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'Horrific scenes' and 'rioting': How national, worldwide media portrayed Eagles fans' post-Super Bowl celebrations

Some national and worldwide media outlets painted a dire image of Eagles fans destroying the city after the Super Bowl. That's not what really happened.

Revelers mount a Streets Department truck parked along Broad and Pine streets after the Eagles’ Super Bowl victory.
Revelers mount a Streets Department truck parked along Broad and Pine streets after the Eagles’ Super Bowl victory.Read more( CHRIS PALMER / STAFF WRITER )

If you read some of the headlines coming from national and worldwide media on Eagles fans' celebrations after the Super Bowl, you might have thought the city burned to the ground.

"PHILLY POLICE SCANNER REVEALS HORRIFIC SCENES IN PHILADELPHIA AS FANS RIOT AFTER SUPER BOWL VICTORY," Newsweek proclaimed in an all-caps headline. "EXPLOSION heard as RIOTING Philadelphia fans clash with police after win," the Daily Express in the United Kingdom said. "Fires burned, cars flipped and street lights came tumbling down as hard-partying Philadelphia fans lived down to their reputation," the New York Daily News wrote.

First thing's first: Let's acknowledge the worst of what happened.

Yes, one gas station was looted at Broad and Catharine, traffic lights were torn down outside City Hall, and a couple of windows at Macy's were shattered. A few fights broke out, the awning outside the Ritz-Carlton collapsed, and a car was flipped on its side. One fan ate horse manure. (Frankly, worth its own headline.)

But the celebrations were largely peaceful. In fact, more people (six) were arrested during postgame disturbances at the University of Massachusetts Amherst than in Philadelphia (four, although that number is expected to climb).

"The knucklehead contingent was extremely small," Mayor Kenney said Tuesday during a news conference about Thursday's parade, which is expected to draw millions to the city. "The media focuses obviously on the negative."

"As regrettable as it is, it could have been far worse. In New England they had their own thing," Police Commissioner Richard Ross said, referring to the UMass Amherst event, "and they lost. So in the grand scheme of things — and I'm by no means trying to justify it — but I'm just being honest," he said to laughs.

Ross said last week that the Police Department has operated with a similar approach to other large-scale events, including protests that erupted over police shootings across the country and to President Trump's election.

"After a while you do have to relinquish the street, provided people are being peaceful," Ross said. "You're going to create more havoc trying to [stop them], and you have to have somewhere for people to go."

At Tuesday's news conference, Ross said so many people were crowding the streets Sunday that officers couldn't always get to troublemakers in time. A couple of small street fires — including the burning of a Christmas tree on Broad — were reported.

A rumor that two police horses were stolen was false, police said.

"I can confirm that the number of Philadelphia Police horses that were stolen was zero," a police spokesman said. "It was just a rumor."

Philadelphians have a reputation, fair or not, for being out of control after sports victories.

In 1960, fans of the NFL-champion Eagles tore the seats off the bleachers and hurled them at police until they were permitted to storm the field; in 1974 they overturned SEPTA buses in honor of the Flyers' Stanley Cup; in 2008, after the Phillies won the World Series, 76 people were arrested for disorderly conduct, vandalism, and assaulting officers.

So all in all, Sunday's celebrations? Not so bad after all.