TAYLOR: Most mascots miss the mark

 

Kids love mascots. They love to take pictures with them,
high-five them, chase them, and if they’re exactly the appropriate
height, unknowingly sock them in an unmentionable place.
Kids love mascots. They love to take pictures with them, high-five them, chase them, and if they’re exactly the appropriate height, unknowingly sock them in an unmentionable place.

Kids seek out mascots for autographs – why, I don’t know – or they sprint away at the sight of them while yelling for their mom. Others laugh at the mascot’s antics and playful nature.

Mascots provide entertainment and kids are transfixed for a moment in time. Mascots dance despite their lousy choreography. Actually, some are quite good, even though they’ll never appear on ‘So You Think You Can Dance,’ a trendy summer replacement show for American Idol.

While watching kids clamor around the San Jose Giants mascot, Gigante, I wondered silently about mascots. Like, where did these creatures originate from, who comes up with the names, why that particular outfit and why, why, why?

Take for instance the San Francisco Giants mascot, Lou the Seal. Where’s the fit here? Now, I know seals hang out by the piers, but I just can’t associate a seal with the team name. The city by the bay is not known around the world for its seals.

Same goes for the Oakland Athletics. A white elephant named Stomper. You’re kidding, right? Once again, I know the history behind it, but it’s a ridiculous name, and frankly most kids laugh because of how stupid it looks.

Neither the seal nor the elephant do a thing for me. They might as well be non-existent as far as I’m concerned. If they were on the old time Gong Show, they’d be gonged.

Over at Stanford, where engineers are made and graduates can make a computer chip out of a pistachio, a tree is the mascot. A tree? Now there’s marketing genius at its best, or worst. Hard for me to imagine that the next Silicon Valley CEO is under that awful outfit.

Oh, there’s other names that don’t fit with teams. Quick, tell me where Baxter is from and what team he represents? Or Slugger, Dinger and Gapper. The Arizona Diamondbacks claim Baxter as their mascot, and I’m trying to once again see the fit. You’re in the desert where diamondbacks hang out and Baxter is the best you can come up with? And he’s not a snake!

Which brings me to Sharky. Now there’s my kind of mascot. Great performer. Comes up with something different each and every night. He’s funny and improvises at the drop of a hat. And the name fits with the team. I could watch him all day and never get bored.

I’ll never forget the night he tried to repel down his rope and got stuck. The start of the game was delayed 20 minutes while everyone figured out how to get him down from 30 feet above the ice. Now that’s showmanship.

Up in Seattle, the Mariner Moose hangs out and his claim to ESPN fame is slamming into the outfield fence between innings on his four wheeler and holding up the game while trainers and on-site medical personnel attended to him. They literally had to drag him off the field. But, I like his entertainment value and his name.

When you talk of mascots , however, there is one, and only one, that stands above the crowd. He is the master entertainer. Kids flock to him. He’s a millionaire and has his own Web site. Best of all, he can turn a dull game into a party.

I’m talking about the Famous Chicken, who actually began as The San Diego Chicken. Ted Giannoulas, the person behind the infamous chicken suit, has taken his character to heights unimaginable for a mascot.

The Sporting News named The Famous Chicken as one of the Most Powerful People in Sports for the 20th Century, putting him in the same group as Babe Ruth, Jesse Owens and Wayne Gretzky. Sixty million people have seen him perform since his inception in 1974.

What started out as a publicity stunt for a local rock station in San Diego parlayed into a career that brings in seven figures every year. Not bad for a former journalism student from San Diego State who took the $2 an hour job on a whim for fun.

Recognizing he was sitting on a gold mine, Giannoulas wanted to break out on his own. The radio station reneged. They went to court and after much ballyhooed litigation, the case went to the California Supreme Court. California’s highest judges ruled in favor of The Chicken.

Yep, a chicken won in high court. The decision must have brought smiles to every kid nationwide. Me too.

By the way, if you’re interested in making your first million, the Modesto Nuts have a mascot position open.

I can only imagine what you’d have to wear.

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