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Gritty makes debut like a wrecking ball at Flyers home opener

Like everything about Gritty, the spectacle was a hot mess. And it was amazing.

Gritty, the Flyers new mascot makes his appearance descending from the rafters like a wrecking ball.
Gritty, the Flyers new mascot makes his appearance descending from the rafters like a wrecking ball.Read moreCHARLES FOX / Staff Photographer

Gritty has emotionally wrecked Philly, a city that went from hating everything about him to defending his honor at all costs. In just two weeks.

So it was fitting that Gritty made his official debut Tuesday at the Flyers home opener by swinging down from the Wells Fargo Center ceiling on a rope to Miley Cyrus' hit song, Wrecking Ball.

Like everything about Gritty, the spectacle was a hot mess. And it was amazing.

Flyers fans loved the mascot's entrance and greeted him with the type of enthusiasm typically reserved only for the Phillie Phanatic. Before the game against the San Jose Sharks, fans yelled his name down corridors, argued about his appeal, and clinked their pint glasses in his honor.

Gritty shirts were on sale at every store and every stand at the Wells Fargo Center and Gritty banners hung from the corridor ceilings.

Amanda Dougherty, 29, of Boothwyn, who is due to give birth Jan. 30, wore a "future GRITTY fan" shirt that was made for her by a friend.

Dougherty said she didn't love Gritty from day one. She "loved him from day two." At first, she was horrified by the creature, like many others, but once she began following him on social media and got a sense of his personality, she was sold.

"He's every dude from Delco," she said. "He's just super Delco and I love that."

Tim Wynn, 38, of Northeast Philly, came dressed in a Gritty T-shirt he got at a Mayfair store before the game.

"I didn't understand what he was, but now I get it," Wynn said of Gritty. "He's a crazy Flyers fan. He fits right in."

Lauren Pilla, 32, and Brian Keenan, 33, of Northern Liberties, said they came to the home opener for the express purpose of seeing Gritty. Keenan, who wore a "Gritty has a posse" shirt made by a friend, said he was sold on the new mascot when Gritty shot a guy with T-shirt launcher during a preseason game.

"At first it was like 'What the hell is this?' but he's mean and he's hilarious," Pilla said.

The shrieks of horror that accompanied Gritty's debut as the Flyers new mascot on Sept. 24 quickly morphed into squeals of glee. In just two short weeks, this menace of mayhem, this ornery orange oscillating organism of uncertain origins has endeared himself to a city — and a nation — that were obviously in need of proper dose of silly.

Gritty has made the rounds on late-night talk shows, been immortalized in a beer (the Philly region's highest honor), and he's been the inspiration for countless memes.

He's been co-opted by anti-fascists, who summoned his likeness on countless posters during President Trump's visit to Philadelphia last week, and he was the topic of an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal on Monday that was subtitled: "Keep your Marxist hands off Gritty."

On Twitter, Gritty already has more than 127,000 followers, and a video he posted on Monday of him destroying a row of stuffed-animal sharks at the Adventure Aquarium ahead of Tuesday's game against the Sharks has exceeded 570,000 views. Many fans at Tuesday's home opener said it's Gritty's strong social media game that's got them hooked.

Gritty was unavailable for interviews before the season opener because he had to mentally prepare for the game, according to this handlers.

While grown-up Flyers fans are mostly sold on Gritty, some younger fans, like 10-year-old Mia Cicilia of Lansdowne, remain dubious.

"He's slightly terrifying," Cicilia said at Tuesday's game. "I'm a little freaked out, but he'll grow on me. I hope."