On a new FUEL TV show, Master Debaters (I will now pause while all the 10th-graders giggle), an all-star panel rehashes one of the oldest, safest arguments in sports by declaring Philly fans the worst. Jeremy Roenick, who played three seasons in Philadelphia as a Flyer, called them "crazy, crazy [s.o.b.'s]."
Fair enough. Roenick also mentions "they boo Santa Claus" and Jay Mohr comments that "they threw snow balls at Michael Irvin" on a stretcher.
Nobody is here to claim fans in the City of Brotherly Love are saints. Phillies fan Matthew Clemmens vomited on an 11-year-old girl, for cripes' sake. Eagles fans cheered when Irvin had to be carted off the turf at Veterans Stadium (though there was no snow present). David Sale of Lansdale, Pa., was beaten to death outside of Citizens Bank Park.
But much like the myth outside New England that every single Red Sox fan marched to Bill Buckner's home and threatened to kill all he held holy after his error in Game 6 of the 1986 World Series*, the Santa Claus incident is a decades-old product of some factual information completely removed from its context.
*The Red Sox had already blown the lead and the game was tied when Mookie Wilson's grounder went through Buckner's legs. Buckner received many an ovation at Fenway Park in later years, including his return for 22 games in 1990 to conclude his career. Doesn't everybody know this?
In 1968, the Eagles were terrible. Embarrassingly so. They went 2-12, scored the second-fewest points in the NFL, gave up the fourth-most points in the league and had a dead-last takeaway-giveaway differential of minus-22.
On the last day of the season, the franchise tried to paper over the awful product on the field with a Christmas parade at halftime. The event reportedly was to consist of a float, cheerleaders and much pageantry. The spare-no-expense show was a marked contrast to the roster, which had been dismantled by then-owner Jerry Wolman.
Eagles fans therefore were already a little annoyed, and when atrocious field conditions prevented the float and the cheerleaders from making an appearance, the gloves were off. Somehow, nobody in the Eagles front office, in their infinite wisdom, had thought that a grass field in the middle of December might not be suitable for a float and dozens of high-stepping cheerleaders.
When a 19-year-old in a Santa Claus outfit marched meekly onto the field — alone — the fans unleashed their wrath.
"Santa had it coming for a different reason, actually," Glen Macnow, a radio host in Philadelphia and co-author of The Great Philadelphia Fan Book, told The Associated Press in 2003. "Santa was a surrogate that day for [coach] Joe Kuharich and Jerry Wolman and [quarterback] Norm Snead. The poor kid just happened to be representing the frustrations."
Booing a beloved children's character? No Boston fan should play sheriff on this front. Wally the Green Monster is as big a star among kids as any current player, but when he emerged for the first time from inside the original Green Monster in 1997, fans didn't exactly embrace him or the circumstances in which he was introduced.
That was more than a decade ago, though, and it's water under the bridge. An event that happened more than four decades ago in Philadelphia should be by now, too.
Check out the Master Debaters discussion in the video below.
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