EVERYONE KNOWS that when it comes to a tradition near and dear to our hearts, there is nothing Philadelphians love to do more than boo.

That is . . . everyone in California, Texas or anywhere else outside the region.

Here, in Philadelphia, the tradition that tugs at us with sweet sentimentality is Kate Smith belting out "God Bless America" at Flyers games.

In a Daily News survey of Philadelphia sports fans conducted with the Sport Industry Research Center at Temple University, 43 percent of the respondents identified Kate Smith as our favorite sports tradition.

The "E-A-G-L-E-S" chant was second with 42 percent and the Big 5 was third with 39 percent. They were followed by the Army-Navy game (29 percent) and the Penn Relays (21 percent). Respondents could vote for three from a list of 15 choices.


Way down in seventh place with 16 percent.

Flyers chairman Ed Snider said "God Bless America" became a "phenomenon."

"Very exciting," Snider said. "When [Kate Smith] came in person to sing, it was mind-boggling. Who can explain it? To this day, when we play the record with Kate and Lauren Hart, it gets the crowd going."

The song has become synonymous with the glory days of the Flyers. It apparently was first played by the team at the Spectrum on Dec. 11, 1969. Smith's first live performance at the arena was Oct. 11, 1973, and she occasionally sang live from then on.

The Flyers' success when the song played became so legendary that, in an effort to reverse the jinx, Boston stars Bobby Orr and Phil Esposito gave Smith flowers when she was to sing at Game 6 of the Stanley Cup finals on May 19, 1974. The Flyers won, 1-0, for their first of back-to-back Cups.

According to a Flyers spokesman, the team is 81-21-4 when Smith sings "God Bless America."

Smith will be immortalized with her own postage stamp, which will be unveiled by the U.S. Postal Service and the Flyers on May 19 - the 36th anniversary of that Cup-clinching game - at the statue of Smith at the Spectrum.

Constantine Tripolitis, of Cherry Hill, said the song is a lucky charm and can be "beyond intimidating for opposing teams." He added that it is also "directly associated with the greatest events in the history of the Flyers."

And the E-A-G-L-E-S chant?

"The E-A-G-L-E-S chant is just cool," said Cindy Sabatino, of Philadelphia, "but I do hate it at Phillies games."

The E-A-G-L-E-S chant is apt to pop up anywhere. Coach Andy Reid even heard it during a vacation with his wife, Tammy, on secluded Peter Island in the British Virgin Islands. Some fans spotted him and began serenading them. "They start going E-A-G-L-E-S, Eagles!" Reid told the Daily News in 2005. "It was classic. They were out of control. They were crazy. We were taking pictures . . . They wanted to get me on that yacht of theirs and go back with them."

Rick Oswalt, of Allentown, said the chant is "almost like a popular drinking song" and added "it engenders feelings of oneness and camaraderie."

Ed Donaghy, of Chester Springs, Pa., said "the day my kid learned how to do the Eagles chant was a proud day for me."

But "God Bless America" was the winner and that conjured up some fond memories for Snider, who served as a pallbearer for Kate Smith upon her death in 1986.

"It's funny, but we got her name back in the public eye," Snider said. "Originally, I don't think she wanted to come in person; she thought it was ridiculous. She didn't know what was going on. When she finally came, I think it was the highlight of her career." *