PHILADELPHIA – Philadelphia's first Super Bowl parade provided catharsis Thursday for hundreds of thousands of Eagles fans, deliriously joyful after decades without a title and relishing the national spotlight on a team that few outside the city thought could win it all.
Fans clad in Eagles green jammed the streets from dawn near the stadium to an afternoon rally at the city's famed “Rocky” steps, lining up 20 deep in spots to catch a glimpse of the champs. The Eagles rode in open-top double-decker buses to the art museum that Sylvester Stallone made famous for a rally nearly 60 years in the making.
“We were a bunch of underdogs,” shouted center Jason Kelce, channeling Rocky himself. “Bottom line is, we wanted it more!”
And so did football-crazed Philly – desperately. Until Sunday's 41-33 victory over the favored New England Patriots, the Eagles remained the only team in their division without a Super Bowl title.
“This Super Bowl championship is for you,” Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie told the vast crowd. “You are the most passionate and deserving sports fans on the planet. We couldn't have done it without you.”
Carrying the Lombardi Trophy, coach Doug Pederson walked part of the route – allowing fans to touch the gleaming hardware – while Lurie held a sign saying “THANK YOU FANS.”
Corey Carter, 32, of West Philadelphia, clutched a woodcut of an Eagle that he dubbed the “Lombirdy Trophy.”
“This is the greatest day!” Carter said. “Besides God, my kids and my wife, it's Eagles. That's all there is. My family and then Eagles.”
Schools, museums, courts, government offices and even the Philadelphia Zoo were shut down. Organizers prepared for as many as 2 million people, though city officials didn't release a crowd estimate.
The crowd-pleasing Kelce best channeled the gruff but ultimately good-hearted “attytood” for which Philadelphians are famous.
Wearing an outlandishly sequined Mummers getup – a nod to Philadelphia's raucous New Year's Day parade – Kelce led the crowd in a jolly, and filthy, chant set to the tune of “My Darling Clementine”: “No one likes us, no one likes us, no one likes us, we don't care!”
The big-bearded lineman uttered at least two profanities that made it onto live TV, recalling Chase Utley's similarly profane speech at the Phillies' World Series parade 10 years ago.
For lots of fans, the parade was a reminder of the Phillies' victory lap after a 28-year World Series title drought. For others, it took on spiritual shades of the pope's visit in 2015.
“It is like a religion,” said Kevin Fry, 37, a press operator at the Inquirer and Daily News who helped print 700,000 copies of the Super Bowl edition that proclaimed “At Last!”