A local team's high hopes of flying its gigantic, homemade replica of the Phillie Phanatic off a 30-foot platform into the Delaware River turned to heartbreak yesterday when Major League Baseball forbade the flight because of trademark restrictions.
"We put our hearts and souls and, like, 400 man-hours into our Phanatic," said an emotional Julie Jones, leader of the Phlyin' Phanatics, one of 32 five-person crews ready to compete in energy-drink Red Bull's Flugtag - an annual exhibition of homemade aircraft launched off a "flight deck" into water.
The free event, tomorrow from 1 to 3:30 p.m. at the Camden Waterfront, is being held for the first time in the Philadelphia area.
Yesterday afternoon, Jones said, "the Red Bull liaison told us that Major League Baseball won't let us fly with the Phanatic's head on our craft. We were so passionate about that head. We spent months changing it over and over again so that it would look just like him. We're really disheartened now."
Because the decision came so shortly before the Flugtag competition, Jones said, it's much too late to rebuild the head into another kind of creature.
"We're going to have to fly it without a head," she said sadly.
Adam Denard, who will pilot the headless green belly into the river, was hopping mad last night.
"How about we cut the head off and call it, 'The Philly Mascot That Major League Baseball Decided to Kill?' " he said.
"I've been going to Phillies games since I was a toddler, and the Phillie Phanatic was always a favorite," Denard said. "The dude came up to the nosebleed seats on a 110-degree day and gave me a belly dance on my 10th birthday. That was the coolest thing ever."
Denard said that he knew that making money off a trademark was a violation, "but we're $3,000 in the hole on this thing. This is my city, Major League Baseball! My Phillies! My Phillie Phanatic! You are a bunch of freaking nerds!"
Tomorrow's Flugtag entries also include a huge flying horse crewed by a team from the Draught Horse Pub, on Cecil B. Moore Avenue, at Temple University, and a mammoth space shuttle attacked by green men who look like clones of Green Man from "It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia."
"Sweet Katie" Jablonski, a Lockheed Martin Corp. engineer who will pilot the "It's Always Sunny in Space" team's shuttle, told the Daily News that she was chosen by her four male teammates because "I'm the lightest, I'm not scared, I went skydiving once - and I can swim."
Asked why she wasn't terrified of plummeting 30 feet into the river, Jablonski interrupted this reporter by exclaiming, "Hey, hey, we're going to fly! Our space shuttle is built like a glider - almost."
Michael Berilla, leader of Jablonski's all-engineers support team, shared her faith that, somehow, flight will happen.
"I'm not saying she's going to fly this thing from the Camden Waterfront to Penn's Landing, but it has 24-foot wings and we think it's going to glide, at least," Berilla said from his Manayunk back yard, where the shuttle awaited its moment in history.
"It's modeled after the actual space shuttle," he said. "It's the closest any of us will ever come to being astronauts."
Nathan Szwerdszarf said that he would pilot the Draught Horse Pub's flying stallion entry without fear.
"How often do you get the opportunity to plunge into the Delaware River on top of a giant horse, wearing a Greek toga, while R. Kelly sings, 'I Believe I Can Fly?' " he asked rhetorically. "I've just got to remember to keep my mouth closed when I hit the water because, well, it is the Delaware River."