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Philadelphia fans warm up to title



Published: Mon, January 24, 2005 @ 12:00 a.m.



Frigid temperatures didn't stop the celebration of a long-awaited NFC crown.

PHILADELPHIA (AP) -- Brittany McGee stood on her seat and laughed, crying tears of joy into her father's fleece hat as silver confetti settled into the stands.

"I wouldn't trade this for anything in the world," the 15-year-old said as she wiped away her tears with a gloved hand as the Philadelphia Eagles were presented with the NFC championship trophy.

Neither would 60,000 other football fanatics -- now 60,000 very close friends -- who braved frigid temperatures, blustery winds and deep snow to watch the Eagles defeat the Atlanta Falcons 27-10 on Sunday and earn the team's first Super Bowl berth in 24 years.

"We've been waiting so long," said Brittany's father, George, who has been coming to games since 1978. "This is what it's all about."

Toast of the town

Later in the parking lot, the smell of postgame fireworks mingled with smoke from victory cigars as Eagles fans toasted their long-anticipated -- and, for many, long-overdue -- victory. They had watched their team fall just short of the big game for three straight seasons -- the last two at home.

"It's almost too good to be true," said Michael Brennan, a 10-year season-ticket holder who lives in Cambridge, Mass. "Three straight NFC championships and we've got ours now."

Brennan had witnessed the last two season-ending home losses -- to the Carolina Panthers last year and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2003.

"The last two years it's been a long ride home," he said. "Five-and-a-half hours to think about next year."

This year, he flew down from Boston. But his flight home had been canceled, so he planned to make the best of it.

"Maybe we'll throw the grill back on and have a couple scrapple sandwiches and celebrate in true Philly style," he said with a laugh, referring to Pennsylvania's pork-and-cornmeal comfort food.

Snow no problem

Tailgaters braved more than a foot of snow in some areas and heavy winds pushing the wind chill to near zero to assemble at the stadium before parking lots even opened at 8 a.m.

Dave Collins and friend Gary Mehaffey left Harrisburg, Pa., at 5 a.m. to get in line for a parking spot, a wait that took about a half-hour. They found travel conditions reasonably clear, although the Pennsylvania Turnpike was covered with snow.

Matthew Perkins, 29, one of only a handful of Falcons faithful at the game, not only endured a six-hour trip from upstate New York but the taunts of Eagles fans once he got there.

"I've gotten razzed a lot, but I love it," he said, "It's a great day for football."

While the weather for his trip home would probably be a little chilly, in the stadium parking lots and the streets of Philadelphia, the crisp air wasn't bothering many of the green-clad fanatics who could see the promised land within their reach.

"Rarefied air is a little warmer," said Steve Feevish, a 20-year season-ticket holder.




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