By the time the Eagles landed at Philadelphia International Airport Monday afternoon, the location and timing of their arrival were the worst kept secrets in Southwest Philadelphia.
Officials purposefully did not publicize the return of Philadelphia’s favorite sons in order to control crowd sizes. But, by around 2:30 p.m., hundreds of fans lined a plastic fence along the airport’s perimeter awaiting that final touchdown of the season.
They came bearing pennants and beads and a seemingly endless supply of “E-A-G-L-E-S” chants. They climbed upon shoulders and even news vans. They shivered and shook just to get a far-away glimpse of their heroes.
“It’s crazy,” said Domenic Petrocelli from Broomall, Pennsylvania. “I get choked up just thinking about it.”
At about 15 minutes to 3, an American Airlines jumbo jet pulled into view and out stepped Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie, his hands wrapped around that elusive Lombardi Trophy. The prize that has never before belonged to the city’s beloved sports franchise had officially arrived on Philadelphia soil.
Like one of the trick plays the Eagles executed so deftly during their playoff run, the players first lingered near a set of coach buses parked about a hundred yards away before suddenly turning and walking toward the assembled masses.
“They’re coming! They’re coming,” a few fans screamed.
The roar turned deafening as fans crushed against the fence.
Players and coaches took turns gripping the trophy and shaking it in the crowd’s direction.
Amid the frenzy, a young boy named D.J. Fletcher drifted from his dad, Kenneth. He couldn’t see amid the crush of legs, and began crying. Someone noticed and reunited him with his father, who held him aloft.
“I see Fletcher Cox,” he screamed. “I see Fletcher Cox!”
That was all anyone wanted, just to see their favorite players in the flesh after seasons of waiting for the ultimate reward.
Asked what the trophy looked like as it glinted in the midday sun, D.J. responded: “It was shiny.”