On September 24, the Philadelphia Flyers debuted their new mascot — a hairy, orange creature named Gritty — during a preseason game against the Boston Bruins. Since his debut, Gritty has sparked a swarm of mixed feelings in hockey fans. who are having trouble deciding if he’s freaky or fun. Towering over fans at seven feet tall (in skates), with googly eyes and an unsettling stare, Gritty is clearly the stuff of nightmares — or is he?
It’s hard to deny that though he may come off as freaky at first, something cannot help but make people feel drawn to him. Nobody can take their eyes off of Gritty as he skates around the hockey arena; smoking pouring out of his ears, his Santa Claus belly, and ovular belly button, squeaking and jiggling merrily as he careens down the rink.
He is one-of-a-kind — not quite teddy bear, not quite Babadook. He’s like that weird theatre kid that you went to high school with, the one who dyed their hair fire engine red and spent the lunch hour in the hallway outside of the cafeteria dancing to the beat of his own drum. He’s unapologetically himself, regardless of what you think of his quirky hair or weird jive moves.
Needless to say, whoever created Gritty should definitely get a raise, because since his debut, the only thing that sports fans and non-sports fans have been talking about is Gritty and his team.
His unabashed individuality has not only allowed him to pave his way into the hearts of people but also the heart of the Twitterverse. Over the past week, Gritty has surpassed every other mascot in the NHL — even Harvey the Hound, the OG mascot of the Calgary Flames — in Twitter followers. His follower count? Approximately 94 thousand.
In many ways, Gritty’s success makes a lot of sense. Gritty is the exact thing that the adults in the sports community have been waiting their entire lives for. He is the perfect embodiment of how social media has impacted the world of modern sports.
Adults who watch sports aren’t interested in a mascot that they can hug or blow kisses at; they want someone who they can giggle at, talk about, and use to make other people think that they’re funny. What they want is a meme, and Gritty fills this position perfectly. Mascots have a tendency for being creepy. Take the University of Alberta’s own Guba, for instance, who’s niceness can’t help but give you the heebie-jeebies. Gritty’s undeniable ugliness is so exaggerated that you can’t help but laugh at him.
Gritty’s rapid rise to the top is clearly not because of his movie star good looks, but rather because he fills a niche that the sports community has been looking to fill for years. Gritty’s unabashed ugliness gives his audience something that they can’t help but love and gab about, much like the family dog or your senile, ageing grandfather