There is a parade headed up Broad Street in Philadelphia on Thursday. Technically, it's for the Super Bowl champion Eagles and their fans. But really, it's for everyone.
Now, you may hate the Eagles. You may be a lifelong Cowboys/Giants/Washington fan or a Falcons or Vikings fan stinging from a playoff loss. You may have read on your brother-in-law's Facebook page that his cousin's neighbor had a beer thrown at him recently by an Eagles fan. Or maybe the Eagles are just too "political" for you.
Well, hate the Eagles next week and forever after if you like. But you should not hate them this week, because this Eagles parade and championship belong to the world.
This parade is for the underdogs. It's for all who have tried hard and failed for so long that they've started to like the phrase "lovable losers." It's for everyone who has been conditioned to settle for moral victories and dignified losses while someone else hogged the glory.
This parade is for those who were told to be patient and wait their turn as children, and then years passed, then decades, until their hair turned gray and they had kids of their own and yet were still being told to be patient and wait for a turn they despaired would never, ever come.
This is a parade for football fans, of course. It's for fans whose teams start every season with an 8-8 projection and 20-to-1 Super Bowl odds. The Eagles have given hope to every ordinary-on-paper team.
This parade is for every team suffering from serial mismanagement, like the Browns or Colts. If the Eagles can go from the Chip Kelly debacle to a championship in two years, so can any team with the right plan and a dash of luck.
This parade is for every team that came within a few plays of vanquishing the Patriots, like the Seahawks, Falcons and Jaguars: the goal-line blunders, 28-3 catastrophes and conservative game plans are in history's rearview mirror. Create your own Atlanta Special or Bortles Beauty goal-line trick plays and start having fun again.
This parade is for every team that lost its quarterback and immediately fell off the playoff chase, like the Packers or the 2016 Raiders. The Eagles have proved that any obstacle can be overcome and even the mightiest foe can be vanquished by the guy on the bench.
This is not a parade for Patriots haters, because the last thing America needs is more parades for hate. But it is a parade for those who realize that while teams earn championships with toil and talent, fans earn them by suffering through endless seasons in the wilderness. It's a parade about opportunities, not sour grapes. It's for every kid whose spoiled buddy wouldn't share the good toys. Now we get to play, too.
This parade is not just for football fans, either. It's for all us workaday stiffs who ever felt like we were a million miles away from glory and would never budge an inch closer.
This parade is for everyone like Nick Foles, who's first shot at success didn't go as planned, who was ever forced to start over and thought about giving up. It's for every Carson Wentz who paved the way for others but couldn't complete the journey.
This parade is for every Alshon Jeffery and LeGarrette Blount who has to keep proving himself over and over again. It's for every Jay Ajayi and Ronald Darby who gets labeled because he doesn't quite "fit the culture." It's for every overlooked afterthought at the bottom of an organization chart like Corey Clement and Jake Elliott.
This parade is for every Brent Celek, Brandon Graham and Jason Kelce who toils for years, for boss after boss, but never gives up hope that things will someday get better. It's for every Fletcher Cox and Zach Ertz with big reputations to live up to and every Halapoulivaati Vaitai (and Foles) with big shoes to fill.
This parade is for every Malcolm Jenkins who testifies truth to power and draws fire from all sides. It's for every Chris Long who is born into privilege yet embraces the responsibility—and risks—of giving back.
This parade is for all the Doug Pederson-types who get shrugged off as nonentities because they value substance over style. It's for every Howie Roseman who has ever been banished to the boiler room by the office backstabber and had to claw his or her way back.
This parade is for Meek Mill, his body in prison, his songs echoing through U.S. Bank Stadium, his name on the lips of champions. It's for those whose youthful misdemeanors were never expunged, and for the maligned, the marginalized, for those whittled down by the wheels of the system.
This parade is for everyone who believes that hard work should be joyful. It's for those who have grown weary of the Patriots' grim business of churning out championships like widgets. This parade is for anyone who sees Lane Johnson donning a dog mask after an upset or hears Pederson and Foles calling Super Bowl trick plays with a casual shrug and thinks: this is what sports should be; this is the feeling I remember from the playground.
This is also a parade for those who still relish living in the moment. It's for anyone who tuned into sports talk barely 12 hours after the confetti flew and discovered how cynically the news cycle had moved on to Nick Foles trade speculation, Patriots navel-gazing, gibbering nonsense about Tom Brady's legacy and so forth. It's for everyone who hates when the restaurant gives you the bum's rush while you linger over your coffee, [and for anyone] who thinks the Christmas tree should stay lit on December 26.
This parade will force the world to stop and take notice of the celebration, if only because the world thinks the City of Brotherly Love will erupt in flames.
But this parade will be a parade, not a riot or the sacking of Constantinople. Midnight after the Super Bowl is for the drunks looking for an excuse to sow chaos, who are found in every sports town but have Philadelphia brand recognition. This parade is for families, schoolkids, neighbors and businesspeople in the cold light of afternoon to get a little rowdy, perhaps a little tipsy and create memories, not destroy property.
"Chaos," Chris Long said when asked on Wednesday what he expected from the Super Bowl parade. "The best kind of chaos."
"I know there's gonna be the biggest E-A-G-L-E-S chant that you ever heard," Brandon Graham said on Wednesday. "New York is gonna hear it, people in Delaware are gonna hear it. Shoot, even in D.C., they'll hear it."
This parade will start at a stadium complex in a warehouse district and pass through neighborhoods of all kinds: some hardscrabble, some working class, some gentrified. It will pass corner convenience stores and historic symphony halls, monuments to William Penn (a utopian city planner in an era of tyrants) and Benjamin Franklin (the revolutionary genius who was fun to have a beer with).
This parade will literally pass the Gates of Hell, a masterpiece at the museum of sculptor Auguste Rodin (the Thinker guy). A Philly parade passing the gates of hell: appropriate on so many levels. Maybe as the Eagles pass, those gates will burst open and all of the demons will be exorcised: the McNabb-T.O. beef, the Fog Bowl, Mitch Williams' fat one to Joe Carter, Eric Lindros' concussion near-martyrdom, Charles Barkley spitting, Allen Iverson not practicing and that half-century old Demogorgon, booing Santa Claus. That legion expelled, Philly fans can finally be freed of both their frustrations and their reputation.
This parade will end with the ultimate sports cliche, at the Rocky movie steps of Philadelphia Museum of Art. But the Rocky cliche remains powerful after 40 years for what it represents: everyone's ability to rise from the lowest circumstances and reach the pinnacle of human achievement.
Rocky established Philly as the underdog capital of the world. The Eagles carried on the tradition by waiting 52 years to win a Super Bowl, then wearing their underdog masks to the game. Like Brandon Graham said, Thursday's parade will carry the message like a seismic Eagles chant: The underdogs have finally won.
And that means anything is possible.