If you've been to the Wells Fargo Center recently, you've seen the beautiful renovations that were made to the suite level. New carpeting, stylish textured wallpaper, and impressive snapshots from the past now adorn the walls. Seeing these improvements lift my spirit each time I stroll the halls, because the new design represents one of the final projects over which my grandfather, Flyer franchise founder Ed Snider, presided during the last days of his life.
In the midst of a heartbreaking time, his fire still burned bright at the prospect of his beloved business continuing to evolve. He reviewed carpet swatches and paint colors until the end.
I believe that the company's tumultuous introduction of Gritty, the new Flyers mascot, was guided by a similar pursuit of a fresh fan experience.
That said, some fans are unhappy, and I understand why.
"Grit" is a positive trait and one with which I'd be proud to be associated. It went mainstream here in Philadelphia. My friend, Penn professor and psychologist Angela Duckworth, put it on the map when she published her widely acclaimed bestseller, appropriately titled, Grit. In it, she asserts that those who navigate life with a willingness to fail are more likely to achieve their dreams than naturally talented people who play it safe.
The story of the Flyers embodies the concept of grit, having been bolstered by a uniquely passionate fan base that hasn't seen a Stanley Cup since my mom went to her junior prom. Flyers players have always had grit. Their fans are the grittiest in the league — and they don't need a Chucky doll to prove it. Grit is the quality that puts people back in their seats game after game, and it's one of the many characteristics of the Philadelphia fan that I think should be honored and celebrated.
My grandfather respected his fans, and he embraced their style.
Gritty aims to do the same, but it unfortunately misses the mark. Beyond his concerning appearance, Gritty's name represents a flawed approach to honoring the quality of our fans.
Mascots are unifiers. They're intended to make people feel good, to lighten the mood, to add luster to the experience. They aren't meant to poke fun or sport bad attitudes.
Gritty is a miscarriage of the purpose of a team mascot. He plays into the (often incorrect) stereotype of the antagonistic Philly fan. On Tuesday morning, Gritty tweeted an unsportsmanlike shout out to his haters, something that will only stoke their dislike. It's hard to imagine that attitude unifying anyone around anything and it's the opposite of the message that a good mascot should be sending.
Whenever Philadelphia becomes the topic of discussion, we're presented with the opportunity to showcase the innovation and improvements that are happening here. While I'm proud of our down-home roots, Gritty makes light of our many sophisticated pursuits. I believe they should be brought to the forefront of everything we do.
While Gritty is well-intentioned, the drama over his appearance detracts from the beauty of the Flyers game experience.
As someone who grew up in the organization and as a loyal fan, my commitment remains unchanged: to love our team and its fans and the people who run it — with the same grit that my grandfather did.
Garrett Snider is a writer and the founder and executive director of the Childhood Resilience Foundation.