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1 Million of Your Closest Friends: Philadelphia’s Long-Awaited Super Bowl Parade

Words: Brian Aubrey Smith

Images: Alexander Rotondo

Half an hour after Eagles center Jason Kelce, dressed in a green and purple costume that could be described as ‘intergalactic sultan,’ wrapped up his lengthy, fiery, and profanity-fuelled speech from the famous steps in front of the Philadelphia Museum of Art, the buzz still had not worn off. “That was amazing, he dropped like five F-bombs,” gushed one of the nearly one million fans who had attended the Eagles’ Super Bowl parade on Thursday.

Kelce’s speech, in which he reminded the crowd of every player who had been criticised in the media, characterised the team and city as “hungry dogs,” and screamed until his voice was hoarse, capped a celebration for Philadelphia that had also been long, loud, and soaked in beer.

The celebration hardly slowed down from there. As the bus moved through downtown Philadelphia at 8.00am, three hours before the parade was scheduled to begin, Wentz and Foles and Dawkins and Ertz jerseys were already flowing towards the route. Within minutes of stepping off the bus, I had heard several “F*** Tom Brady” and “E-A-G-L-E-S” chants, the most common of a limited and repetitive but impassioned and stirring repertoire that largely entertained an entire city for the day. I was tired of hearing “Fly, Eagles Fly” before noon, but I couldn’t help but appreciate its power as hundreds of thousands of Philadelphians provided one last rendition after Kelce’s speech.

But what stands out from the day isn’t the incessant chanting, the truly impressive commitment to day drinking, the overwhelming civic pride, or the size of the crowd, estimated at 700,000 though reports earlier in the week had projected up to 3 million. Most striking was the contrast from Sunday night’s celebrations in the city, celebrations that involved overturned cars, kids dancing on top of moving cars, shirtless men in dog masks, and fans falling off of awnings and greased light poles. Thursday’s parade had all the energy and brashness intrinsic to Philadelphia sports fandom without the police scanner absurdity and imminent violence of Sunday.

Children, toddlers really, yelled “Dilly Dilly” over and over without a second glance from their parents. One fan, not satisfied with one win over the Patriots, suggested a plan for their next meeting: “They cheat, then you cheat. But you cheat better.” Strangers in a coffee shop couldn’t stay away from age-old football debates about the best quarterbacks and defensive backs of all time, even in what is technically the off season. One man suggested that Joe Montana is the best ever, but a police officer at the next table argued for Tom Brady, though the concession must have pained him. State troopers parked in the middle of the street used their megaphones to scream “Go Birds” at anyone walking past. White guys with giant Eagles flags carried speakers booming Meek Mill and sparked impromptu group dancing on the sidewalks, that could be heard for blocks, a situation that’s hard to imagine on any other day in Philadelphia. A fan from Richmond, Virginia had made the drive to the city the night before, and noted that the roads were crowded with Eagles fans. “Even at the rest stops I saw Eagles signs,” he said.

In a reminder that the Super Bowl champions were celebrating with group of fiercely proud and often brazen Philadelphians, Kelce’s speech ended with a collective shouting of “We’re from Philly, F****** Philly, No one likes us, We don’t care.” But besides a half-hearted booing of Pennsylvania governor Tom Wolf, the rest of the day had been exuberant and, naturally, triumphant. The same police officer debating the game’s greatest quarterbacks reflected on the day: “The city was peaceful, man. I think I gave out 1,000 high fives.”