Rendell: Rating the best sports mascots
Gritty's new-found popularity begs the question: Who are the best mascots in sports?
Tuesday was Election Day, which blessedly signaled the end of all the negative political commercials that make you think one candidate is worse than Jack the Ripper while the other has the morals of Bernie Madoff. As we head into the holiday season, maybe we can have a few days of peace without any major controversies … except for one! A battle is raging in Philadelphia over whether the Flyers' new mascot, the now famous Gritty, is the world's best mascot or a raging embarrassment.
On the one hand Gritty has received an unprecedented amount of national publicity for a mascot. He's been featured on many popular shows like the "John Oliver Show" and has been all over major networks like ESPN. Given the fact that there are thousands of mascots throughout America, this begs the question: Why has Gritty acquired this national acclaim? The answer lies in the fact that Gritty is so hideous looking that he is actually cute. At first glance you might think that Gritty's visage would scare the bejeezus out of young children, but yet they seem to love him. Although Gritty looks nothing like an agile, lean and mean hockey player, by all accounts the team seems to be taking to him. It's my judgment that he should be taken as a plus. Is he the best mascot in the world? Far too early to tell.
People who know me will tell you that I love mascots, and the truth is I do. In fact, one day when I was mayor we were celebrating the opening of a new ferry that ran from Philadelphia to Camden, and I was to board the ferry in Philly and cross the river to meet then New Jersey Gov. Jim Florio. I decided to have a little fun and invited 25 mascots to come aboard. They came from all over the region — pro mascots, semi-pro mascots, institution mascots, and mascots of various city departments (including the notorious Captain Sewer, who decided to wear a skin-tight super hero costume, even though he was 5-8, 270 pounds. A true sight to behold). As the ferry neared shore, I could see the governor squinting at us. A boat carrying the mayor surrounded by mascots of all shapes and sizes. There was no one on the deck but us. As we got closer to the dock I could see Florio was totally stunned. After we docked, the 25 mascots, at my direction, rushed Florio, surrounded him, hugged him and started messing up his hair. Now Florio was a great public servant — honest, courageous, smart and incredibly hard-working but he had one fault. He had virtually no sense of humor so the ceremony that followed was a little strange.
All this attention to Gritty made me think of the top 10 mascots in sports today and after an exhaustive search here are my picks:
10. The Memphis Red Birds one and done T-Rex: Though not an official mascot the T-Rex had its moment in the sun when it threw out the first pitch for the Red Birds. With its little arms the T-Rex struggled to pick the ball up off the mound and ended up woefully flinging the ball toward home plate with its teeth.
9. Jackson de Ville: The Jaguars' mascot gained my respect and cemented his place as a top tier mascot by rappelling from the rafters of Wembley Stadium to kick off the Jaguars-Eagles matchup just a few weeks ago.
8. The TCU Horned Frog: How did an educational institution decide to make this its mascot? Like Gritty though, Super Frog is so ugly he's cool.
7. Mr. Met: It pains me to give any credit to the woeful Metsies, but like it or not Mr. Met has become one of the most recognizable mascots in all of sports.
6. The San Diego Chicken: One of the earliest mascots in sports, the chicken was known for his wild antics. Luckily though, he's no longer a mascot as I'm certain his uncontrollable behavior would not pass muster these days and would perhaps land the chicken in the slammer.
5. Ragnar the Viking: It's not easy to be a mascot without the cloak of anonymity that a typical mascot costume provides, but this bearded brute of the north is beloved by the fans, especially for his Viking call (which fortunately the Eagles silenced last year).
4. The Nationals' Presidents: When the presidential mascots made their debut and raced around the perimeter of the field it was funny, entertaining and unique. The Nationals could never have imagined they would start a craze imitated across the nation (see the Brewers' sausages).
3. The Suns' gorilla – Perhaps the most athletic of all mascots, he set the bar for gymnastics-inspired antics. He dances, summersaults and flies through the air after lift off from a trampoline. And His consume is phenomenal.
2. Rookie the Bat Dog: One of the few mascots without a costume, Rookie is the fourth golden retriever mascot for the Trenton Thunder. The Thunder staff trains these gorgeous animals to retrieve bats and balls and bring them to each player. It's a sight to see and certainly a major driver of their robust attendance.
1. The Philly Phanatic: Without question the best (or most unique) looking and funniest mascot. The Phanatic sets the bar far too high for any contender to compete.