SportsPulse: Weren’t able to make it to the Eagles’ epic Super Bowl parade? Get a look inside of the wild crowd that was overjoyed to celebrate one of the biggest days in Philadelphia sports history.
USA TODAY Sports
PHILADELPHIA — Someone called it the “greatest day ever.” You’d find little debate about that at the final stop of the Philadelphia Eagles’ victory lap.
“It means everything,” said Arnold Davis, 65, a lifelong Eagles fan born and raised in Philly. “We finally joined the club. I thought we would have gotten it done with (Donovan) McNabb, but I’ll take it now.”
They came out in droves — young and old, black and white, male and female — to not only pay homage to the Super Bowl LII champions but to seemingly lay claim to a championship that belongs to the people, too, after all the suffering through the years of falling short.
Perhaps no NFL team is as connected to its rabid fans like the Eagles. Sure, their fans have a reputation for getting rowdy. But Thursday was, by and large, devoid of the images you may have seen from here on Sunday night — fires set, a car turned over, a collapsed hotel awning.
No, this was a day for Brotherly Love, with everyone encountered professing to be a lifelong fan.
With the schools closed and Mother Nature cooperating with a brisk, sun-splashed backdrop, city planners projected three to four million would turn out. They packed a 5-mile parade route that began at Lincoln Financial Field and ended with a round of speeches on the famed steps of the Philadelphia Museum of Art.
Some fans wore dog masks, homage to the underdog theme that came with the Eagles’ championship run after they were projected by oddsmakers to lose each of their three playoff games. Many wore jerseys of former players — including Reggie White, Harold Carmichael and Randall Cunningham — a reminder of how long some people have been connected to this deal.
“I wouldn’t have missed this for the world,” said Tim Rigg, a Philadelphia native living in Maryland. “It’s been a long time. This is history. You only win your first Super Bowl once.”
Most of the people on the scene, which included a lot of dancing on the plaza outside the museum, weren’t even born the last time the Eagles won the NFL title in 1960, six years before the first Super Bowl. The Eagles advanced to two previous Super Bowls, but lost both to add what some in the city admit is something of an inferiority complex.
Maybe the insecurities will subside now.
Just listen to Eagles coach Doug Pederson, who has not only done a whale of a job by guiding his team to the crown in just his second season, but gets an A-plus grade for messaging to set expectations.
“We’re not done,” he declared to the throng. “This is our new norm, to be playing in February.”
Of course, the crowd roared.
More than a dozen players followed Pederson to the podium. It was fitting that one of the first was Jason Peters, the perennial Pro Bowl left tackle who tore an ACL in October, ending his season. He was just one of the key injuries the Eagles had to overcome.
Carson Wentz, the MVP frontrunner lost to a knee injury in December, and Nick Foles, the backup who replaced Wentz and won Super Bowl MVP honors, also gave short speeches. Malcolm Jenkins, the veteran safety and locker room leader, led the crowd for yet another rendition of the fight song, Fly Eagles Fly.
The show stopper, though, was all-pro center Jason Kelce, whose Mummers costume provided more local flair. His remarks were also classic Philly, complete with a few obscenities.
Kelce tapped into the civic insecurities and underdog persona with aplomb. He ignited the crowd with his colorful descriptions of how the tight-knit team banded together to prove doubters wrong. He even gave a shoutout to Mike Lombardi, a former general manager-turned-media analyst, who rated Pederson as the NFL’s worst coach — before the season. He called Lombardi a “clown.”
The doubters were fair game on this day.
“That’s why we’re the first team in Eagles history to bring home that frickin’ trophy,” Kelce said.
As he left the museum, Pederson was beaming as he has been since Super Sunday. Kelce’s speech, which illustrated the bond the aggressive coach has with his players, was particularly pleasing.
Said Pederson: “It was awesome.”
Which pretty much summed up the day.
Follow NFL columnist Jarrett Bell on Twitter @JarrettBell
PHOTOS: Eagles’ Super Bowl parade
Published at Fri, 09 Feb 2018 01:05:04 +0000