The Life of a Mascot Isn’t Always Easy
Some days it just doesn’t pay to get out of bed and strap on the old bull head. Benny the Bull found that out the other day when he was busted for allegedly punching an off-duty officer who tried to stop him from riding his bike through an outdoor food festival in Chicago. Apparently Benny didn’t like anyone interfering with his act.
Malfeasance, it seems, runs in the bovine family. Just last year, Benny’s cousin, Da Bull, was sentenced to 18 months probation for possession of marijuana with intent to deliver.
Must be something about parading around in that oversized bull head that drives the people inside over the edge. Just the idea of being trapped inside with sweat pouring down has to be enough to fry the brain.
Or maybe it’s just that you have to be a little crazy to put on huge fuzzy heads and big floppy feet and parade around in public.
Oh, sure, the San Diego Chicken made a bundle plying his act to minor league ballparks around the country. And Bernie the Brewer had a pretty good gig for a long time sliding into a vat of beer every time a Milwaukee batter hit a home run.
But for every Bernie there are 10 Sausages cowering whenever they run past a dugout with bats in it. For every Chicken or Phillie Phanatic, there’s 100 guys making 50 bucks a game while having to ward off inebriated fans, curious children and crafty college students.
One of those was the unfortunate Puckhead, who made the equally unfortunate decision to go where mascots really shouldn’t go earlier this year by coming up with a fire-breathing stunt to entertain fans at Johnstown (Pa.) Chiefs hockey games.
With a name like Puckhead, these kind of decisions can’t come easy. Apparently he wasn’t paying attention during the lecture in Mascot 101 on fire and fake beards.
Those watching said John Robertson, aka Puckhead, poured a flammable liquid into his mouth and tried to light it, but it didn’t work. When he tried a second time, it worked too well. His fake beard and jersey caught fire, and Robertson suffered burns to face and chest and was hospitalized overnight.
Puckhead was luckier than another hockey mascot. Harvey the Hound of the Calgary Flames lost his tongue during a game against Edmonton a few years ago.
Harvey had been taunting the Oilers from behind their bench, prompting some players to squirt water on him. Coach Craig McTavish finally had enough, ripping Harvey’s signature floppy red tongue out and tossing it into the crowd.
Mascots, though, can be an annoying bunch. So it comes as no surprise that mascot abuse is not only tolerated, but sometimes encouraged.
Tommy Lasorda once traded punches with the Phanatic when challenged to a boxing match, and Charles Barkley clobbered Rocky the Mountain Lion at a Denver Nuggets game. In an incident that shocked the mascot world, Pittsburgh Pirates player Randall Simon was arrested and fined $432 for whacking the Italian Sausage to the ground with a bat during the Milwaukee Brewers’ human sausage race.
Sometimes mascots fight back.
Florida’s Billy the Marlin once knocked an elderly man unconscious after accidentally hitting him in the eye with a tightly wadded T-shirt launched out of a pressurized gun.
And Ottawa Senators mascot Spartacat gave new meaning to the headline ``Cat Shoots Dog″ when he hit bloodied the eye of a fan named Eric Chartrand by shooting a tinfoil-wrapped hot dog out of a similar weapon.
``I didn’t even get the hot dog in the end,″ Chartrand was quoted later as saying. ``It landed in the aisle and someone must have grabbed it.″
Then there are the mascots who leave, er, deposits in inappropriate places. Human mascots have nothing on Army’s mule, Navy’s goat or Southern California’s horse. The University of Colorado mascot is a buffalo who may leave messes, but one you don’t mess with.
Sadly, it hasn’t been a good time for animal mascots recently either.
A British army regiment’s ceremonial pet goat was demoted a few weeks ago after it marched out of line before a host of dignitaries during a parade to mark Queen Elizabeth II’s birthday.
Billy the Goat, a 6-year-old, was demoted from lance corporal to private after the army said the ceremony was ruined when the goat darted from side to side, throwing soldiers off their stride.
One soldier said the goat ``was trying to head-butt the waist and nether regions of the drummers.″
As a result, an army spokesman said soldiers of a lower rank are no longer expected to salute Billy.
Mascots, it seems, just never get any respect.
Tim Dahlberg is a national sports columnist for The Associated Press. Write to him at tdahlbergap.org