It was a question that had left almost every Philadelphian’s lips over the last six decades, from old friends congregating at corner bars to the guy who’s seemingly always hanging out at your barber shop despite never getting a haircut to those who might as well list “Jetro Lot” as their official residence:
“What are you going to do at the parade when Eagles win the Super Bowl?”
I have a South Philly friend, who shall remain nameless, who always said he would park his junked up old Mustang in the middle of Oregon Avenue, stand on the hood, throw cans of Miller Lite to whomever was walking by and tell everyone to help beat the crap out of his car with a sledgehammer he had waiting in the trunk.
I can’t speak to what happened to his car, but I can say he wasn’t alone in thinking he’d have such a passionate reaction to the most mythologized day in the city’s modern history. He, along with every other diseased Eagles fan who wears the same Brian Dawkins or Randall Cunningham jersey they’ve had for half their lives, wanted the Eagles parade to be cathartic, to rid themselves of the worries of the past by clinging to the shiny Lombardi Trophy at the end of life’s tunnel.
Those worries don’t ever have to be strictly from things that happened on the field. Beyond the demons of Ronde Barber, Joe Webb, and Ricky Manning Jr., there lies the troubles we’ve all faced in our lives. There have been bad jobs, bad relationships and the struggles of financial insecurity. Through them all, the Eagles have always been a solace to this city. When the Eagles won, we won. When the Eagles lost, we lost. The Eagles winning the Super Bowl represented Philadelphia’s greatest triumph over its citizens’ anxieties in life. The parade was the celebration of that triumph, the euphoric release of years and years of anger, sadness and disappointment while surrounded by a million of your closest friends.
With a lifetime of hype behind it, there was no way the parade was going to live up to it, right? But it did. It was so much more than what was imagined. Even a year later, I think about it every single day of my life and I doubt that will ever change. A half-century of middle-class rage and colossal sports failures felt like they were evaporated in a second when Doug Pederson rode down Broad Street and Jason Kelce slugged beers like it was his 21st birthday.
A year ago right now, you were probably hanging with your family or partner or lifelong friends, passing bottles of champagne and cans of Bud Light back and forth, listening to nothing but Meek Mill and Queen, as you were left wondering how a backup quarterback redeemed the soul of Philadelphia. The most perfect day imaginable was somehow more perfect than Philly could’ve ever dreamed.
I think back to my own life and my experience that day. Maybe you weren’t packing chicken cutlet sandwiches at 3:30 a.m. while listening to “Welcome to the Black Parade” by My Chemical Romance on loop like I was, but that spirit was replicated throughout the Delaware Valley. I had waited 23-and-a-half years for that morning, to be surrounded my best friends since first grade, making mimosas like a streetcar vendor, as we soaked up the early morning sun at Broad and Shunk.
My life has been strange. My struggles with bipolar disorder have left me on a rollercoaster for the last handful of years. It’s been hard. But on a day I used to pray for as a Catholic grade school student every night before I went to bed, it didn’t matter. My brain chemistry didn’t matter. My self-destructive past didn’t matter. The only thing that mattered was that I was surrounded by the people I loved most while we celebrated our wildest fantasy coming true. I was happy.
It was supposed to be the best day of my life and it was even more important than that. As you may know, I went full World War II sailor that day, kissing a stranger named Ashley I met on Twitter and going viral. I now live in an apartment in South Philly with her. What a world. What a life. What a team the 2017 Eagles were.
On the one-year anniversary of the most anticipated day in Eagles fans’ lives, the feeling I’m left with, one that I never thought possible, is contentment. Philadelphia, for maybe the first time ever, breathed a sigh of relief. The parade was everything. And more.