Philadelphia and the Countryside - Press Room

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Jan 27 2017

The Truth About The "Boo"

Philadelphia Clears The Record On The Nearly 50-Year-Old Santa & Snowball Incident Of 1968

With the 50th anniversary of the “Eagles-fans-booed-and-threw-snowballs-at-Santa Claus” incident approaching, VISIT PHILADELPHIA® would like to be clear about what happened on December 15, 1968 and what has transpired in the nearly 50 years since. As the city prepares to host the NFL Draft, April 27-29, 2017, we ask the sportscasters and sports writers of America to let this snowball melt and consider a new story about Philadelphia.

  • Eagles fans booed a Santa substitute, not Santa. The real Santa Claus was stuck in a snowstorm (through which 54,535 fans still made it to the game). A 20-year-old fan in a red corduroy Santa suit, sitting in the stands, filled in as Santa for the halftime Christmas Pageant at Franklin Field. This stand-in Santa is the one who fans eventually booed and threw snowballs at. It’s still not a proud moment, but given the Eagles 2-11 record, the cold, slushy weather, the seemingly inferior Santa and the fact that this event occurred before most NFL players were born, maybe it’s time to retire the story. Local media paid little attention to the 1968 news, but Howard Cosell showed the incident on his weekend report and embedded it in Philly lore. (See The Great Philadelphia Fan Book by Glen Macnow and Anthony Gargano for the full story.)
  • The substitute Santa, Frank Olivo, made peace with his fellow Philadelphians before he passed in 2015. In a December 15, 2008 ESPN interview, he said, “I understood what was going on. I knew what it was all about. … The Philadelphia fans are the best fans in the world. I don’t care what anybody says, they live and die with their teams.”
  • It’s been said in all sorts of ways—Philly fans are loud, passionate and loyal. They’ll boo when it’s deserved, but will scream loud and proud in appreciation. They cheered ex-Sixer Allen Iverson for 10 minutes when he returned to the Wachovia Center for his first game as a Denver Nugget in 2007. They took over an entire section of Chicago’s Wrigley Field in August 2016 and executed a perfect E-A-G-L-E-S Eagles chant while cheering on their beloved Phillies. And they gave former Phillies second baseman Chase Utley three standing ovations when he played his first game in Philadelphia as a Dodger in 2016.
  • Remember, Philadelphia is the country’s first World Heritage City. It’s also the place where the nation was founded in 1776, where the first American flag was sewn, where the LIVE AID (1980) and LIVE 8 (2005) concerts took place, where Barack Obama delivered his milestone speech on race (2008) and where Pope Francis chose to end in his first-ever trip to the U.S. (2015).

VISIT PHILADELPHIA® is our name and our mission. As the region’s official tourism marketing agency, we build Greater Philadelphia’s image, drive visitation and boost the economy.

On Greater Philadelphia’s official visitor website and blog, and, visitors can explore things to do, upcoming events, themed itineraries and hotel packages. Compelling photography and videos, interactive maps and detailed visitor information make the sites effective trip-planning tools. Along with Visit Philly social media channels, the online platforms communicate directly with consumers. Travelers can also call and stop into the Independence Visitor Center for additional information and tickets.

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