By now everyone has seen the amazing footage of the Phillies’ championship parade through streets filled with what some estimates have put at over two million people, so I’m not going to spend time rehashing what other journalists have already discussed. Instead I am going to write about my experience from a personal perspective.
When the tickets became available online for the parade I tried simultaneously for tickets to both Citizens Bank Park (the main show) and Lincoln Financial Field (where, at the time, all we knew was that we would be able to watch the festivities on the giant screens with the possibility that a couple of players might stop by). I was unable to obtain tickets to the Bank, but managed to score two lower-level tickets to the Linc. The tickets to both parks, by the way, were free, so kudos to both parks for not gouging the fans. At the same time, shame on some of the parking vendors who were charging as much as $30, and an even bigger thumbs down to the a-holes who were selling tickets to both parks online for hundreds of dollars within moments of getting them for free. Most of the true fans were shut out of the celebration because of these greedy bastards. One guy actually made the trip to the Linc and had his young son stand outside the gate holding up a sign that said: “Have Tickets, Make Offer.” Real classy.
So I printed out the two tickets to the Linc and crashed at my buddy’s house that night in South Jersey so I wouldn’t have to wake up as early (being a very late night owl, getting up an extra hour early to make the trip down from Central Jersey would have been rough). As it was, I only managed three hours of sleep, but I wasn’t driving into the city so I didn’t care. We decided to leave around 9-9:30am to avoid the worst of the traffic. We had considered taking the high speed line in, which many city officials were recommending due to the expected heavy traffic volume but I’m glad we didn’treports had waits of over two hours to even get a seat on the train.
By driving we got into the city very quickly, though parking was already filling up everywhere. We entered a free parking lot, but when no spots were available we decided to park on the side of a road exiting the parking lot behind a locked gate. The guy who parked in front of us said they never ticketed there and he was sure the gate would be open at the end of the day, so we took the chance, and it wound up being a good move as we were able to zip right out of there on our way home.
Anyway, it was around 10am and we decided to walk around for a while soaking in the atmosphere. The streets and lots around the stadiums were already flooded in a sea of red people cheering, high-fiving, and waving at all the cars driving by beeping their horns. Everybody was friendly, chatting with strangers as if they were the oldest of friends. It’s amazing what a championship can do for a city, though I would point out that, contrary to popular myth, the majority of Philly fans are always friendly, but it was definitely ratcheted up on this day.
A man was walking around snapping photos for the Phillies web site, and he took the following shot of me and my friend, Bruce. The Linc is in the background and we’re holding championship signs that were being handed out for free. It wasn’t until later that I realized the signs were from a [gag] country music station. Oh well. I’m wearing an old raggedy Phillies hat barely held together in the back, as it is the only piece of Phillies paraphernalia I own. Most of my stuff is Eagles and Flyers, which is why I am wearing an Eagles jacket over a McNabb jersey, but I wasn’t the only guy there with Eagles gear on, so I didn’t feel out of place, and since my tickets were for the Linc anyway, it seemed an appropriate mixture of the two sports.
They put a giant “PROOF” over the picture in order to force you into buying something, but it’s good enough for the purposes of this blog. I foolishly forgot to bring my camera, so this is currently the only shot I have, though Bruce and my uncle (who we met up with later) both took a lot of photos throughout the day and have promised to send them to me.
After a while of walking around we met up with my uncle at the Linc gate. He had managed to secure six tickets for his entire family, though the tickets were only available in pairs so we would all be sitting separately. In the meantime we got lunch at the concessions (a cheesesteak, fries, and snapple for $16!) and then hung out together in the lower level since the stadium wasn’t full yet. After a while we realized that the stadium probably wasn’t going to fill to capacity as many people had likely got the free tickets and then decided not to come, while others had only got the tickets with the intention of selling them and had hopefully ended up stuck with them. Thus, my uncle decided to stay where he was with his family while Bruce and I headed to our assigned seats.
We were about 20 rows up from the field in the shaded end zone so it was pretty cold. I noticed many empty seats down lower in sunny sections, so we decided to move all the way down to the bottom of one of these sections right next to an entrance tunnel and hang out there until somebody came to kick us out. As it would turn out, nobody ever came to boot us out so we got to enjoy all the festivities from fantastic seats. My uncle and his family were able to eventually join us (the beauty of cell phones) so we all ended up getting to sit together.
We soon learned that not only were some players dropping by the Linc, but the entire team would be coming to do a victory lap with the trophy and make speeches, so although we were shut out of the main event, we were getting a nice ceremony of our own, making the trip more than worth it. Then we just sat back and watched the parade on the giant screens, reveling in the cheers of the crowd as each new player showed up on screen. This was when the championship really hit me. Of course I was happy and jumped out of my seat when Lidge threw the final pitch to clinch the World Series, but over the next day I wasn’t feeling as euphoric as I thought I would. That all changed when I was able to experience the celebration among thousands of fans in the stadium, and millions in the streets.
Finally, the players arrived. The coaches led the procession, coming right up to the stands, where I high-fived Milt Thompson as he walked by. Next came Charlie Manuel on a cart that held the championship trophy. Then the rest of the players followed on foot, doing a victory lap around the stadium before winding up at the podium, where we heard speeches from Manuel, Victorino, and Moyer, to thunderous cheering and applause. After the festivities ended we decided to leave and listen to the main ceremony on the radio so we could beat the worst of the traffic. We got to see a championship ceremony live, so we didn’t feel the need to watch another one on TV from across the street, and we could always catch the highlights later.
Beating traffic, however, was easier said than done. It still took us a good hour to get out of the city, but considering how bad it would later get, that was nothing. Overall, it was a tremendous experience and I’m glad I went. If you live within driving distance of your favorite sports team and they win a championship, I highly recommend attending at least one victory parade in your lifetime, especially if it’s in Philly, where our two-million-strong, multi-stadium celebration dwarfed any other city’s.
Now I want to see another parade in FebruaryGo Eagles!