As much fun as it would be to devote this space to I-told-you-so rants against failed Phillies managers, tomato-faced Boston columnists and whiny Minnesotans, the Eagles’ magnificent Super Bowl victory over New England demands a more local focus. When Tom Brady’s final pass of the night careened through a jumble of arms and legs and finally—after what seemed to be a moment longer than last night’s halftime—hit the turf, an entire region was transported to a level of euphoria never before realized.
Certainly, the Flyers’ 1974 Stanley Cup title (and subsequent ’75 encore), the Phillies’ 1980 and 2008 championships, and the Sixers 1983 NBA crown spawned outpourings of joy. But this has been a pro football town for decades, and the idea of an Eagles’ Super Bowl triumph has always been considered the ultimate sporting grail. The other wins were magnificent, but this was the one we really craved. Thanks to Doug Pederson’s fortitude, Nick Foles’ magical arm and the defense’s timely step forward, the Eagles brought athletic closure to generations.
Sunday night, in one of the most maddening, exciting and ultimately fulfilling football games ever played, the Eagles finally reached the NFL summit. The immediate reactions were predictable: Boisterous bacchanalia and unbridled celebration. The delicious sensation of winning the city’s first Super Bowl over Captain Hoodie’s legions and their dark sorcery. At 10:17 p.m. on Feb. 4, the city’s entire personality changed forever. No longer would fans obsess over what they didn’t have. In the coming weeks and months, life will be sweeter and more fulfilling. Perhaps there might even be an emotional hangover that comes from finally getting what we have always wanted.
Perhaps the best part of this was how it happened. Because it wasn’t supposed to happen—not at the beginning, at least. Pre-season expectations for this team were modest, thanks to grumblings about the coach, questions about how quickly the second-year quarterback would mature, and concerns that the defense lacked the necessary components to compete, even for a division title, much less the Super Bowl. With each win, the glow grew. Maybe the Eagles were good, after all. Perhaps Pederson knew what he was doing.
But even as the Birds won nine straight, few would allow themselves to dream about winning it all. That was for established franchises, not swashbuckling upstarts. Even if the Eagles managed to win their conference, they still had to deal with the dynastic Patriots, whose pitiless efficiency and commitment to winning seemed unconquerable. And once Carson Wentz’s knee ligament snapped, a parade seemed almost preposterous.
But we did believe. That was what made this season all the more remarkable. Even as Foles was stumbling around against Oakland and Dallas, fans continued to hope. It was almost an anti-Philadelphia thing to do. This team evoked a spirit of positive energy from a fan base that has been known to anticipate the worst. And it did so with a group of players that, before this season, was considered above average, at best.
However, it wasn’t unexpected that once the post-season began and the oddsmakers and analysts began to favor the opposition over the Eagles, fans embraced the underdogs. That was a well-worn character that has served this city for years against the slings and arrows of outsiders, be they warranted or clichéd. The Eagles were underdogs against sixth-seeded Atlanta at home? Preposterous. Minnesota was going to beat them? Forget about it.
But the Patriots were different. This was the ultimate team, thriving for more than a decade in the ultimate team game, with the best quarterback ever. And perhaps the best coach ever. Some might call it destiny. Others could thank the heavens. I prefer to think the better team won. The Eagles made the big plays down the stretch and executed plays better. The Eagles survived the final onslaught.
The celebrating will—and should—continue for a long time. This city has waited nearly 60 years for a championship in the sport it holds most dear. For years to come, the names Pederson, Foles, Graham, Ertz, Blount, Jeffrey, Clement and countless others will be recited by fans, as though they were a litany of saints. Perhaps they are not worthy of canonization, but they certainly deserve the title of deliverers. On one magical evening, in the midst of a fairytale season, they did what their Eagle ancestors could not: win a Super Bowl. More than that, they changed the entire identity of this city.
The Eagles are champions, for the first time. It’s an unforgettable moment. We should embrace it and enjoy it. And should the usual collection of chattering baboons try to diminish it, simply turn away. This is our time.
And it is beautiful.