This is not a normal Saturday morning at Lincoln Financial Field in early April. There are dozens of Eagles fans in line in the Red Zone Suites on the north end of the stadium, all decked out in Midnight Green. Patience. Smiles. Happiness. The fans waited 52 years for an Eagles Super Bowl, so standing for 15 minutes or so before posing with the Vince Lombardi Trophy is nothing but a treat.
"This is something that is really amazing. It was great," said Paul McLaughlin, who had his son, two grandsons, and a great-grandson take part in the Eagles' ambitious eight-week (or longer, if need be) plan to have every Season Ticket Member have an opportunity meet Vince, to pose with Vince, to adore Vince, and to take enough pictures to fill up any Fan Cave. "It's been a long, long, long time. It was worth it."
McLaughlin was with his son, Gary, who attended the Super Bowl in Minneapolis. The family grew up in Northeast Philly and now the kids are in Lansdale. Gary drove out and arrived in Minnesota on Friday and had the weekend of his life.
On Saturday, there was a sense of taking the celebration to a new level at Lincoln Financial Field. He had tickets at Veterans Stadium in Sections 703 and 606 and is now in Section 206.
"Four generations of our family here and it's such a cool experience," said Gary, who has had season tickets since Veterans Stadium opened in 1971. "Going to Minnesota with my kids, it means everything. We're watching the game and the ball hits the ground and it was just the most amazing feeling."
"It was so nice to have this event. As soon as I got the email inviting us down, I said, 'We're going.'"
The feeling of beating New England in such dramatic fashion was vivid for the family.
"I was three feet off the ground," said Paul, who attended his first Eagles game in 1947. He watched Super Bowl LII from his home in Philadelphia. "I've been around for all the championship teams, but this one was really special."
The Eagles are making the Vince Lombardi Trophy – the only one the team has, the one the team held on the podium after the game, the one that is not yet engraved with the score of the game – available to Season Ticket Members for, really, as long as it takes. Six days a week, Monday through Saturday, with sessions open in the morning, afternoon, and evening, the Eagles have the trophy on a stand, with a Super Bowl backdrop, and great lighting for photos.
It is the photo op of photo ops, and it's all yours. The fans, the Season Ticket Members, share in the Super Bowl victory.
"The Vince Lombardi Trophy that we brought back to Philadelphia we brought back for the fans and we wanted to find a special way that we could share it with our Season Ticket Members who have been with us for generations – Franklin Field, Veterans Stadium, Lincoln Financial Field. We wanted to find a personal, intimate way that we could say 'thank you,' to give the fans an opportunity to have their picture taken with the Vince Lombardi Trophy," Eagles president Don Smolenski said. "The feedback from the fans has been awesome. One group came down and tailgated for a couple of hours before their time with the trophy started and I think that is so incredible and cool. Fans are wearing their Eagles gear and I think they are really appreciating the experience."
The Eagles entertained other ways of presenting the Lombardi Trophy and sharing it with the fans, but league protocol prohibits, for example, a caravan to take it out to the fans in a tour-style setting. So, Smolenski and the team figured, why not have the fans come to the trophy.
Invite them, and they will come.
"We thought, 'OK, if you're not permitted to take the trophy to the fans, why not invite the Season Ticket Members and have something intimate with the trophy?" Smolenski said. "Our Season Ticket Members are there with us every gameday and we wanted to provide a special experience for them."
And it has been special. On this morning, Don Hartnett and his wife Teresa came from Riverton, New Jersey wearing Pro Bowl 18 jerseys, having been selected by the team earlier in the year to attend the Pro Bowl in Orlando. Don has attended 288 consecutive Eagles home games. He's had season tickets since 1972 and the 288 straight started in 1983.
"It's a simple trophy and that's what makes it beautiful," he said. "Everything is still right there in my mind. When (Patriots quarterback Tom) Brady threw the last pass and the ball was in the air, all I said was, 'Knock it down. Knock the ball down to the ground.' Patrick Robinson tried to intercept it. No, knock the ball down! I realized Julian Edelman wasn't on the field and then the clock was at 0:00 and it was over. It's just been an incredible feeling."
Dave Gieringer came from Hatfield, Pennsylvania and he came dressed as Vince Lombardi, the former Green Bay Packers head coach after whom the trophy is named. Gieringer wore a top hat, a suit, and an overcoat and he reveled in the moment.
Really, he – like every fan – reveled in the entire season and the ultimate outcome.
"The journey was just phenomenal all year long," Gieringer said. "It was obvious from the get-go that there was something going right. It just looked great from the start and the team came together and played such team football. The deserving team actually won.
"Now we're here looking at something we've wanted all our lives. It's beautiful."