As Eagles fullback Kyle Eckel was dressing for practice at his locker yesterday, the former Episcopal Academy star and South Philly native wore a tired smile. A glance at his cell phone told the story. The background on it said Phillies.
Like almost everyone in the tristate area, Eckel was knee-deep in Phillies fever on Wednesday night, as the club secured the city's first major title in 25 years.
"I'm a huge Phillies fan," said Eckel, who was only 1 when the Sixers won this city's last championship in 1983. "I grew up in Packer Park, within an earshot of the Vet. My favorite sports team of all time is the 1993 Phillies. I watched the game at a buddy's apartment in South Philly. It was awesome."
Although the Birds were preparing for Sunday's game at Seattle, the talk of the locker room was the Phillies. How could it not be?
"You knew it was going to be nuts," said fullback Dan Klecko, of the fans' reaction to the title-clinching game. "It was just awesome that they won. I'm not the biggest baseball fan, but I found myself yelling at the TV. I was on edge. It was a lot of fun. I'm really glad they won."
Klecko knows a thing or two about championships, as he owns three Super Bowl rings (two with New England and one with Indianapolis). He also is hip to the parade thing.
"They're nuts," he said. "Everyone's out in the crowd - little kids are out there, grown men, grown woman. It's fun to see how many people come out to watch you, basically, drive by. It feels real good to have that many fans."
But now that Philly fans, many of whom are experiencing their first title, have the winning taste, is there more pressure on the other local pro teams to follow the Phillies lead?
"There's always pressure on us to win," said safety Quintin Mikell. "This city loves football, it loves baseball and all the different sports. There's always going to be pressure on us to win. I don't think [the Phillies' win] changes anything.
"We're definitely working toward that [winning a championship]. That's our ultimate goal. I'm happy for those guys. I know Ryan [Howard] and Jimmy [Rollins] and they deserve it."
When asked whether his team can get any inspiration from the Phils' win, defensive coordinator Jim Johnson joked: "I hope it inspires them for this weekend." He then added: "We know how Philadelphia is, we know what a passionate city it is and how much they want to win. I know the players want to win, and the coaches, too.
"It [Phillies' win] was very emotional and you get caught up in it. I know our players did, too. It was great for this city. I'm sure that parade [today] will be great, too."
Unfortunately for Eckel, he won't be able to join the fans taking part in one of the most anticipated, and overdue, parades a city could host. He'll be on a flight out west. The party certainly will go on. *