MINNEAPOLIS — In the end, a hometown Philly love fest broke out in Minnesota.
It was the deep roar of total Eagles fan delirium that turned U.S. Bank Stadium into the Linc North, a euphoric chorus that bounced off icy glass walls and continued to rise long after the Patriots’ fans were muted, sent out into the cold.
It was Philly’s dance, Philly’s song, Philly’s party, a giddy, green-glittered, electric slide into Super Bowl history.
“I will never see another sporting event again, because nothing will ever top this,” said Charlie Muller, 59, of Maple Shade, as he and his brother, Dan, 55, walked through the concourse, their arms tightly wrapped around each other.
In the final moments of the game, Dan said, he was simply “in awe.”
“Just stunned,” he said. “Finally.”
Diane McGraw, wife of the late Phillies hero Tug McGraw, was dancing in the concourse with a group of fans she brought from Philly. She said that she was still “channeling Tug,” who helped bring the Phillies their first world championship in 1980.
“I think I’m still in shock,” McGraw said. “They’re not just winners tonight, but they’re winners for life.”
Eagles fans who never met each other before were hugging in the concourse. Down on the field, it was indeed a moment frozen in time. The theme from Rocky was played, but it seemed superfluous. On this night, in a strange northern land, Eagles fans and players shared their joy like family.
Dozens of Eagles fans were in tears, including Jeff Moore, a 50-year-old from Haddon Heights, who was at the game with his 13-year-old son. “I was so nervous there at the end,” he said. “I’ve been waiting all my life for this.”
Nick Martino of South Philadelphia broke down in tears once the clock ticked to zero. He stared at the field as confetti flew, holding the Mass card from his father’s funeral and the Eagles hat he’d worn to games. “He introduced me to the Eagles,” Martino said of his father, who died in 2015. “He’d be so happy right now.”
“The first ever, that’s crazy,” said Eagles fan Bill Schauman, who watched the final moments of the game in disbelief in the 300 level. “That’s awesome, and we’re here to see it. Bringing home the first one, man. The first!”
“Congratulations, I didn’t think you could do it,” a Patriots fans said to Schauman’s wife, Staci, as the fan walked out of the 300 level with seconds left.
These were the faithful who trekked to this unfamiliar and frigid land to bask — finally — in the warmth of an unlikely promised land, packing a Rocky underdog growl in the land of Mary Tyler Moore. Go ahead, Minneapolis, paint the whole Mary statue green. Philly is turning the world on with our smile.
Tom Brady predicted a stadium dominated by Eagles fans, and he was right. Philly filled the stadium with a home-crowd vibe, drowned out every Brady play call, even as odd combinations of fans checkered the stands, a Celek jersey next to a Brady, a Wentz next to a Brady, a Foles next to a Gronkowski, a Gilmore next to a Vick.
After Brandon Graham stripped the ball from Brady with two minutes left, Eagles players on the sidelines began jumping up and down. In Section 300 of the Bank, crowds of Eagles fans starting hugging each other … strangers. Patriots fans got up and left for the frigid outdoors.
It was the pure, absurd joy of seeing Nick Foles catch a touchdown pass, not long after being in a stadium of laughter when Tom Brady dropped one.
— William Bender (@wbender99) February 5, 2018
— William Bender (@wbender99) February 4, 2018
— Amy S. Rosenberg (@amysrosenberg) February 5, 2018
When former Eagles running back Brian Westbrook was interviewed on the big screen before the game, he led his Eagles nation in a loud, full-throated Eagles fight song that gave chills to the fans in green. The boos greeting Brady’s introduction made one thing clear from the start: This was an Eagles crowd.
— Amy S. Rosenberg (@amysrosenberg) February 4, 2018
For Philly fans in Minneapolis, the day dawned an icy minus-4, but there was too much at stake to care. It was a long-sought shared piece of history they’d forked over thousands of dollars to witness.
People such as Ed Moran of Minersville, Pa., and his wife, Joyce, who will be married 50 years this spring. Ed attended his first Eagles game in 1961. Joyce said, “We’ve been waiting 50 years.”
People such as Paul Villari, whose father, Placido, attended the NFL Championship game in 1948, at Shibe Park. Paul and his son Alex won last-minute Super Bowl tickets through the season-ticket-holder lottery and traveled from Cinnaminson.
The family had season tickets for 70 years. Villari never took his father’s name off the Eagles account after he died at the age of 93 in 2015. When the team came calling, he said, they asked for his father. “‘Is this Placido?’ I was really taken aback.”
On game day, Villari, like so many Eagles fans near and far, was full of emotion. He and his son brought a Mass card for his father that they would leave behind at U.S. Bank Stadium, like that huge piece of themselves they’d long ago given over to the Eagles.
“It’s a tremendous feeling I have with my siblings and my siblings still at home,” Villari said before the game. “I think my father is going to be there in spirit. I got to believe it. There’s got to be some kind of mojo.”
On this Super Bowl, there was.
“We did it,” Villari said right after the game. “Pop helped with the Brady fumble from above.”
For Alexandra Convery, the owner of Westy’s tavern in Philadelphia, who went to Minnesota with her husband and four children, hanging around the Mall of America in the days leading up to the Super Bowl was a surreal culmination of years spent out in Lot N6 as the Swoop Troop tailgate of dreams.
Her family ran into nearly the entire Eagles team as players walked around the Mall of America during the week, a parade of familiar heroes who posed for pictures with the Convery family, including Graham, whose strip sack of Brady near the end of the game sent the Bank into a Linc frenzy. Heroes, acting just like family.
Which, when your team is the Eagles, and you’re Philly, is exactly what they are.