Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Mascot Hall of Fame

Yesterday, the Mascot Hall of Fame opened its doors in Philadelphia. The opening ceremonies included the induction of the first three members. To be eligible, a mascot must have been in existence for at least 10 years, have had a major impact on its sport, industry and community. In addition, the mascot must have a performance that is consistently memorable and groundbreaking.

The first inductee class included three members. They were ... (drum roll, please) ... The Philadelphia Phillies' Phanatic, the San Diego Padres' Chicken and the Phoenix Suns' Gorilla.

These three were chosen from fourteen finalists. The list of finalists included Micky Mouse, Ronald McDonald and Rocky of the Denver Nuggets. Based on the criteria that are outlined by the Hall of Fame, I suppose the three inductees are as good as any. Tony Kornheiser of PTI summed up the quality of this inaugural class when he said, "We're not talking about the first class at Cooperstown. We're talking about three guys that dress up as birds."

Jack McKeon, current manager of the Florida Marlins, worked in the Padres front office when the Chicken was born. He was less than enthused about the Chicken's induction. McKeon said, "We win the pennant, and they want to make the Chicken bigger than the team. Our marketing people think he's putting people in the seats. Marketing people thought he was the reason we were putting people in the ballpark. Once you see him 10 or 12 times, come on." McKeon went on to say, "Fans liked him. The Chicken is all right. Do your act, and get the hell off the field."

The Banshee is kind of torn on the whole Mascot Hall of Fame. On one hand, it's a weird spectacle, and I am generally in favor of that. On the other hand, I despise mascots that act like they are bigger than the game. When I think of great mascots, I think of college football where the mascots represent tradition and not tomfoolery. The Nittany Lion, who always finishes high on ESPN polls, is a good mascot because he doesn't distract from the game and he does push-ups for each point scored (which, admittedly hasn't been very often in the past few years). Same deal with Notre Dame's Leprachaun. The Sooner Schooner is pretty cool, and the Colorado Buffalo is just fantastic. Unfortunately, that Buffalo will never make it into the Hall because a real, live bison can't really participate in corporate events out in Boulder.