PHILADELPHIA – Amy Ritter was back in her Center City hotel when she realized she had lost the four-carat diamond from her wedding ring at Lincoln Financial Field.
She did not care.
“It’s a sacrifice to the football gods,” she said, laughing.
Such is the sudden, boundless joy of the Eagles fan.
This city went more than a little bit crazy on Sunday night, as the Philadelphia Eagles crushed the Minnesota Vikings in the NFC championship game to cap a shocking season with a Super Bowl berth. Fans filled the streets, climbed statues, sang “Fly Eagles Fly” on subway cars, and one even drove a dune buggy up the Rocky steps.
“It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia” is the name of a show, and a total joke, because this has truly been the sports city covered with clouds. The Phillies’ fairly recent World Series (2008) was only a short interruption of futility, headlined by an Eagles team that has usually been fairly good but always maligned in the postseason. There hasn’t been an NFL title here since 1960. This is a city where expectations stall like an overcrowded SEPTA train.
These Eagles, however, are from some bizarre and delightfully unfamiliar realm. They weren’t expected to do much, then they did much with a young quarterback, then that quarterback got hurt, then the team kept winning anyway, and then they romped to the Super Bowl with thousands of fans wearing dog masks. The other shoe kept dropping on this team, and yet it didn’t matter. It still doesn’t matter.
Ritter is a perfect example. She met her husband, Chris, when the two were 15-year-old Philly kids working at a record store on South Street. They lost touch and then found each other years later on Facebook. By that time, Chris was living in Minneapolis (of all places) and she went to visit him. In 2015 he proposed and she said yes, on one condition: “I’m not moving to Minnesota.” She eventually relented, and they lived happily in the Twin Cities, cheering for the Eagles from afar, until a week ago when the Minneapolis Miracle meant the whole town would be counting on their Eagles to get out of the way.
“It’s been negative-14, with a lot of [expletive] talk,” she said laughing.
Chris and Amy put out their Eagles flag – and their house was egged.
They wanted desperately to go to the NFC championship, but Amy’s English bulldog has tumors and she couldn’t leave him. Chris, ever the doting husband, told her to go anyway. She did, and she clapped so hard through hours of football that the rock of their relationship was lost.
She called him to tell him the terrible news and … Chris didn’t care either. The Eagles were going to the freaking Super Bowl.
Oh, and another thing: Chris’ boss offered to buy them Super Bowl tickets.
This is the kind of season it has been here. Bad things have given way to great things. It’s enough to wonder what cosmic forces are at play. And it’s also enough to wonder if this can last for two more weeks.
Normally this would be a foregone conclusion: Boston has too many titles to count (though of course they constantly count them, out loud if possible) while only an elderly Eagles fan can remember any title. Boston has Tom Brady; Philadelphia has Nick Foles. These two teams faced each other in the Super Bowl in 2005 and of course the Pats forced four turnovers and won by three points because that’s how it goes.
But what if it doesn’t go like that anymore?
Sunday was not all sweetness. A fan got bloodied in Lot M and cops had to be called. Vikings fans were roundly booed – usually in fun, sometimes too aggressively. This is still the town that jeered Santa Claus. It’s still harsh.
But to see this city these days is to see a city that isn’t as cynical, isn’t as sure of doom. Philadelphia is just rolling with it, come what may. These fans will drive a dune buggy up the Rocky steps because why not? It’s as carefree as this crusty place will ever be, and it kind of has a childlike charm to it.
Amy Ritter truly didn’t care that she lost her ring on Sunday.
Maybe the Eagles will come to her town and get her another one.
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