It was December 15th, 1968. The Philadelphia Eagles were playing their final game of a dreadful regular season at their then-home stadium of Franklin Field.
The Eagles would eventually lose that day to the Minnesota Vikings and finish the year 2-12. Their two victories not only came after a 0-11 start but cost them any chance to draft USC running back O.J. Simpson.
At half time, the Eagles held a Christmas Pageant. Depending on which story you believe, the actor slated to play Santa Claus was either detained by traffic or booze.
In desperate need of a replacement Claus, organizers plucked Frank Olivo from the stands. He had worn a Santa suit to the game.
Olivo was 20-years-old, 5’6” and 170 pounds. He was not exactly your ideal Santa.
As soon as the frustrated Eagles fans got a load of “Olivo Claus” they started booing. Not just a smattering of boos but a cacophony of raucous jeers.
From there things got even worse. When Olivo reached the end zone he began to get pelted by a flurry of snowballs. Not one or two snowballs, but hundreds.
Sports fans in the City of Brotherly Love had harangued and harassed the most benign and inoffensive figure imaginable, Santa Claus.
This famous incident is often used to illustrate the gruffness of Philadelphia sports fans. While they tend to voice their displeasure frequently and vociferously, they are still some of the most knowledgeable and passionate sports fans in the country.
The city of Philadelphia is one of 12 metropolitan areas that has a team in each of the four major North American sports leagues: NFL, MLB, NBA and NHL.
Philadelphia is one of four cities in which all four major sports franchises play within the city limits. In fact, Philly’s teams play within blocks of one another at the South Philadelphia Sports Complex.
In 1980, Philadelphia became the only city to send all four of its major sports teams to their respective championship games. Unfortunately for Philadelphia fans only the Phillies were able to capture a title.
The city’s National Football League team is the Eagles. They play in the NFL’s marquee division of the NFC East.
Since 2003, the Eagles have called Lincoln Financial Field their home.
The franchise last won a champion ship in 1960 but they did reach the Super Bowl at the end of the 1980 and 2004 seasons.
The Phillies have been playing Major League Baseball since 1883. During that time they’ve won six National League pennants and two World Series, the last on coming in 2008.
The Phillies play their home games at Citizens Bank Park.
Perhaps the greatest third baseman of all-time, Mike Schmidt, played for the Phillies. Other notable Philly greats include Steve Carlton, Robin Roberts and Grover Alexander.
The 76’ers represent the city of Philadelphia in the National Basketball Association. The franchise has won three NBA titles but none since 1983.
The franchise originally started out as the Syracuse Nationals but moved to Philadelphia in 1963. They currently play at the Wachovia Center.
Throughout the years, the 76’ers have had some of the greatest NBA players on their roster, names like Wilt Chamberlain, Darryl Dawkins, Julius Erving, Moses Malone, Charles Barkley and Allen Iverson.
Also playing at the Wachovia Center is the Flyers of the National Hockey League. Part of the 1967 NHL expansion, the Flyers were the first non-Original Six team to win the Stanley Cup. The franchise won back-to-back championships in 1974 and 1975. They have not won a title since.
The next big professional sports franchise in Philadelphia is the Union. The team is scheduled to begin play in Major League Soccer in 2010. The “Zolos” will play at the soccer-specific Union Field at Chester. Located on the banks of the Delaware River, Chester is about 30 minutes southwest of Philadelphia.
Philadelphia is home to the Big 5, five Division 1 universities that field prominent collegiate basketball teams. The Big 5 is comprised of Temple, St. Joe’s, Pennsylvania, Villanova and La Salle.
This quintet plays most of their games at the historic Palestra located on the campus of the University of Pennsylvania. The Palestra is also known as the Cathedral of College basketball.
Not a part of the Big 5, but still a Division I school in Philadelphia, is Drexel University. Their basketball team plays at the Daskalakis Athletic Center.
Of the aforementioned universities, only Temple has a Division I football team. Many Philadelphians find themselves rooting for the Penn State Nittany Lions.
The Lions play their home games at Beaver Stadium in State College, located about 200 miles from Philadelphia.
Philadelphia’s Lincoln Financial Field is the frequent home of the annual Army/Navy game. The venue will host the event in 2009, 2010, 2012, 2013, 2013, 2015 and 2017.