Feb 10, 2023, 05:57AM

Grease the Poles

Philadelphians understand the sports rallying cry.

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I’m from Philadelphia to everyone who asks where I'm from, and definitely this weekend as the Eagles return to the Super Bowl after an astounding 2018 victory against Tom Baby and the Patriots. To actual native Philadelphians, I’m only from the suburbs (King of Prussia), and that’s a necessary distinction when I’m back in the hometown region. But it’s close enough for the cultural appropriation to be fair, as I’ve lived in Maryland since I was 18 and left for college.

When people ask whether I like Pat’s or Geno’s cheesesteaks, I say my dad never would’ve paid for either one, because he made ours at home, but that Amoroso rolls are the most important ingredient. I know what “wit” or “witout” means when ordering cheesesteaks, and made them at home the day the Eagles won the NFC championship game. I know what the word “jawn” means, and that when the acronym “GTL” is used, it means “gym, tan, laundry.” I say, “You guys” instead of “Youse guys,” which is the softer, suburbs version. My kids mock me for having a “Philadelphia accent” that can best be summarized when I say I’m only eating “half” a sandwich: I pronounce it “hayuff” and they pronounce it “haff,” prompting me to acquire an exaggerated British accent and ask if we even won the Revolutionary War. I’m from far in the suburbs enough not to full-on say “wooder” for water like actual city Philadelphians.

My husband and son make fun of the fact that we revere a “fictional sports character” as real and use Rocky to constantly “overexaggerate” the “underdog Philadelphia narrative.” I'm then forced to run around the house sprinkling holy water and reciting the Lord’s Creed since it’s an abomination that they’d take the name of Balboa in vain. I point out the curse that befalls any opposing team stupid enough to put their jersey on the Rocky statue on the steps of the art museum; Travis Kelce of the Chiefs even said “Chiefs, do not touch the fucking Rocky memorial!” Note his appropriate use of the term memorial. Rocky's as real as it gets in Philadelphia. There have been seasons where a Rocky montage has been played at every single Eagles game. The city loves an underdog story, and this year’s Super Bowl team is another example of the come-from-behind division team clawing their way to the top.

Speaking of making it to the top, do you know what the phrase “grease the poles” means? In Philadelphia, it evokes images of drunken revelers climbing streetlamps, traffic light poles, pretty much anything that doesn’t move in the city after a big hometown sports team win. As an alleged safety measure, the city police apply grease to municipal pole structures, earning them the nickname “The Crisco Cops.” Climbing greased poles is a much older Sicilian tradition kept alive at the Italian Market festival in Philadelphia in which contestants climb greased poles to reach money and prizes. The tradition has a history with many other cultures but has been enthusiastically adopted by rowdy sports fans in Philly after wins.

The city of Philadelphia often gets cast in a “most hated sports fan” stereotype in the media, prompting an entire line of gear that proclaims “Everyone Hates Us. We Don’t Care.” that about sums it up. There are many blue-collar, decent people who aren’t concerned with appearances, love their city and their teams, and they—we—don’t give a shit what anyone thinks of us. Go Birds!


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