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EAGLES Dejected fans have one cry: 'Next year!'



Published: Mon, February 7, 2005 @ 12:00 a.m.



PHILADELPHIA (AP) -- Tom Pettit stood with his arms crossed, the cheesesteak hat once so proudly displayed now drooping, the picture of dejection.

"It's going to be a very long night," he said. "I'm still in shock."

When Donovan McNabb threw his third interception of the game with just seconds to go, it was as if all of the air went out of the room at South Philadelphia sports bar Chickie's & amp; Pete's.

The Eagles remained without a Super Bowl title after their second appearance, having reached the game in 1980 only to lose 27-10 to the Oakland Raiders -- the first wild-card team to ever win the Super Bowl. Philadelphia has not won an NFL championship since 1960.

Dan Pekula, who had peeled the wings off of a miniature Eagles helmet and pasted them to the sides of his head, planned to go back to his hotel, get some sleep and "get ready for next year."

"We'll be all right. We're used to it," said Pekula, originally from West Chester but now living in Long Island.

"We played our hearts out. They were just a better team."

"We'll be back next year," agreed Pettit, one of a group of 13 Gettysburg College students who caravanned to Philadelphia for the game.

The Eagles' last championship win -- a 17-13 victory over the Green Bay Packers on Dec. 26, 1960 -- came seven years before the first Super Bowl was held.

They have won two other championships, in 1948 and 1949, in their 71-year history.

A victory would have meant sweet redemption for the Eagles, which ended the last three years with defeats in the NFC Championship Game -- including crushing defeats at home to the Carolina Panthers last year and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2003 that struck significant blows to the city's psyche.

Police deployed in areas around the city known for possible rowdiness after high-profile sports events -- such as Northeast Philadelphia, where fans crowded the sidewalks after the game -- but there were no immediate reports of serious incidents.

Patrons had begun lining up at 7 a.m., four hours before opening, and a capacity crowd of 750 filled the sports bar before gametime. Many wore Mardi Gras beads to complement their Eagles jerseys, and a face painter was on hand to add further adornment.

"They're nuts, but God bless them," general manager Joe Carpinella said.




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