PHILADELPHIA (AP) – Fresh off their first Super Bowl title, the Philadelphia Eagles arrived home to a hero’s welcome Monday afternoon, hours after overjoyed fans mobbed the streets in a sometimes unruly victory celebration nearly 60 years in the making.
Hundreds of fans greeted the team’s plane at Philadelphia International Airport, cheering wildly and singing “Fly Eagles Fly” as Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie emerged with the Lombardi Trophy.
After getting off the plane, Lurie, Coach Doug Pederson and stars like tight end Zach Ertz and running back LeGarrette Blount approached the chain-link fence separating the team from the fans, smiling, pumping their arms and shooting video with their phones. Fans stood on cars and news trucks to catch a glimpse.
“It’s been a long journey to redemption,” said John Hall, 49, who works at Philadelphia’s public transit agency. “We don’t have to hear the negative anymore, that we don’t have a ring. It’s official now.”
Dan Mazzoli, 53, a disabled construction worker and die-hard fan from New Jersey, shared the moment with his 12-year-old son and 11-year-old daughter.
“We’ve been waiting for this all our lives,” he said.
Super Bowl MVP Nick Foles, the unassuming backup quarterback who took over for injured star Carson Wentz and played brilliantly throughout the playoffs, wasn’t on the team plane. Foles headed – where else? – to Disney World, riding a float at the Orlando resort and fist-bumping Mickey Mouse amid a shower of green confetti.
“It’s all right to yell,” he told the cheering crowd. “We’re world champs! We did it! We did it!”
The underdog Eagles won their first NFL championship since 1960 on Sunday night with a surprise 41-33 victory over the New England Patriots, ending a drought that had long tormented the city’s football-crazed fans. Philly was the only team in the Northeast Corridor to have never won a Super Bowl.
The city scheduled a victory parade for Thursday along a 5-mile route that will stretch from the Eagles stadium complex to the steps of the Philadelphia art museum, whose steps Sylvester Stallone ran up during “Rocky.” It’s a fitting ending point for a team that Stallone had cheered on throughout the playoffs.
Revelers along the parade route will be able to indulge in free Bud Light at two dozen bars, thanks to a promise the beer maker made to Eagles offensive tackle Lane Johnson before the season.
Philly had some cleaning up to do Monday after pockets of Eagles fans turned unruly overnight, with rowdies smashing department store windows, looting a gas station convenience store and toppling a number of the city’s famously greased light poles. The police commissioner said he and other officers were hit with bottles.
The vast majority of revelers celebrated peacefully, and police made only three arrests, said Ajeenah Amir, a spokeswoman for Mayor Jim Kenney.
“Tens of thousands came out and celebrated this amazing victory, and but for a handful of bad actors, the celebration was peaceful and jubilant,” Amir said. She lauded police for “their assistance in getting the crowds dispersed and people home safely.”
Just as Foles and the Eagles clinched victory in Minneapolis, the scene more than 1,000 miles away in Philly was one of jubilation and pandemonium.
Revelers shot off fireworks, drivers beeped their horns and Philadelphians young and old descended on Broad Street, the main thoroughfare that last hosted a major championship parade in 2008 for the Phillies’ World Series win.
“The city deserved it,” said 66-year-old Lou Potel, who threw a party at his home just off Broad before joining a much bigger party outside. “It’s a great city, and now we have a Super Bowl to go along with it.”
Fans clambered atop the awning at the swanky Ritz Carlton Hotel near City Hall, jumping off into the crowd in what one Twitter post called “Ritz Carlton Skydiving.” The awning later collapsed with a large group of people on top of it. It wasn’t clear if anyone was injured.
Nearby, windows were smashed at a Macy’s department store and at an Old Navy clothing store.
And apparently no amount of grease in the world can keep some drunken Eagles fans from climbing poles in celebration. A few managed to shimmy up traffic lights and street sign poles.
Amir said there were reports of some injuries from falls near light poles but precise numbers weren’t available.
Vandals were seen having an apparent food fight inside a gas station’s convenience store, yelling “Everything is free!” and overturning a car outside a hotel. After 1 a.m., the only people allowed inside the 24-hour Wawa convenience store near City Hall were police officers.
Freelance writer Ignacio Laguarda in Boston contributed to this report.(App users click here to view photo gallery)