It happened. It really, truly, finally happened.
The chip on Philadelphia’s shoulder died at age 57 at 10:18 p.m. Sunday, and was instantly buried by thousands of delirious Eagles fans who bolted out of bars and rowhouses in every corner of the city and screamed to the heavens in joy, celebrating, for the first time ever, a Super Bowl championship.
The Eagles had done the unthinkable, dethroning the hated New England Patriots by 41-33 in a breathtaking, nerve-racking, heart-stopping slugfest that went down to the final second of the game. Fans swarmed Broad Street in South Philly and Center City as soon as Super Bowl LII went into the history books. Men hoisted women on their shoulders, a father set off fireworks with his son, and residents clobbered pots and pans. Streetlights flickered as determined fans clambered up light poles, grease be damned. Some people drank champagne. Some cried. And everywhere, Eagles chants thundered through the air.
Crowds immediately amassed at Frankford and Cottman Avenues in Mayfair, where written signs offered a naive warning against carrying bottles or cans of beer. “Merry Christmas, buddy,” one Eagles fan said to another before lapsing into a warm embrace.
On Main Street in Manayunk, the Eagles fight song blared from trombones. At Temple University in North Philly, a seemingly endless line of Eagles fans streamed down Broad Street toward City Hall. Fireworks erupted near the Philadelphia Museum of Art, where fans gathered with beer, wine, and marijuana.
“Let’s go find some poles to climb, baby!” one fan shouted at a jam-packed XFinity Live!, where Hall & Oates songs played in the background.
“I feel like I’m living a dream, honestly,” said Andrew Sherry, 26, of West Chester, as he celebrated in Center City. “I love this city so freakin’ much.”
This was the impossible dream that Philadelphians have passed down to their children like an inheritance for nearly 60 years, with each generation learning to say “Let them win one before I die” with the same bittersweet mixture of hope and frustration.
This was the impossible dream that survived frigid Sundays at Franklin Field, the Mad Max mayhem of the 700 level at Veterans Stadium, the seat licensing fees at Lincoln Financial Field, and more disappointment and heartache and bad football than any single fan base should have to endure.
There was – how to put this politely? – a considerable amount of concern about how fans would react to a Super Bowl victory. The Police Department tried greasing light and traffic poles with hydraulic fluid, after discovering that Crisco didn’t prevent fans from climbing them after the NFC championship game. Other big cities, like Chicago and Los Angeles, had seen past championship celebrations careen into widespread destruction.
The city had tasted victory just 10 years ago, when the Phillies won the World Series. In the crazed celebration that followed, 76 fans were arrested, and a pair of businesses were looted downtown. But an Eagles Super Bowl championship? That, many observers agreed, could be a different experience entirely, a release of pent-up excitement and euphoria that had no equal.
Reports trickled in as the night wore on of a car being flipped over downtown, and a handful of injuries at the Ritz-Carlton, where an awning gave way under the weight of a group of fans. But for the most part, people seemed to enjoy the moment for what it was – a rare thing of beauty.
“It’s all love. It’s been nothing but love,” said Derek Stevenson, who brought his sons, ages 12 and 9, from Folcroft, Delaware County, to Broad Street and Oregon Avenue. His older son was nervous about making the trip, worried he might encounter an unhinged scene. Stevenson told his boy he had nothing to fear.
In Manayunk, amiable firefighters let fans honk the horn on their fire engine. A man on Main Street shot bottle rockets in the crowd, and was quickly hauled away by a police officer.
When the regular season began five months ago – a lifetime ago, really – few die-hards expected this Eagles team would be the one to finally bring home a Super Bowl trophy. But life is funny sometimes.
The team proved to be Philadelphia writ large, equal parts confidence and insecurity; the elite defense, the backup quarterback who considered retiring, the second-year head coach who was disregarded by experts, the underdog mentality. Could they really beat Tom Brady, Bill Belichick, and the Patriots, the same team that left this city in a fog of depression 13 years ago? Of course they could. Remember the lesson that Joe Frazier taught the world back in 1971, when he stunned Muhammad Ali at Madison Square Garden: Even giants can fall.
Fans could sense something was different. They’d been carrying on like giddy middle schoolers for weeks, belting out the Eagles fight song in restaurants, on planes, even during jury duty.
Some started lining up outside Misconduct Tavern near 15th and Locust Streets well before 9 a.m. Sunday. The bar didn’t open until 10:30. “We have friends scoping out McGillin’s [Olde Ale House], too,” said Alexa Hoffman, 24. “We wanted a good atmosphere and we wanted to be close to Broad Street.”
A freezing, pelting rain started later in the morning, but that didn’t stop some Eagles fans from lining up to take photos with the Rocky statue outside the Art Museum.
“This game means everything,” said Ryan Tutzaeur, 23, of Toms River, N.J. “This is for my grandparents who weren’t able to be alive for the Eagles to win a Super Bowl, for my Uncle Harry and Aunt Joanne, my sisters.”
Fans mobbed the Modell’s on Chestnut Street – as they have for the last two weeks – to grab up jerseys, said assistant manager Tom Pirring. Demand has been outstripping supply. “We’re getting more stuff in, just not fast enough,” he said.
As the game got underway, and the team jumped out to a surprising 22-12 lead, the entire region was spellbound. Cops who were stationed near the Trecammelli Grill in Mayfair pressed their faces near the window to catch a glimpse of the action on the bar’s TVs.
At least 3,000 sweaty fans had squeezed into XFinity Live! earlier in the night. Adam Richards, 37, of Northeast Philly, paraded around in a white poodle mask and kelly green Eagles blazer. He held up a Lombardi Trophy that was made of cardboard, tape, and tinfoil. “I’m here for my city,” Richards said.
And on this manic, amazing night, the team was there for him and millions of other Eagles fans, too.
The following reporters contributed to this article: Michael Boren, Aubrey Whelan, Kristin E. Holmes, Caitlin McCabe, Allison Steele, Samantha Melamed, Chris Palmer, Julia Terruso, Stephanie Farr, Bethany Ao, Michaelle Bond, Robert Moran, Erin McCarthy, Jonathan Lai, Mari A. Schaefer, Alfred Lubrano, Jeff Gammage, and Bob Fernandez.