Aside from Nick Foles’ performance, perhaps nothing illustrated Philadelphia’s preparation and perseverance on the day of the NFC Championship game more than images of poles across the city slathered in Crisco — and the photos of determined fans who climbed them anyway in celebration of the Eagles’ win.
“The fact that we were greasing them doesn’t mean we were daring people to climb them,” Sgt. Eric Gripp, police spokesman, said. “It’s the exact opposite.”
But in a city that’s famous for rebellion and has a well-established greased-pole climbing competition, protecting Philly fans from themselves is far from a piece of cake, even if you have all the Crisco in the world.
Now comes the time in the night where we must warn everyone about the dangers of Saturated Fats. Cheers for #Foles! Jeers for #Poles! It's a long way down, baby. Celebrate responsibly! pic.twitter.com/mES5MpPTY4
— Philadelphia Police (@PhillyPolice) January 22, 2018
“Unfortunately it became a thing ahead of time so people thought we were daring them to topple the grease,” Gripp said.
City: we’ve greased the poles so people won’t climb them
Philly: is that a challenge
City: no we’re just trying to discourage you from the unsafe thing
Philly: YOU THINK WE CAN’T CLIMB THE POLE WE KEEP RECEIPTS WATCH US NOW
— 💔 (@alyssakeiko) January 22, 2018
Police declined to say what they’ve cooked up to try to prevent fans from hurting themselves — and others — if the Eagles defeat the New England Patriots in the Super Bowl this weekend. Police Commissioner Richard Ross said at a news conference that authorities were making “some small variations” this time.
“I can’t tell you that there won’t still be attempts, but I just would suspect that some of them would be far more difficult than they were with the Crisco attempts,” he said.
The grease didn’t work. pic.twitter.com/it0XDv4Nvs
— Matt Gelb (@MattGelb) January 22, 2018
Hisham Abdel-Aal, associate professor of mechanical engineering at Drexel University, is an expert in the study of friction, also known as tribology. In theory, Crisco should work, but other lubricants like motor oil, machine grease, and even lard would work better, he said.
Adult entertainment company Pornhub has another idea. Communications director Chris Jackson said the company is offering Philly 110 gallons of lubricant “to prohibit any tomfoolery after the game from Eagles fans.”
Pornhub vice president Corey Price said the company has lubricant left over from when they created “the world’s largest lube slide” to mark the launch of their lubricant line in October 2016.
“We have a couple barrels of unused lube and figured this was the perfect opportunity to lend a hand,” he said.
— Pornhub ARIA (@Pornhub) January 31, 2018
— Philadelphia Police (@PhillyPolice) January 31, 2018
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Clothing, or lack thereof, could also play a factor in whether fans are able to shimmy up lubricated poles. Would-be climbers clothed in nylon or polyester might have a more difficult time than someone wearing cotton, Abdel-Aal said.
— Julia Terruso (@JuliaTerruso) January 22, 2018
“Think about a mechanic. When he tries to wipe his hands from lube grease, he uses a cotton towel, but if he deals with a plastic bag, it won’t work,” he said.
But no matter the friction factor, the human factor is always harder to account for.
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“In Philly, you have lots of young people, and with young people, you tell them no and you have it coming,” Abdel-Aal said. “And if it’s coming from the police, too, then they’re definitely going to try and do it.”
— Cassie Semyon (@casssemyon) January 22, 2018
Abdel-Aal said he was not surprised by the pole climbing that occurred in Philly after the NFC Championship. For six years, he lived in France, where soccer fans are equally prone to scale tall objects.
“There, climbing poles is a normal thing,” he said.
Philadelphia’s history of greased-pole climbing dates back to the beginning of South Philly’s Italian Market Festival, in the early 1970s. A 30-foot-tall steel pole covered in lard known as Albero della Cuccagna became the centerpiece of the festival. People tried to climb the pole for a chance at the cash, prosciutto, cheese and other goodies at the top.
When the festival returned in 2001 after a five-year hiatus, the greased pole was no more. It had become a victim of a revitalized neighborhood and a more litigious society that made it difficult to secure insurance for such a stunt. But the pole was still the first and last thing people remembered about the festival. And in 2016, it made its triumphant return.
Now, however, climbers must sign liability waivers and take a Breathalyzer test for a chance to tackle the pole. Given the headlines made around the world following the NFC Championship game, the greased pole may now be on the fast track to take over the Liberty Bell as Philadelphia’s most emblematic inanimate object.
Dottie’s Donuts created an “Eagles Fan on Greased Pole” doughnut.
Today we’re proud to present Philadelphia with our newest piece of art titled “eagles fan on greased pole”. A chocolate dough with vanilla and matcha glaze. @Eagles @NFL @phillydotcom @PhillyDailyNews #gobirds🦅 #philadelphiaeagles pic.twitter.com/UCcmUlKXCV
— Dottie's Donuts (@dottiesdonuts) January 22, 2018
The hashtag #CriscoCops also took off on Twitter, and employees of Smucker’s, which produces Crisco, even delivered football-shape cookies made from Crisco to various police districts around Philadelphia this week.
“We’re inviting the city to indulge their taste buds in a thicker, light-texture sugar cookie made with Crisco All-Vegetable Shortening,” Crisco brand spokeswoman Julia Darrenkamp said. “This is our preferred way to keep fans on the ground.”