11 Embarrassing Incidents Caused By Mascots
Last month, the Tampa Bay Rays organization found itself in hot water when their mascot, Raymond, held up a wildly-controversial sign given to him by a mischievous fan which referenced the untimely death of Steve “The Crocodile Hunter” Irwin in 2006. The Rays organization quickly apologized and, in so doing, became part of the long, bizarre history of costumed characters unwittingly humiliating the very teams they’re employed to uplift. Here are 11 other examples—see if any of your favorite clubs made the list.
1. Sebastian the Ibis’ Near-Incarceration
“The key phrase in this situation is that I was ‘detained’. I was never arrested,” says John Routh, who portrayed Sebastian, the University of Miami’s beloved avian cheerleader, from 1985 to 1992—a gig which once got him in trouble with the law as discussed in this clip.
2. The Phillie Phanatic’s Infamous Phist Phight
In 1988, the famed Phillie Phanatic dragged out a dummy clad in a blue jersey with Los Angeles Dodgers manager Tommy Lasorda’s name printed on the back and started thrashing it about before a raucous crowd. The irate manager responded by leaping onto the field, snatching the doll, and slugging the noodle-nosed beastie. You can read Lasorda’s account here.
3. Harvey’s Loose Tongue
Lasorda wasn’t the only coach to lash out at an opposing mascot. When Craig MacTavish of the Edmonton Oilers grew weary of Calgary Flames mascot Harvey the Hound and his derisive antics, he resorted to ripping out the brash canine’s dangling tongue and throwing it into the stands, to the stunned amusement of nearby fans.
4. Billy the Marlin Injures Fan With T-Shirt Gun
Maude Flanders isn't the only one to learn the dangers of pressurized T-Shirt gun abuse. In 2000, Billy the Marlin of Major League Baseball's Florida Marlins decided to give away some free garments by firing them into the crowd... only to knock an elderly man unconscious when a high-speed tee struck the side of his head. Billy was subsequently found “not liable” in an ensuing lawsuit.
5. The Sad Life of an “Anti-Mascot”
In 1984, the San Francisco Giants introduced “Crazy Crab,” a sorry-looking crustacean mascot the crowd was supposed to boo. Team manager Frank Robinson set up the gag with a TV spot in which he had to be restrained from punching out the crab. However, the fanbase, embittered by a 92-loss season, didn't seem to get the joke and began pelting the unfortunate invertebrate with a barrage of bottles and batteries at every home game. The situation eventually got so bad that the Crab's shell was reenforced with fiberglass to prevent serious injury. “Crazy” was retired at the season's end, but made a re-appearance in 2008: Predictably, he was booed.
6. Barney Sues the San Diego Chicken
“I Love You, You Love Me” is a song that evidently doesn’t extend to one Ted Giannoulas, creator of the iconic “San Diego Chicken” (now called simply “The Famous Chicken”). The beaked thespian ruffled some feathers in the mid-nineties after debuting a new routine which involved dancing off with and eventually tackling a Barney look-alike:
The purple dinosaur's creators sued for copyright infringement, but lost the ensuing case after a lengthy struggle. Adding insult to injury, Giannoulas called the ruling “Super-Dee-Dooper!”
7. Fowl Play
Memo to all prospective mascots: Never tick off the Oregon Duck. In a 2007 match-up against Oregon, the University of Houston's Shasta—a bipedal, jersey-wearing cougar—decided to drop down and show off some pushups after her team scored a touchdown. It was a move that both mascots had been showing off for years, but which the pugnacious waterfowl mistook for an act of copyright infringement. The result? A fist fight and a one-game suspension for the web-footed perpetrator.
8. Fan Gets Creamed
When it comes to botched birthdays, the NBA’s Jazz Bear takes the cake. In 2012, the apparently-nearsighted ursid helped the Utah Jazz honor season ticket-holder Luke Larson’s special day with a commemorative cake … only to drop it thirty feet onto the heads of some unsuspecting fans below.
9. Live Hawk Delays Playoff Game
A 2009 postseason rivalry matchup between the Miami Heat and Atlanta Hawks was delayed when a live hawk named “Spirit” (on loan from the local zoo) initially refused to return to his handler and instead perched menacingly atop the scoreboard before eventually coming down, spooking all-star Dwayne Wade in the process.
10. The Sooner Schooner Draws A Penalty
The Sooner Schooner, a horse-drawn carriage that heads onto the field after every University of Oklahoma touchdown, may have helped cost the team an Orange Bowl championship in 1985 when it got stuck in the turf in front of the opposing team's bench and netted the Sooners a 15-yard penalty at a critical moment in the fourth quarter. To see the Schooner functioning normally, check this out:
11. Bird Beheading
To energize the team and fans, the St. Joseph University Hawk symbolizes the school's slogan, “The Hawk Will Never Die,” by ceaselessly flapping its wings during every major athletic event. Rhody the Ram of the University of Rhode Island decided to have a little fun with the concept by shoving an inner tube over the fluttering raptor, only to accidentally decapitate the hawk and spark a shoving match in the process. Skip to 0:42 to see the skirmish...