Squinting out the plane window, Ted Roberts ruminates on the sad old days when the Eagles were losers. He's a second-generation fan who has endured 21 years of defeat after defeat. Now, at last, he's in his glory as one of some 4,000 rooters who poured themselves into 17 chartered planes in Philly around dawn last Sunday and took off for New Orleans on a merrymaking 22-hour round trip to see their team play in the Super Bowl. "Do you remember back in '43," says Roberts, "when our fullback, Ben Kish, jumped off the bench to tackle an opposing player?"
Roberts and his fellow travelers are getting deeper and deeper into nostalgia now. "I remember the booing when they changed Leroy Keyes from offensive to defensive halfback," announces travel agent Tom McAndrews. "It was like having Rembrandt paint your kitchen." (It was?)
Everybody on the plane agrees that the boo-bird days are over, yet the air hangs heavy with a certain...apprehension. It's as if there's a spell on Philadelphia that no one really believes can be broken.
Denise Casciato, a waitress, and Karen Bascome, a barmaid, who both work in King of Prussia, Pa., aren't taking any chances. As soon as the plane lands, they go straight to the Voodoo Museum in the French Quarter to buy juju charms. They're given an especially potent gris-gris bag of swamp water, black-cat bones and a dash of mojo oil to help ward off the evil Raider spirits. Sitting in the Absinthe House, with Kelly-green wings tied to their arms, they don't give a damn about those Oakland spirits—they've each already downed several beers, a pi‚Äö√†√∂¬¨¬±a colada, a screwdriver, a hurricane and a mint julep. Now each is working on a Black Russian.
Later, at the Superdome, Denise starts waving her gris-gris bag and singing, "Look out for the hoodoo doo doo man" just as Ron Jaworski is about to throw his first pass. The hoodoo doo doo man turns out to be Raider Rod Martin, who intercepts the ball.
The loudest and, literally, the highest of the Eagle faithful is Albert Cifelli, a sparky South Philly metal spinner who barks cheers through a bullhorn. He's perched in the very top row of the Superdome, wearing a forest-green felt hat on which he has stitched little-bitty football helmets. One of Cifelli's pals asks him if he thinks the Eagles can come back from a 14-3 deficit. "Oh, yes, positively," Cifelli says. "I'll cry if they don't."
Cifelli pours himself a shot of Seagram's from his flask, and when the Eagles score to cut Oakland's lead to 24-10, he starts hopping up and down like a demented kangaroo. But two rows in front, John Wilcox, a roundish 52-year-old steam fitter from South Farmingdale, N.Y., begins to needle him. "The clock is running down," Wilcox shouts with obscene glee, "and Philadelphia will lose."
The Raiders kick another field goal. "And the clock is running," Wilcox says.
"We're still gonna win," Cifelli says a little less confidently.
Jaworski fumbles. The boo birds start squawking. Cifelli lubricates the moment with another shot of Seagram's. He reaches across a couple of hundred pounds of belly, draws forth a dark green towel and dabs the corners of his teary eyes.
"You told us the Eagles were going to win," Wilcox says with a smirk, smacking a fist triumphantly into a hand.
"Well," says Cifelli, rolling his eyes. "What else could I say?"