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February 06, 2018

These Eagles wrapped their arms around their fans and never let go

Opinion Al Morganti
USATSI_10394350.jpg Eric Hartline/USA TODAY Sports

Philadelphia Eagles strong safety Malcolm Jenkins celebrates with fans at Lincoln Financial Field.

It is no small deal that there will be some free beer available Thursday at the Eagles Super Bowl parade, and it has nothing to do with the virtues of alcohol.

For those who do not know the background, early in the season, Eagles star Lane Johnson promised fans that he would pay for the beer at the party if the Eagles won the Super Bowl. Enter a major beer company that said it would pick up the tab.

This is not about the beer – it's about a player and a team that fully embraced a fan base. The 2017 Philadelphia Eagles marched into 2018 and the playoffs with an army of green and white fans, and they might as well have been in the locker room before, after and at halftime of the games.

The Eagles' first Super Bowl is extra special for a few reasons. The top of the list is that it is the very first, something that has never happened. No matter where the team goes from here, you cannot match the first time it happens.

The Eagles beat the champions, a legendary coach, and literally ripped the ball out of the hands of the greatest quarterback of all time. They overcame a mountain of injuries to key players, including star quarterback Carson Wentz.

However, what makes this most special is the connection between this team and the fans of Philadelphia.

There have been championships and parades before, including a couple for the Philadelphia Phillies since 1980, the latest in 2008. However, the athletes who play throughout Major League Baseball are notorious for keeping the people who watch their games at arms' length.

However, the Eagles wrapped their arms around the fans from the start of the season, right through this parade and into the future. It is a bond between players and fans reminiscent of ages ago when the Philadelphia Flyers blew away the dark clouds of despair with their own parades.

Then again, this is football in Philadelphia and the roots of green and white a lot deeper than those that the Flyers planted under the ice in 1967. This is a fan base that is as passionate as any in North America and this Eagles team was willing and happy to share this ride with the people who filled the Linc.

Actually, this Eagles team knew they had a connection to those who filled the Vet, Franklin Field, and wherever the Eagles played or practiced. All those people who took vacations to watch training camp at West Chester, Lehigh or wherever they got ready for a season that did not end in a Super Bowl.

The Eagles took note of the fans that traveled from coast to coast with this team. The Eagles were more than willing to share the victory with those who traveled to Carolina and Los Angeles or took over MetLife Stadium and every other venue.

Somehow, the Eagles turned a huge, hardcore city like Philadelphia into something that resembled a little town like Green Bay. The entire season had the feeling of a college team as there was a traveling cheering section, and there was little to no conversation of contract squabbles, lack of playing time, or complaints about the front office.

An Eagles organization that had been hijacked by Chip Kelly was handed to Doug Pederson, who was more than willing to open his locker room's doors to the fans.

There is certainly enough proof that secrecy and arrogance can land you in the winner's circle, just witness the New England Patriots under Belichick or the University of Alabama under Nick Saban.

However, it is so much more special if you choose to have an open-door policy. The result is a day like Philadelphia will have on Thursday when millions upon millions of fans will show up dressed in green to celebrate "their" championship.

The Philadelphia Eagles have turned this into a perfect celebration of a team and its fans. In fact, Chris Long will actually have a fan on a float for a short FaceTime for charity. Given their choice, this team and its front office would probably vote to have a block or two along Broad Street where the players get off the floats, allow the fans to board the floats and get a standing ovation from the players.

So, it might not seem like anything more than a joke that Lane Johnson said he would buy beer for everybody, but it was just a loose way of telling the people who watch him play that he appreciates their passion.

In the end, it worked out perfect.

No chance to win a Super Bowl with all those injuries, and facing Brady and Belichick?

Lane Johnson and the Eagles just said, "Hold my beer, we got this."

Let the parade begin, and the people in the parade are just as appreciative as the stars lining the streets.