What victory looks like from a South Philly bar

Paul Gallegher’s Thursday began at the same time and in the same kind of place that his Sunday night ended: At 6:00 a.m. in a South Philadelphia bar.

On Sunday night, when the Eagles won the Super Bowl, Gallegher tended bar at the Blue Suede Saloon at 16th and Moyamensing.

“I’ll never ever forget it as long as I live,” said Gallegher, as the sun began to rise on Thursday morning, the night of the Eagles’ victory parade. “People were streaking, naked, hugging. It was just mayhem. Today’s going to be just as fun.”

Gallegher recalled the night — one of the best of his life — as he prepped a grill outside Stokes Sports Bar on 16th and Oregon. The small, smoky bar already hummed with life, as regulars and devotees from South Jersey alike threw back shots of vodka and bottles of Budweiser.

New Jersey native Mike Mogar had taken the whole week off of work to celebrate the Eagles victory. He drove to South Philly that morning, getting in at 5:00 AM and waiting for the bar to open to ensure easy access to Broad and Oregon when the festivities kicked off.

Mayor Jim Kenney’s prediction that Thursday’s parade wouldn’t be as intense as Sunday night’s celebrations drew reactions ranging from skepticism to outrage.  On the night of the Super Bowl the city reacted with mass jubilation, very occasionally spilling over into acts of festive criminality that caught a lot of national attention.

“I hope it’s not like it was on Sunday,” said a silver-haired man named Tony, who did not give his last name, perhaps because he was drinking determinedly before dawn. “But I don’t know…right now I’m sitting here having a beer and its, what, 7:30 AM?”

The early hour proved no deterrent to those similarly motivated to get their drink on. On Beulah Street, a line of neighbors walked behind a man carrying a boombox while another brought up the rear with a wheelbarrow full of beer. Raucous partyers spilled out of the auto paint supply store across the street, as mobs of celebrants surged by singing snatches of Meek Mill’s “Dreams and Nightmares”— which the Eagles took the field to — and the team’s fight songs pulsed out from every street corner.

But on the whole, peace seems to have reigned on Thursday. As on the Sunday evening itself — where a handful of incidents were blown way out of proportion by national media and late-night comedians — on Thursday everyone seemed stuffed to the gills with good cheer and fellowship. The three most common remarks heard were: E-A-G-L-E-S, “I love you,” and a profanity-laden sentiment regarding Patriots quarterback Tom Brady.

“What I saw was raw positive happy emotion from every single human being in Philadelphia,” said Che Brown, of Southwest Philadelphia. “We took a trip in time to back down South to where everyone speaks to everyone. Philly always has the stand-offish personality and doesn’t really speak to strangers. But ever since the Eagles won its been nothing but strangers talking to strangers, different races, different classes, it didn’t matter.”

Brown said he wishes the city could be like this all the time. Friendly, outgoing, accepting of one another’s foibles. He recalls seeing a man walking down on Broad Street Sunday night, carrying an urn containing his father’s ashes. People gathered to comfort their fellow traveler, and to chant favored lines of the fight song at the remnants of his deceased dad.

“Everyone embraced everything,” Brown reminisced. “It was awesome.”

That acceptance definitely extends to dramatic tattooed displays of Eagles affection. Teddy Munz of Blackwood, New Jersey, wore shorts to the parade despite temperatures that hovered in the low 30s.

But this odd salutary choice was made necessary by the enormous new tattoo of Nick Foles, bearing the Super Bowl trophy, which Munz he’d got on Monday night.

“When [Carson] Wentz went down I was still feeling good about the team and on social media I told everyone to calm down,” recalls Munz, standing on Oregon Avenue and contemplating a morning hoagie. “A guy said if I was so confident about the win I should get a tattoo if they win. Now I have a Nick Foles tattoo.”

Although Oregon Avenue was alive with businesses, selling hoagies, beer, sausages, and coffee, most commerce on Broad Street ceased. One exception was Benna’s West, a three-year-old coffee shop and lunch counter, which did a bustling trade in menu items that included a juice drink called ‘Blood of The Patriots.”

Benna West’s co-owner, Josie Newman, said that by noon they’d done quadruple the business they usually get on a typical Thursday.

“It’s been absolute madness,” said Newman. “From the second we opened the door we’ve had a line out the door and a line just as long to go to the bathroom. And there’s a new thing where people cheer when the bathroom opens.”

In Point Breeze, west of Broad Street, the Sit On It bar was packed with customers who could barely contain their excitement. Feasting on plates of chips and peanuts, and waving flags they’d prepared the night before, the largely female crowd broke into Eagles fight chants at the slightest provocation.

Laverne Daves says she’s been an Eagles fan since 2005, although its been a struggle because others in her family pull for the Atlanta Falcons, the Miami Dolphins, and even the hated Dallas Cowboys.

But for her, the Eagles are the only way to go.

“My son was diagnosed with cancer and he was at the children’s hospital in Philadelphia,” said Daves. “Then the Eagles came and visited them and gave them a free trip. Since that I’ve seen how they felt about the kids, so I became an Eagles fan.”

After the parade passed, leaving the street a mishmash of empty cans and confetti, the crowd surged towards overtaxed mass transit stations. The more sensible among the crowd decamped in the bars around Broad Street.

At Bonnie’s Capistrano Bar, on 13th Street, a crowd blasted “Dreams and Nightmares” from the jukebox, smoked cigarettes, and broke into the fight song at every opportunity. For Maria Lauer, owner of Bonnie’s, the situation is comparable to the Phillies parade in 2008, which surprises her a little.

“I thought this was going to be a rowdier crowd, but it’s pretty much the same,” she said. “So far, anyway. It’s early yet. Not even 2:00.”  

Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

Together we can reach 100% of WHYY’s fiscal year goal