In a now infamous act, the Philadelphia Police Department took precaution against rowdy Eagles celebrations by greasing light poles with Crisco in advance of the NFC Championship game.
They won’t be repeating that exactly for the Super Bowl this Sunday, Police Commissioner Richard Ross said this week. Instead, they have new plans. Since Crisco wasn’t enough to keep people off, he hinted, the cops will be using something more effective this time around.
Fox29, which was first to report the Crisco news two weeks ago, has pegged the new coating as gear oil — the stuff used in cars. Pornhub suggested lube. People on social media have come up with plenty of other ideas, everything from butter Cheez Whiz.
But whatever the substance used ends up being, how much will it cost?
Officially, it won’t cost the city anything. A PPD spokesperson said no taxpayer funds were allocated to the move.
“The Police Department spent no money on cooking grease,” the spokesperson told Billy Penn after the Jan. 21 pole-slicking. “Each district Captain who chose to employ this safety measure…utilized his or her own resources to do so.”
Ok, so the money came out of the captains’ own pockets. Well, how much did they spend? And how much will they pony up again this weekend?
After being refused answers at each district office we called, including by folks working with 1st District Captain Campione, whom most officers credited with coordinating the whole “grease pole” effort, we decided to try to estimate the cost ourselves.
To handle all the math required to make an educated guess, we tapped engineering Ph.D. Evan Malone, founder and president of artisan-tech studio NextFab.
He agreed to help out with what he called a “back of the envelope estimate” — something that’s not exact, by any means, but is good enough to get you in the ballpark.
First up, calculating the total volume of grease used.
“If you think about the layer of grease on the pole as a thin sheet that you could ‘unzip’ and flatten out,” he explained, “the volume per pole is approximately the circumference of the pole times the height that was greased, times the thickness of the layer.”
Making the assumption that the poles were, on average, around a foot in diameter and that around eight feet of each one was lathered up, he came up with the solution that the police would need between 1,200 and 2,400 mL of grease — about 1¼ to 2½ quarts — per pole.
The higher end of that range would apply if the grease layer was thicker — like with Crisco — and the lower end fits better for a thinner application, as would happen with gear oil.
“Now, how many poles were greased?” Malone said. “This is a bit of a guessing game as well.”
Using media reports from the NFC aftermath combined with visual data from Google Street View, Malone came up with 70 poles as a good number for the Center City effort, which included stretches of South Broad and Market Street. Then there’s the area around Frankford and Cottman, which the police also reportedly treated. It’s probably close to say that Northeast Philly locus added around 10-30 poles to the count.
Which means Philly Police would need between 26 and 62 gallons of grease for this Sunday, depending what kind it was.
The going rate for gear oil hovers between $30 and $40 per gallon. So if Fox29’s sources are right, this Sunday’s move will cost something in the range of $780 to $2,400.
Splitting all differences and going for the middle values, we can peg the amount PPD captains will have to shell out to protect the light poles from Philly fans after the Eagles Super Bowl appearance at around $1,500.
A small price to pay, especially if things go right.