In Center City Sunday morning, police with cans of Crisco were greasing poles to deter post-game climbers.
On the outskirts of town, the partying was already underway, some eight hours before the Eagles take on the Minnesota Vikings at Lincoln Financial Field, their last hurdle to a Super Bowl appearance.
By 10 a.m., dedicated tailgaters decked out in green, green and more green had already set up camp in nearby FDR Park on Pattison Avenue. With no Minnesota Vikings purple in sight, the mood was celebratory – and confident.
“We’re gonna win,” said Ryan Krepp, 40, of Norristown, as he attached a flat-screen TV to a tree trunk so his crew could watch the earlier AFC Championship game between the Jacksonville Jaguars and the New England Patriots.
“We already have an exit plan for when we win,” said his friend Mike Rothman, 45, of Norristown.
“We’re gonna go down Broad Street,” Krepp said. “We’re not going to riot and be drunk morons. We’re not going to punch horses. They’ll be hooting and hollering.”
Just no pole climbing, the city hopes.
Police, dubbed the “Crisco Cops,” lathered light poles with lard to discourage fans from shimmying up them, a common antic after big games. On a stretch of Market Street in Center City, poles that were adorned with Eagles banners were greased. Police were asked to identify “hot spots” where celebrations likely would occur, said Capt. Capt. Sekou Kinebrew. A similar strategy was used after the Phillies won the World Series in 2008.
The tactic gained attention as far as the West Coast, where at least one celeb weighed in.
I wish that at this very moment i were 95 years old with the plug to my oxygen within my reach https://t.co/8gEb7apVFy
— christine teigen (@chrissyteigen) January 21, 2018
Bob Whalon, 49, of Souderton, said Eagles fans get a bad rap for being too rowdy. In reality, most are simply loyal and passionate, not mean-spirited, he said.
He would know – he’s been organizing this tailgate for more than 20 years. The “camaraderie” of being here for every home game can’t be beat, he said.
Nearby, J.R. Mallon, 47, of North Wilmington, said he hasn’t watched a home Eagles game on television since 1997. Sunday was no different.
He and friend Pat Lenzi, 54, of West Chester, pulled in at FDR Park just before 10 a.m.
As they unpacked their table, lawn chairs, and grill, Mallon pointed to a patch of muddy grass a few feet away. That spot, he said, brings back memories. It was where they tailgated together before the first home game this season.
Before every game, the two start in the park, then walk over to meet a larger group of friends in the stadium lots, where there are “a lot of first-timers,” Mallon said.
“It’s like a picnic here,” Lenzi said with a laugh. “The closer you get to the stadium, the more insane it gets.”
Any pregame rituals?
Nothing special, they said.
“Just eat really well,” Mallon said, “and drink a lot.”
As morning turned to afternoon, and the temperature climbed into the 50s, a few Vikings jerseys could be spotted throughout the city, including at the Art Museum, where Minnesota fans committed the ultimate offense: dressing the Rocky statue in their team’s colors.
— BarDown (@BarDown) January 21, 2018
Not part of that stunt but nonetheless getting some abuse were Vikings faithful braving Eagles tailgate central.
Amid a sea of green revelers in the parking lots around the Linc, Jimmy Saah, 26, of Washington, wore a purple Randy Moss jersey. He drank beers and chatted with his friends, all Eagles fans.
He said some passing Birds fans had taunted him. He smiled back at them and tried not to engage, he said.
“I came with Eagles fans,” Saah said. “I feel more bad for them.”
Some Eagles fans have taunted Jimmy Saah, 26, of Washington, D.C, one of few wearing purple out here. But he said he’s keeping his Randy Moss jersey on the whole game, no matter the outcome. “I came with Eagles fans,” he said. “I feel more bad for them.” pic.twitter.com/hnfXJsDuEl
— Erin McCarthy (@erinK_mccarthy) January 21, 2018
“We deal with it,” Josh Brown, 26, of South Philadelphia, said of his friend’s affinity for the Vikings. He was Saah’s college roommate at Salisbury University in Maryland.
“I have been here for a regular season game before,” Saah said. Eagles fans, however, “were nicer to me the first time around.”
As Saah talked to a reporter, he spotted fellow Vikings fan Drew Heying, 28, of Rochester, Minn., walking by. The two hugged.
How has his day been so far?
“Everyone really likes the word …,” Heying said, using a crude term for a part of the anatomy that doubles as a reference for an annoying or detestable person. But “it’s not terrible.”
Heying said he’d found a way to calm Eagles fans angered by his presence: lifting his glass and offering a “Cheers.”
He planned to wear his Vikings jersey into the game. His exit strategy might be different.
“I brought some stuff for the walk out after, depending on the outcome,” Heying said, quickly pausing to correct himself. “When we win.”
That’s not the outcome Harry Markel, 55, of Bethel, Delaware County, was expecting. On the edge of lot C1, he spoke of an “easy win” in his “Eagle One,” an RV outfitted with a full bar, kitchen, indoor and outdoor TVs, and a clean bathroom.
A few parking spots away, Markel’s friend Ron Waranowicz, 44, of Connecticut, grilled ribs out of his food truck. A white board on the wall listed the menu for the game. It included “champagne on ice,” a bottle he and Markel hoped to be popping around 10 p.m.
If Eagles were handing out an award to the fans who traveled the farthest to get to Sunday’s game, it might go to West Philadelphia native Farid Sanders, 40, who now lives in Switzerland.
He and his 7-year-old son, Noah, arrived Saturday afternoon for what would be Noah’s first Eagles game.
“He’s so hyped,” Farid Sanders said while his son’s eyes were fixed on the AFC Championship game on a TV screen at a neighboring tailgate. Sanders said Noah was confused why everyone else wasn’t focusing on that game.
“He doesn’t know how the whole tailgating thing works yet,” Farid Sanders said with a laugh.
Father and son are due to fly home Monday night.
Staff writer Melanie Burney contributed to this article.