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Smith blog: Parading down Broad Street is an unforgettable experience - and bet we'll be back

February 9, 2018 Updated: February 9, 2018 at 9:54 pm
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Philadelphia Eagles NFL football team mascot Swoop waves during the Super Bowl LII victory parade, Thursday, Feb 8, 2018, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Michael Perez)

When I was in high school I witnessed the first major sports championship of my lifetime come to the city of Philadelphia.

I watched Brad Lidge register the final out, fall to his knees and invite catcher Carlos Ruiz in for a bear hug. Dogpile. Screaming.

I watched my dad jump around the living room, waking my then-one-year-old brother, Logan, who was snoozing in my mother’s arms. My dog went to hide in the other room.

I was 16 years old when the Philadelphia Phillies broke their 28-year drought. And although I had been a Philadelphia sports fan basically my whole life, I didn’t completely realize how starved the city was for a major championship.

I ventured a few days later to the streets of Philadelphia to attend the championship parade, skipping school (with my parents’ blessing) to witness history. (And even though I had a note from my parents excusing me from class, I still ended up in a heap of trouble with the school - Thanks, Twin Valley High School.)

But it was worth it.

I had never seen so much red. The streets were lined with fans who stuck with the Phils for more than 20 tough years. And when the world series trophy paraded down Broad Street, the noise was deafening.

Flash forward 10 years (wow, I’m old) and I found myself 2,000 miles from my beloved city, now seeing the immensity of the latest championship in 20-20.

I’m superstitious. So on Super Bowl Sunday I locked myself in my apartment with my cat (who has been my lucky watching buddy all year) and prayed his luck would bring Philadelphia its first Super Bowl championship.

The first 58 minutes of screaming, jumping, pacing, and piling up noise complaints from my neighbors - and the final two minutes of the game were the longest of my life.

Zach Ertz touchdown. Brandon Graham strip sack. Derek Barnett recovery. Jake Elliott 46-yard field goal. Defense pressures Tom Brady. Hail Mary pass to Rob Gronkowski batted down in the end zone. The clock finally hit zero. Cue the tears.

They finally did it.. Super Bowl Champions.

I’m not sure if I can properly recount my emotions - which lasted for nearly 90 minutes of ugly-crying after watching Nick Foles and Doug Pederson hoist that trophy. So I’ll quote the new King of Philadelphia, Eagles center Jason Kelce.

“We were a bunch of underdogs. And you know what an underdog is? It’s a hungry dog.

Hungry dogs run faster. And that’s this team....

Any of you know who the biggest underdog is? It’s y’all, Philadelphia. For 52 years, y’all have been waiting for this. You want to talk about an underdog? You want to talk about a hungry dog? For 52 years you’ve been starved of this championship.”

And we're gonna eat.

After the tears subsided, I bought a plane ticket home to celebrate with my city. I almost immediately felt butterflies in my stomach remembering the magic of the Phillies victory parade 10 years ago.

After a long day of travel and less than five hours of sleep I found myself on the corner of Pine and Broad with millions of my closest friends. We waited for more than two hours to get a glimpse of the Lombardi Trophy and the players-turned-heros who finally brought that piece of medal to Philadelphia.

We were cold. We sang the fight song and chanted “E-A-G-L-E-S, EAGLES!” until our voices gave out. Some people climbed trees, balconies, trash trucks, and yes, even a few light poles (ungreased this time). Guests at the 25-story hotel across the street tossed rolls of toilet paper from the roof, casting slightly gross ribbons of celebration onto the streets below.

Fans brought air horns and speakers blaring Meek Mill’s “Dreams and Nightmares” over and over. Confetti danced in the air. Airplanes wrote “PHILLY PHILLY DILLY DILLY” in the sky. New friends passed around a bucket of cheese balls for a mid-parade snack. And fans tossed beers to players to join the party.

And party we did.

For two days the city was drowning in a sea of midnight green. But we’ll all happily go down with that ship. Because the Philadelphia Eagles are World Champions.

It’s something you never forget. Finally seeing that trophy parade down Broad was surreal - but I'll also bet money that it won’t be the last time I attend one of those victory parades.

We might not be underdogs anymore, but we’ve got 52 years of catching up to do. And we’re still hungry.

P.S. - To my coworkers who lost so miserably to me this season in The Gazette NFL Picks, I'll give you a piece of advice: Don't wait until Week 6 to start picking the Eagles next year.

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