The Eagles are playing a game on Christmas for the second time in franchise history, but for the first time ever in Philadelphia on Christmas day.
Yes, you know where this is going.
Santa Claus may be from the North Pole, but he’s tethered to the not-so-friendly confines of South Philly as much any other place on Earth. And if you don’t believe me, I’ve got a snowball joke to hit you in the face with right now.
Yes, since 1968 Philadelphians, and specifically Philadelphia Eagles fans, have been tied to Ol’ Kris Kringle in the worst possible way. We booed him and, yes, we threw snowballs at him. And we will never live it down.
By now you know the story of the day Eagles fans threw snowballs at Santa as well as you know the 12 days of Christmas — seven balls a-slinging, six jerks a-booing — and yes, it was probably more than just six jerks.
The 1968 Eagles were terrible, starting the season 0-11 before finishing 2-12. Those two wins were actually bad for the franchise, giving the Eagles the third pick in the 1969 draft and missing out on O.J. Simpson. (Of course, they took Leroy Keyes third overall and the Steelers drafted Mean Joe Greene one pick later. Throw snowballs at that, if anything.)
Anywho, back to Santa. The Eagles held a Christmas celebration at halftime of the season finale every year, but because of a snowstorm that season, the guy they booked to play Santa never showed up. And so a teenager named Frank Olivo, who just happened to be in the stands at the time dressed as Santa because of course he was, went down to the field to participate in the parade.
It did not go well.
Santa was pelted with snowballs for just a brief few minutes that December day, but the lasting memory of that halftime show has left Philly fans with a black eye ever since. We can’t go anywhere in the world without hearing how “we” threw snowballs at Santa.
Last spring, ESPN’s 30 For 30 even did a spoof of the ol’ Saint Nick debacle.
Ho, ho ho, he, he, he, hah, hah, hah, har, har, har. Humbug.
And so, with the Eagles hosting a game on Christmas night that’s being televised on ESPN, I sought the answer to the only question Eagles fans need to know this year.
How much is the Worldwide Leader in Sports going to harp on that time a couple of angry fans threw snowballs at a kid dressed up like Santa almost 50 years ago?
“To be honest,” ESPN Monday Night Football producer Jay Rothman said via email, “I wasn’t entirely up-to-speed on the legend of it and the whole story about Santa Claus being booed and throwing snowballs at Franklin Field but I have read more about it in my research. Our production team has been discussing it this week. With an Eagles home game on Christmas night, the timing is just too perfect, so we plan to highlight this at some point during the game.”
In his “research”? Did that research possibly include reading an email request for comment from a local sports editor wondering if the telecast was planning to…oh no, what have I done?!?
I asked Rothman what the crew’s plans were for any other Santa-related visuals, as well. No, I didn’t ask if Jon Gruden would be decked out a bright red Father Christmas suit, but I did ask how many Eagles fans decked out in Santa hats he plans on showing.
“I would say 12 shots of Santa hats, so not that many,” Rothman said in very specific terms. “It’s our last Monday Night game of the regular season. Our production tool box will be aplenty. We plan a lot of big-picture stuff – recapping the season, looking ahead to the playoffs and Pro Bowl, etc.
“We’re not just going to resort to shots of Santa Claus hats. We’ll do better than that.”
So there you have it. The answer to the biggest question in Philly this Christmas. Is Santa Claus real…ly going to be a story on the Monday Night Football telecast this year?
Yes indeed, but it hopefully won’t be too bad, as it doesn’t look like we’ll be getting any snow this Christmas.
One other note about the ESPN telecast to pass along. Lisa Salters, who we profiled last year in her return to Philly for MNF, will be calling both the Sixers and Eagles games on Christmas. She’ll be in New York for the noon tipoff between the Sixers and Knicks, then will be trudging down to the Linc to call Eagles Raiders. That’s merry, busy Christmas.