Bob Ford: Eagles fans to take New Orleans by storm

Dan Flynn, who manages Pat O'Brien's on Bourbon Street, grew up in Northeast Philly andis looking forward to the green influx.
Dan Flynn, who manages Pat O'Brien's on Bourbon Street, grew up in Northeast Philly andis looking forward to the green influx. (JUDI BOTTONI)
Posted: November 03, 2012

Sometime in the hazy evening on Monday, long after the bar crawls on Saturday and Sunday nights, beyond the pep rallies in the afternoon and the tailgate party in Lafayette Square, that's when the rented high school band will break into "The Philadelphia Eagles Victory Song" and thousands of fans will fall into line - or just fall - as the parade to the Superdome begins and they attempt to navigate their own road to victory.

"It could be a little loud. It might be a little obnoxious, but that's kind of par for the course," said Craig "Qwimby" Chenosky, founder of the Green Legion, one of several Philadelphia-area businesses that specialize in travel packages for Eagles fans who want to take their special act to other cities.

There are road trips and there are road trips. And then there are road trips to New Orleans, where the Eagles have not played since 2007.

Last season, it was estimated that as many as 20,000 Eagles fans gathered for a road game against the Miami Dolphins, and about that number descended on San Diego in 2009 for another memorable road trip. Not everyone scores a ticket to the game itself, but sometimes that's not necessarily the point. Chenosky and Keith Czaban, who runs Philly Tailgate, another travel package provider, think this weekend might be even bigger.

"There's no way to know ahead of time. People come from all over and most of them get there on their own. But it's going to be big," Czaban said.

Monday's game is the destination event of the season for fans who might choose just one trip. Phoenix is a nice city to visit, but the September date in the desert wasn't very attractive. Tampa in December is inviting, but Miami was just last year, and most Philadelphia fans, according to Czaban, associate a Tampa-Clearwater trip with the Phillies, not the Eagles.

Next season's road schedule isn't very inviting. Aside from the division games, the Eagles play in Green Bay, Minneapolis, Denver, and Kansas City, along with an opponent to be determined from the NFC South. So, it could be New Orleans again, but it could be Charlotte, too.

That's why this game was circled for the traveling squadron, and that's why the numbers that showed up for the games against the Dolphins and the Chargers will likely be equaled or surpassed this weekend.

Unlike Miami or San Diego, however, where all that midnight green is spread out over many miles, most of it will often be concentrated in New Orleans on about a 10-block stretch of perhaps the most famous street in America.

"I don't know who put it together, but they got it right. It's an amazing place," said Dan Flynn, a bar manager at Pat O'Brien's, one of the best-known ports along the long river of partying, and other stuff, that flows down Bourbon Street. "There's a different set of rules here."

So, which will fare better by Tuesday morning: the invading army of fans or the city of New Orleans? In this percolating season of frustration for the Eagles, when both the team and its followers would like to blow off a little steam, is a road game against the Saints the perfect opportunity to set things right or the last howl before a long silence?

Either way, Bourbon Street has probably seen worse.

"Every weekend we have people come in from all over," said Officer Halil Williams of the New Orleans Police Department's public information office. "Anytime there's a game, we put on extra staffing. We'll have extra officers in the area. It's nothing out of the ordinary."

Well, if you say so.

Large-scale organized road trips for Eagles fans are really only about a decade old, corresponding almost exactly with the resurgence of the franchise under Andy Reid. Philadelphia fans have always been known as good travelers, though, and, except perhaps by fans of other teams who don't like seeing the color scheme change in their own stadiums, also are known as pretty good guests.

"I can speak for people in the service industry. We absolutely love seeing Philadelphia fans in town," said Flynn, 44, a transplant who grew up in Northeast Philadelphia, graduated from Father Judge High School, and moved to New Orleans in 2006. "They come in such droves and they are the best tippers. A lot of people working down here are looking forward to this weekend."

It will be quite a weekend, with the Monday night game between the Eagles and Saints preceded by a Saturday game up the road in Baton Rouge between LSU and Alabama. That one is a rematch of January's BCS title game in the Superdome, the culmination of a nasty few days on Bourbon Street.

"Fans of professional teams are usually fine. The college kids are the worst because they're not experienced in drinking, they're not used to Bourbon Street or being allowed to drink all day, and they can't handle it," Flynn said. "Alabama-LSU was a disaster. There were fights all up and down the street. With the Eagles fans, I expect them to chant and have fun and party. I know this: They're going to overrun the city."

The piano player in the lounge at Pat O'Brien's has printed out the sheet music to the fight song and he expects to play it a lot this weekend. The Green Legion has contracted with the Saints' caterers for its official pregame tailgate in Lafayette Square on Monday. And, yes, there will be a parade down Poydras Street to the Superdome, complete with a Mardi Gras-style float, the high school marching band, stilt walkers, and those thousands of stumbling survivors who actually make it to the main event.

"The game is almost secondary," Flynn said. "The reason you come to New Orleans is to have a good time. And they haven't been here for a while. I can't wait to see all those green jerseys. It's going to be something."

And by Tuesday morning, we'll know what it was, both for the fans who showed up and for the team they came to celebrate.


Contact Bob Ford at bford@phillynews.com, read his blog at www.philly.com/postpatterns, and follow on Twitter @bobfordsports.

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