Two friends of mine have a daughter who, they say, is obsessed with mascots. She loves them, documents them, can answer any question you could ask about them.
Yet in American soccer, many disdain the use of mascots as “not authentic”, something that distracts from “real” passion for the game. As Super Rookie points out on du Nord today in a piece brilliantly titled No mascots in football! A myth of cryptozoological proportions, “All too often, being an American soccer fan comes with many disparaging comments from other “football” fans who know the “real” way the sport is played in Europe, specifically, in Europe. Yet, in England almost all of the teams have a visible mascot that masquerades around the stadium and city to spread the word of their professional sports team.”
Mascots, of course, are silly, stupid, and to be enjoyed or ignored. So why so serious about them, SR asks, as he looks at the response to a possible creation of a mascot for his new local team, NSC Minnesota?
Why is it that we in America are held up to a standard of sport that doesn’t even exist in other parts of the world? Recently, a posting on the NSC Minnesota facebook page suggesting ideas for a mascot were met with responses like, “I’m not sure why a mascot is needed for a soccer team…you don’t need a mascot. You need more passionate fans.” Really? I think the Thunder had some pretty passionate fans, as will this new team. Plus, the Minnesota Thunder had a kick ass mascot named, Thor. Why can’t a mascot go hand-in-hand with the passionate soccer fans and continue to meet the expectations of professional sports fans the world over?
The next time someone tells me about how “real” football teams don’t have mascots I will point them over to Football Mascots. They will get to see some amazing mascots that have infected the sport with their collective awkwardness. For instance, if I lived in West Ham the first phone call I would make for my child’s birthday party would be to secure an appearance by Herbie the Hammer. If I was trying to impress the ladies with my swagger I would have Mr. Posh from Peterborough United show up to chauffeur me around the city (chicks dig dudes with monocles).
I do wonder how much evidence there is for the value of mascots as a marketing tool — they’re not actually cheap. I’ve seen mascots roll up in nicer cars than players at MLS events — seriously (there’s a good line for the players’ union). I’ve noticed that even teams whose obvious demographic would seem to make a mascot a no-brainer don’t have one, like my local Chicago Red Stars. I did once sit in on an Advisory Board meeting for the Red Stars where we brainstormed mascot ideas…there is nothing better than 15 grown-ups trying to figure out what would work as a mascot and what wouldn’t.
Still, SR concludes that the power and draw of mascots is considerable, and his piece is a lovely rejoinder to the knee-jerk reaction against the likes of Terry Bytes (OK, that is a particularly bad one by Fulham):
Sometimes communities adopt mascots, once created for individual teams, as a symbol for their entire community. The most prominent example of this is of Youppi, the former mascot of the now defunct Montreal Expos. Upon losing a place in the world of baseball it was quickly announced, to much fanfare, that the Montreal Canadians had signed Youppi as a free agent! This example is the beauty of the entire thing! Mascots are meant to be stupid, they are meant to be out there and idiotic (who remembers the creation of the San Diego Chicken), but if we have learned anything it is that they actually work, as proven by the mass adoption of mascots by almost the entire Football Association in England.
- While we’re taking things lightly today — it’s been a long week — check out seven Commodore 64 football games on EPL Talk. Tracksuit Manager was one of my favourite games of all-time.
- Alright, back to the non-fun-stuff. First off, Matt Scott in the Guardian neatly demolishes Cardiff City supremo Peter Ridsdale’s boast that the club are overdraft free, by pointing out “they do have a few mortgages to their name.” All is not well there, to say the least.
- Oh yeah, the latest on that MLS strike-thing. Steven Goff at Soccer Insider does not respond to Dan Loney’s satirical response to his open letter to AEG owner Phil Anschutz, playing it straight with news that “My understanding is that some teams have begun to vote whether to strike and that players are largely unified in their battle with management.”
- FIFA are reportedly concerned that “players at the World Cup could use undetectable stimulants derived from traditional African medicines that aren’t currently banned substances.”
- Meanwhile, in a move to end some of the shadowy nature of the global transfer system, the Telegraph reports that “in an attempt to end the worst excesses of a largely unregulated market that produces between 20,000 and 30,000 deals worth in excess of $1 billion (£650 million) every year, Fifa will introduce a mandatory system for processing all international deals.”
The Sweeper appears daily. For more rambling and links throughout the day every day, follow your editor Tom Dunmore @pitchinvasion on Twitter.