Philly Didn’t Win the Super Bowl. We Celebrated Anyway.

It was a season — and year — worth celebrating.

Eagles fans in Philadelphia take to the streets after loss to Kansas City Chiefs in Super Bowl on February 12, 2023. / Photograph by Fatih Aktas/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

It really felt like we had it for a second there.

There are no two ways about it: Last night was a huge disappointment. The second half of Super Bowl LVII was a drawn-out deflation. It rained in the city like it rained in our hearts, to paraphrase Verlaine. Too dramatic? You’re right.

This has been a hell of a season, and furthermore, it’s been a hell of a year for Philly sports. These past few months have seen Philly lose three (THREE!) championships, one after the other — including two in the same day. At first blush, that’s not a very enviable accomplishment. But you know how you lose three championships? You make it to three freaking championships.

Whenever a team I’m rooting for loses a game, I can’t turn off the TV quickly enough. The last thing I want to see is the other guys celebrating all over our dashed dreams. Last night was no different. But instead of a stunned silence filling my living room, I heard a familiar chant coming from outside.

“E-A-G-L-E-S, Eagles!”

And fireworks. Fireworks! A persistent drizzle had fallen over the city and yet some stubborn soul out there was not letting their celebratory pyrotechnics go to waste. People were celebrating on Broad Street anyway. And why the hell not? I was out there two weeks ago, when the Eagles made it to the Super Bowl. Just the promise of making it this far was enough to drive us nuts — and drive some of us up poles. It was a night full of joy, and the outcome of one game can’t take that away.

Eagles fans in Philadelphia take to the streets after loss to Kansas City Chiefs in Super Bowl on February 12, 2023. / Photograph by Fatih Aktas/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

So, despite wanting to curl up and cry, I put on my shoes and went outside into the damp night. As groups of people spilled out of the bars on my block just off Broad Street, it wasn’t a funeral procession (or rage-fest, for that matter; a car was overturned prior to the game, though). People were disappointed, sure. But amid the police barricades and bucket-drumming, two words were common to conversations around me: “At least …”

It’s a glass-half-full sentiment that isn’t very “Philly.”

Or is it? Maybe after two-plus years of absolute darkness and isolation, we can let our collective hope and excitement become “a Philly thing.”

Earlier in the day, my block was full of people, lined up hours before the bars even opened for Super Bowl watch parties. They had drinks in tow; some played Connect Four and cards as they waited. Outside Fado, the people in line stretched down a full block of Locust Street despite being told the bar was at capacity. They waited for just a chance to be a part of the feeling inside, and that feeling extended outside as they exchanged Eagles chants with fans waiting in line across from them outside Misconduct Tavern. On the corner, a table of Eagles merch popped up. It was one of dozens throughout Center City.

A street vendor sells Eagles clothing before the Super Bowl / Photograph by Laura Swartz

And while a more cynical version of me might see this as a mess of a Sunday morning, I also remember a stretch of time back in 2020 when my always-loud block was eerily silent. I missed the 2 a.m. Eagles-chant wake-ups as I looked out my window onto a dystopian cityscape and hoped for better days. So, if half of the city’s Hurts jerseys want to congregate on my doorstep and sing “Fly, Eagles, Fly” in a slurred, off-key choir, I welcome it.

The day may have ended badly and put a damper on a magical season. But it was a magical season. This season brought us more wins than we’ve ever seen. It brought us Batmans and signed babies and an instant-classic Christmas album. It brought us weeks of unnaturally green foods and hugging strangers on Broad Street and using “Go Birds” like the Philly version of the word “shalom.” Why trade that for wallowing?

A parade would have been amazing; don’t get me wrong. I was there in 2018, and I’m still not over it. It was sweet, especially after decades of sour. Maybe even because of that.

That’s the thing about sports. There’s always “We’ll get ’em next year.” Pitchers and catchers report this week, and when the Phillies take the field at Citizens Bank Park in April, they’ll do so as NL champions. They didn’t get the ring this time, but they did win the pennant — and that 2022 flag will look pretty nice against the skyline. We were dancing on our own, but we weren’t on our own.

And we still aren’t.

To quote Jalen Hurts, “The only direction is to rise.”