonton, N.J.; an Eagles season-ticket holder; and a fan "forever," he says. Before every Eagles home game (and an occasional road game) for the past 15 years, he has taken nearly unrippable white reinforced paper and a can of paint and tried to get his point across in three-foot-high letters. Then he has hung his works from a railing in front of 18 seats, usually to rave reviews.
The day of the Redskins-Eagles game was a typical one in the life of a paintbrush poet. Rodio hung his sign. Eagles management complained about the tone. The sign stayed. A photo of it made The Washington Post and the national wires.
"They say they want me to be positive, but it's not my fault we were 0-5!" Rodio says. "I mean, this is why we're one of the worst teams in the league. We were 0-5, and they're worrying about signs!"
Somebody once said that the revolution is only a T-shirt away. If you owned the Eagles, wouldn't you worry?
In 1991, when then Eagles owner Norman Braman was vacationing in the South of France while defensive stars Jerome Brown, Seth Joyner and Clyde Simmons were holding out, Sign Man wrote, NORM: TU N'EST PAS ECOUTE (Norm: You're not listening). Upon the hiring of gung ho coach Ray Rhodes: WHAT A DIFFERENCE A RAY MAKES. On the Eagles' management team of owner Jeff Lurie and executive vice president Joe Banner: LURIE/BANNER: DUMB AND DUMBER.
Rodio's signs are so popular he spends much of the game talking to admirers. Some have suggested that he pursue a career helping politicians with pithy slogans. But he sticks with his one-phrase-a-week job.