PHILADELPHIA — As Super Bowl LII kicks off, Richard Covell stands in the corner of Paddy’s Old City Pub and lights a cigar. Next to him, just underneath the TV, is a small container about the size of a lunchbox. In it are the ashes of Covell’s uncle, a lifelong, diehard Eagles fan who died in 2013. Atop the ashes is his uncle’s old Eagles hat.
“When the Eagles win,” Covell says, “I’m going to f---ing Broad Street, and I’m going to spread them out during the f---ing parade. That’s what I’m going to do.”
Excuse Mr. Covell’s language. He’s a Philadelphian and this is a big day—and this is his bar. He’s part owner of Paddy’s Pub, a dive bar made famous by the television show “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia.” Rob McElhenney, one of the show’s stars and creators, would come when he was attending Temple University. “They would come down, drunk college kids on Friday and Saturday nights,” Covell says. In the early 2000s, Covell says, McElhenney approached the owners about using the bar’s name. “The first season [of ‘Sunny’] was a lot of stuff that we actually did, crazy s---. Guns. Drugs. Prostitutes. All that s--- was true.” That is to say, Paddy’s inspired the television show that is arguably most associated with Philly.
This writer would argue, then, there was no better place to watch an Eagles Super Bowl than at Paddy’s Pub. About 100 people pack into the place on Sunday, a mixture of regulars, college kids, and out-of-towners who knew about the bar only because of the show. They drink pickle-back shots and Yuengling. They shout at the TV and sing the E-A-G-L-E-S chant. When Nick Foles makes a big throw, they chant, “Big D--- Nick! Big D--- Nick!” When the Patriots take over with 2:21 left in the game, with the Eagles clinging to a five-point lead, Paddy’s Pub launches into another hearty chant: “F--- Tom Brady! F--- Tom Brady!”
Moments later, Brandon Graham strip-sacks Brady to all but seal the win, and Paddy’s devolves into chaos. When the score goes final—Eagles 41, Patriots 33—everyone is crying and hugging and cheering. One young man in a Fletcher Cox jersey drops to his hands and knees on the beer-drenched floor, his head down, as if to genuflect at the alter of Paddy’s. Then he hops to his feet, plants a big kiss on a woman he knows, and heads out, following the flow of people. “Let’s go get f---ed up!” someone shouts, so the group turns left and heads toward downtown, flapping their arms like Eagles in the middle of the street.
By 10:45 p.m., about 30 minutes after the game has ended, thousands of people are gathered on Broad Street, outside of City Hall. Already, the party is at full throat. People are climbing lampposts, street signs and traffic lights. They’re scaling the City Hall Gates and straddling the statue of Octavius Catto, the 19th-century civil rights activist, and taking selfies with him. Before the NFC Championship Game, Philadelphia police greased lampposts with Crisco, in an attempt to dissuade people from turning the city into a jungle gym. It didn’t work, so this time they used hydraulic fluid—once again, Philly seems up for the challenge.
For blocks and blocks, Broad Street is jam-packed. Chants ring out—“Big D--- Nick!” … “F--- Tom Brady!”—and fireworks explode overhead. They’re rowdy, too. Not only are they climbing these tall structures, but some of them are trying to take them down, rocking back and forth as the crowd eggs them on. At one point, a series of police cars drives through the crowd, the last of which is a windowless van. Fans jump on the back as it passes, and one shirtless young man makes his way to the roof. He rides the van like a surfboard for a bit, and then holds on for dear life as the car darts down a side street. By midnight the authorities have called in a police vehicle that looks very much like a converted school bus.
Around the corner, the Benjamin Franklin Parkway is less violent but still rowdy, an endless string of car horns and people hanging out their car windows, cheering. At one intersection, about 75 people are stopped in the middle of the street, pumping music and dancing.
Down at the end of the parkway, more people are gathered at the Museum of Art, doing more E-A-G-L-E-S chants atop the Rocky steps. Someone has put a Zach Ertz jersey around the neck of the Rocky statue, and people are climbing poor Rocky, too, taking more selfies. Someone suggests climbing the massive George Washington monument outside the museum—but ultimately thinks better of it. This Eagles team, like so many other historical figures, will live on in the city’s lore. Two fans downtown are holding a long sign that reads:
As 1 a.m. approaches, the celebration is starting to wind down around City Hall. At the intersection of Market Street and Juniper, police have set up a perimeter around what looks like a crime scene. Eagles fans have uprooted and dismantled three traffic lights, bashing in the lights and denting the metal. A few feet away, people have smashed in two Macy’s display windows, leaving behind a few dismembered mannequins. The police want to make sure no one else tries to walk off with any souvenirs.
One fan places a Brian Dawkins jersey at the foot of the pole, steps back, and kneels to take a photo—as if this were the Philly version of a memorial shrine. A cop approaches and reaches for the jersey. It looks a bit rumpled, so the officer straightens it out just right. He flashes the fan a knowing grin. The Eagles are Super Bowl champions, after all, and even the police can have a little bit of fun.
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