In the end, Donald Trump couldn't stand the thought of another tiny crowd.
Not after the inauguration photos.
Not after so many Patriots no-showed last year. Even Tom Brady and his MAGA hat didn't show up.
On their way to winning Super Bowl LII, the Eagles were a team at the forefront of NFL player protests during the national anthem the last two seasons. The ownership group largely despises the administration, but the team and Trump's representatives spent weeks hammering out a trip to Washington that was palatable to all. Recently, a handful of Eagles said they would boycott the White House portion. A handful more said they might not go.
Still, the visit was set for Tuesday. Monday evening, Trump disinvited the Eagles. Why? Because he couldn't stand to have so few show him fealty.
And here's the thing: He's admitting it.
The White House press secretary issued a statement that read, in part, "The Eagles wanted to send a smaller delegation … "
So, full attendance is now compulsory to receive an invitation to the White House? What about the Patriots, who had 32 percent fewer players visit Trump's White House than Obama's? Of course, Patriots owner Robert Kraft donated $1 million to Trump's inauguration fund. Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie gave $2,700 to Hillary Clinton's campaign. Then, Lurie reportedly called Trump's presidency disastrous.
Unwittingly, Trump just proved him right. Again.
He insists that they stand, hand on heart.
A reminder: He can't insist on any such behavior. Not from them, and not from you. He's not the king.
It should be noted that, after Eagles protest leader Malcolm Jenkins led the Players Coalition to an accord with owners in November, no Eagle protested the anthem for the rest of the season or in the playoffs, a span of eight games.
If two or three dozen Eagles wanted to attend, they should now realize why they were invited. They were duped, plain and simple, by one of the worst strategic minds in American history.
Call it the Philly Not-so-Special.
The Eagles, finally, released a statement on the eve of the canceled visit, without saying much about the visit at all:
"It has been incredibly thrilling to celebrate our first Super Bowl Championship. Watching the entire Eagles community come together has been an inspiration. We are truly grateful for all the support we have received and we are looking forward to continuing our preparations for the 2018 season."
We told you weeks ago: They were pawns in his game. Props for his show. It was never to be done in their honor, only his.
It was never meant to celebrate them. It was meant to celebrate only him. Like everything else, from the Women's March to Memorial Day
This latest public-relations debacle trumps Trump's tone-deaf rejection last September of the Golden State Warriors, who, from coach to bench warmer, wanted nothing to do with him, anyway. Also, they're from California, a blue state where, Trump will tell you, coastal elites are out of touch. (Trump, ever the hypocrite, is a blue-state New York billionaire.)
So, what now, Pennsylvania? What now, when he has disrespected coal-country Pa.?
Philadelphia is a liberal city, but there's plenty of Trump love on game day at Lincoln Financial Field, some of it at the farthest extreme. Will that remain the case?
Let's hear a chorus of green-bleeding Pennsylvania Pepes explain how shunning their precious Birds isn't deplorable. Let's hear how spitting in the face of the Super Bowl champions Makes America Great Again.
Don't forget: The Keystone State went red in 2016. Now, it's red in the face.
Maybe now the pro-Trump Eagles fans might realize that he's not the plain-talking hero of the common man. Go to New Jersey and they'll tell you: He's never been anything but a con man and a thief; a huckster; a carnival barker. He always leached his fame and his worth from the accomplishments and celebrity of people who actually achieved things in life. Tuesday's carnival wasn't going to feature him prominently, or positively, so he called the whole show off.
If this does not lay bare for you the nature of this president, then nothing will. This act — this graceless, puny act — insults both the democratic ideal and the sporting ideal. Both are rooted in the concept that citizens put aside their differences to unite for the greater good.
The only good Donald Trump wants to make greater is his own.