The remnants of the greatest day ever remain in the streets of Philadelphia, or, if you were there, in your clothes, up your nostrils, under your fingernails, like grains of sand after a day at the beach. They will never go away. And who would want them to, anyway? The Eagles’ Parade Of Champions from Thursday resonates like no day in the history of the City of Philadelphia.
“This is remarkable, an event unlike anything I’ve ever experienced,” Eagles Chairman/CEO Jeffrey Lurie said from double-decker bus No. 1 on Thursday, early in the afternoon as the team made its way north on Broad Street from Pattison Avenue, a 19-double-decker-bus caravan slowing making its way past the hundreds of thousands (millions, when all is said and tallied?) of fans in Eagles green. “Eagles fans are simply incredible.”
Stage 5 of the Seven Stages of Celebrating an Eagles Super Bowl Win happened on Thursday. Oh boy, did it happen. I was right there, front and center, and it was a lifelong dream come true. The goal was to experience it and then write about it the same night, but no chance. The day of a lifetime sapped every ounce of energy and emotion as the fans, some of whom lined up the night before, brought their “A” game every inch of the way.
On a bus with Lurie, head coach Doug Pederson, offensive coordinator Frank Reich, team president Don Smolenski, Howie Roseman, Nick Foles, Carson Wentz and others, I was there to do some Instagram Live video hits. We pulled off a few, but because of the enormous crowds and, thus, the lack of bandwidth, the connectivity was spotty.
But there was nothing spotty about the parade or the ceremony once the buses reached the Art Museum area. A deafening roar of crowd noise was constant, rising as the crowds grew north on Broad Street and peaking as the caravan made its ways down the Benjamin Franklin Parkway. Fans lined the streets, as deep as the geography would allow. And when there was no room on the ground, the fans found tree limbs on which to perch, office windows to open, office space to crowd, rooftops to pack.
As loud as it is at Lincoln Financial Field, as it was all-time loud in the postseason victories over Atlanta and Minnesota, the noise on the parade route was at a different level. This noise rattled the senses and sustained for the four-hour-plus-long ride. It was almost impossible to hear the person next to you. The fans gave it everything they had.
“This means so much to all of us, and the more people you meet and hear their stories, you realize just how important the Eagles are to their families,” head coach Doug Pederson said. “It’s special. You don’t find this in every city. The Eagles are part of their lives. The passion, that’s what sets this fan base apart.”
At the Philadelphia Museum of Art, my role was as the program’s emcee, to welcome the crowd and then to throw to the various speakers for the ceremony. Now think of this: A kid growing up in West Chester, Pa, a lifelong Eagles fan, a 21-year employee of the team (I’ve been to every game as an employee and previously as a writer for The Daily Local News in West Chester and as the editor of Eagles Digest) and here I am standing on the top of the art museum steps looking out at hundreds of thousands of Eagles fans at the team’s first Super Bowl Parade.
It was a celebration to remember forever. The players spoke with passion and purpose – and yes, Jason Kelce’s brilliant rant was powerful, poignant and comical – and furthered their bond with a fan base that adored this team from the very start of the season. Lurie addressed the unifying nature of the season in his speech, Howie Roseman wondered if the moment was “heaven” and those who did not speak reveled in the moment before the City and in the shadow of the skyline.
The event is over, but it is still being replayed and discussed and it will be for weeks to come. The pieces of confetti will fall out of your pockets and tumble from the laundry, and they will remind you of a day never to forget. Your pictures and videos are in a viral world. You’ve connected with Eagles fans to share the experience.
Stage 5 is the longest of the Seven Stages of Celebrating an Eagles Super Bowl Win. Enjoy it. The fans made the parade a success. The fans delivered. Savor the feeling. You deserve it.