It took place nearly 50 years ago, but every Christmas Eagles fans are forced to relive the moment when fill-in Santa Claus Frank Olivo was pelted by what one observer called a “tsunami of snowballs” during halftime of the December 1968 game at Franklin Field.
Olivo, who died in 2015 after battling heart disease and other ailments, described the moment on ESPN in 2011: “You hear it. I said, ‘Well, you know, I understand what’s going on here. They’re not booing me. They’re not just booing Santa Claus; they’re booing everything.’ ”
On Christmas, the Raiders are coming to Philadelphia to play the Eagles on Monday Night Football, so the Eagles’ social media team decided to have a little fun with the long-perpetuated stereotype and allow Santa and the snowball that hit him to bury the hatchet over a cup of coffee at Philadelphia’s famed Melrose Diner.
“It wasn’t even you they were upset at. It was the team,” the snowball (voiced by Eagles fan Bradley Cooper) tells a resentful Santa Claus, who isn’t exactly buying it.
“Oh, it was the team. Yeah, that makes sense,” Santa shoots back. “Get mad at the team, hit the guy in the bright red suit. Sure.”
— Philadelphia Eagles (@Eagles) December 22, 2017
“Our production team has been discussing it this week,” Monday Night Football executive producer Jay Rothman told Bill Penn’s Dan Levy. “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.”
It won’t be the first time ESPN has poked fun at Eagles fans for throwing snowballs at Santa. Last year, the network promoted its basketball coverage on Christmas Day with a fake 30 for 30 short about Philadelphia’s mistreatment of St. Nick, which featured former Inquirer reporter Sal Paolantonio and Temple alum Kevin Negandhi.
In a 2013 piece, Legendary Daily News sports columnist Stan Hochman went off on the infamous legend that has tarred Eagles fans for more than a generation:
You know the threadbare story. Something nasty happens at a game in Philly, and the out-of-town journalists shrug and sneer and say they’re not surprised, because these are the same fans who pelted Santa Claus with snowballs.
Never mind that it’s more than 44 years later. Never mind that Olivo didn’t think it was a big deal at the time. Never mind that the team stank and the coach was inept and the naïve owner was frantically treading water to stay afloat financially.
Hochman spoke with Olivo prior to his death, who outlined exactly what went down that snowy day:
When the team left the field at halftime,” Olivo recalled, “the fans threw snowballs at Kuharich. They didn’t start throwing at me until I got to the end zone, where they could reach me.
I then walked halfway down the track. I remember seeing one guy gathering snow to throw at me and I told him,’You’re not getting nothin’ for Christmas.’
Afterwards, Bill Mullen asked me if I’d do it the next year. I told him no, because it might not snow and then they’d be throwing beer bottles.
I didn’t think what happened was a big deal. And then Howard Cosell, in his Sunday night show, made a big deal of it.