1 Million of Your Closest Friends: Philadelphiaâ€™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 couldÂ be described as â€˜intergalactic sultan,â€™ wrapped up his lengthy, fiery, and profanity-fuelled speechÂ from the famous steps in front of the Philadelphia Museum of Art, the buzz still had not worn off.Â â€œThat was amazing, he dropped like five F-bombs,â€ gushed one of the nearly one million fansÂ who had attended the Eaglesâ€™ Super Bowl parade on Thursday.
Kelceâ€™s speech, in which he reminded the crowd of every player who had been criticised in theÂ media, characterised the team and city as â€œhungry dogs,â€ and screamed until his voice wasÂ 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 downtownÂ 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 â€œF*** Tom Bradyâ€ and â€œE-A-G-L-E-Sâ€ 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 â€œFly, Eagles Flyâ€ before noon, but I couldnâ€™t help but appreciate its power as hundreds of thousands of Philadelphians provided one last rendition after Kelceâ€™s speech.
But what stands out from the day isnâ€™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 nightâ€™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. Thursdayâ€™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 â€œDilly Dillyâ€ over and over without a second glance from theirÂ parents. One fan, not satisfied with one win over the Patriots, suggested a plan for their nextÂ meeting: â€œThey cheat, then you cheat. But you cheat better.â€ Strangers in a coffee shop couldnâ€™tÂ stay away from age-old football debates about the best quarterbacks and defensive backs of allÂ time, even in what is technically the off season. One man suggested that Joe Montana is theÂ best ever, but a police officer at the next table argued for Tom Brady, though the concessionÂ must have pained him. State troopers parked in the middle of the street used their megaphonesÂ to scream â€œGo Birdsâ€ at anyone walking past. White guys with giant Eagles flags carriedÂ speakers booming Meek Mill and sparked impromptu group dancing on the sidewalks, thatÂ could be heard for blocks, a situation thatâ€™s hard to imagine on any other day in Philadelphia. AÂ fan from Richmond, Virginia had made the drive to the city the night before, and noted that theÂ roads were crowded with Eagles fans. â€œEven at the rest stops I saw Eagles signs,â€ he said.
In a reminder that the Super Bowl champions were celebrating with group of fiercely proud andÂ often brazen Philadelphians, Kelceâ€™s speech ended with a collective shouting of â€œWeâ€™re fromÂ Philly, F****** Philly, No one likes us, We donâ€™t care.â€ But besides a half-hearted booing ofÂ Pennsylvania governor Tom Wolf, the rest of the day had been exuberant and, naturally,Â triumphant. The same police officer debating the gameâ€™s greatest quarterbacks reflected on theÂ day: â€œThe city was peaceful, man. I think I gave out 1,000 high fives.â€