It’s Super Sunday. Super Bowl LII.
Thanks to the School Sisters of Notre Dame at St. Louis Catholic School in Nokomis, Illinois, I am proficient in Roman numerals. That comes with the territory when you were a pre-Vatican II altar boy. Lots of Latin. This is Super Bowl 52.
So, who do you have in today’s game? I know there were a bunch of fans in Siouxland who were hoping for a Minnesota Vikings home game today. I too wish that was the case. Instead, we have two teams which do nothing for me.
Philadelphia is the "City of Brotherly Love." At least that’s the moniker the city tries to sell. It’s also the city with some of the most obnoxious fans in America. Philly’s reputation as a city of poor sports began with an incident in 1968. That’s the year when Philadelphia Eagles fans booed Santa Claus.
Now I’ve booed a lot of people in my day. In fact, I’ve been the target of boos a few times (Bob Scott will have to tell you that story – something about a foul ball I was fortunate enough to snag). But boo Santa Claus? Never. Heresy.
The 1968 incident at Franklin Field in Philadelphia is one of those stories that, on the surface, sounds like a Sarah Huckabee Sanders press briefing – hard to believe. But this story is real. It seems the Eagles had a tradition of inviting Santa Claus to the last home game of every season. On Dec. 15, 1968, the Eagles were hosting (ironically) the Minnesota Vikings.
The temperature hovered in the mid-20s and sleet and snow fell on the stadium all morning before the game. When fans arrived, they were already in a bad mood. The Eagles were 2-10 and their seats were covered with snow. At halftime, Santa was supposed to make his grand entry on a sleigh to midfield. But the real Santa we all know and love was a no-show. So, some Eagles PR person grabs a guy dressed like Santa out of the seats and asks him to fill in for the real Santa. But Santa #2, in the person of 20-year old Frank Olivo, had a cheap Santa suit and a filthy Santa beard and looked nothing like the original. Frank did his best, but the Eagles fans knew a pseudo-Santa when they saw one. Within seconds, 52,000 fans let Santa #2 have it with a cascade of boos and snowballs that came from every corner of the stands. By the time Santa #2 made his way off the field he looked more like Frosty the Snowman than Santa. That was the day Philadelphia earned the reputation as the only city in America that boos Santa Claus.
And what about New England? I’m still smarting from the NFL’s extortion of the city of St. Louis when they moved the Rams to Los Angeles. You’ll remember that the St. Louis Rams won the 2000 Super Bowl. The star of that team was Iowan Kurt Warner and he directed an offense that came to be known as the "Greatest Show on Turf." In 2002, the Rams were back in the Super Bowl, this time going up against the New England Patriots. You may remember the Patriots were accused of recording the Rams' final walkthrough before that game. Rams running back Marshall Faulk said the Rams had a handful of new plays ready to go, but in every instance the Patriots looked like they knew what was coming. Then we had the whole Deflategate issue with Tom Brady. I sense a trend.
Bottom line, I really don’t have a favorite in today’s game. Being a marketing guy, I’m more interested in the commercials than I am the outcome of the game. I will say that I am a fan of Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz and our own former Sergeant Bluff Warrior and Iowa Hawkeye Cole Croston, a mainstay on the Patriot offensive line. As for New England, I have Patriot fatigue. The contentious relationship between quarterback and coach is probably the most compelling story line of the game.
If Super Bowl LII is a blowout, I’ll revert to my default TV option - reruns of Andy Griffith. Otis would have made a great Santa Claus. But stay away from Philadelphia.
Enjoy the game.
Next week: Steve Warnstadt
Jim Wharton, of Sioux City, is a former member of the Sioux City Council and a former mayor of Sioux City. He and his wife, Beverly, have one daughter, Dr. Laura Giese, and three grandchildren.