Mascots, by nature, are agents of chaos. Large, fuzzy avatars of pure spirit, channeling fans’ love of a particular team into antics and free T-shirt distribution. They have to constantly toe the line of what’s publicly acceptable, or risk the greatest condemnation a mascot can receive: disinterest and boredom. Nobody wants a sports mascot that sits respectfully courtside and claps during the right moments. Sometimes, though, that demand for rambunctiousness spills over into actual legal trouble — in or out of costume.
Here are five decidedly un-silly crimes committed by sports mascots…
Benny the Bull Punches A Cop
It was a delightful day, by all accounts, in the summer of 2006 in Chicago. The Taste of Chicago festival was underway, and the Chicago Bulls’ stalwart, crimson representative, Benny the Bull, was in attendance. He was minding his business, doing natural mascot stuff, like riding around on a tiny motorcycle. To see the blessing that is the sight of a mascot on a mini motorcycle seems like something no one would have a problem with, but the world’s biggest narc made themselves known.
An off-duty cop who was working security noticed Benny riding his minuscule motorbike to and fro and went over to stop him, because joy gives him hives, I guess. He then proceeded to grill Benny on whether he had the proper permits for his tiny bike, which is the herbiest herb shit I’ve ever heard. Asking a costumed mascot for PERMITS? Even the Grinch takes the summer off. Of course, there were better ways to respond than what Benny chose, which was to go Raging Bull on the off-duty cop, resulting in his arrest.
Blaze Becomes A Real-Life Firebug
Unlike others on this list, you’re most likely unfamiliar with the mascot in question here. Blaze the Vulcan is the mascot of a college with a geographical bloodbath of a name any god would condemn — the California University of Pennsylvania. It sounds like a fake college from a poorly localized Japanese sports game, but it is a real college in the town of… California, Pennsylvania. Let’s move on before I burst a blood vessel.
Blaze is a cheery, big-headed facsimile of Vulcan, the Roman god of fire — a love that should be expressed only in metaphor or in whimsical felt. Honestly, you’d think anyone in a highly flammable suit would stay away from open flame, but Vulcan’s portrayer decided to get a little too serious about his inspiration, and set a real-life fire that was short on the hilarity and hijinks. In particular, he set fire to a homecoming float, which is basically a big pile of team-colored kindling, and was understandably relieved of his duties and charged with arson.
Gritty Maybe Decks A Kid
If you’re going to be an official mascot representing the City of Philadelphia, your work is cut out for you. The regular humans are running around climbing greased telephone poles and eating horse turds, so the bar for misbehavior is set pretty high from the jump. When Flyers mascot Gritty was unveiled, he was welcomed into the world with resounding applause, and he wasted no time establishing himself as the seed of destruction everyone had hoped he’d be.
But instead of his beloved ice, he found himself standing in hot water when a family accused him of assaulting their son. Getting beat up by a mascot is a tough situation, because, unless there’s blood on the pavement, it’s naturally very funny. The sentence “Gritty took a running start and punched my son as hard as he could” is just, intrinsically, a LITTLE funny. Luckily for Gritty, and his, I assume, large, fuzzy lawyer, the charges didn’t stick, with a ruling that the mascot’s actions at a photo shoot didn’t rise to the level of physical assault.
Chiefsaholic Addicted Not to Chiefsahol, But Burglary
Now we have to ask ourselves the question, does a suited fan need a team sign-off to be considered a mascot? Kansas City resident Xaviar Babudar’s decision to dress up as a wolf in Chiefs’ clothing was never approved or asked for by any team official, but he did it all the same. He established himself as a bit of a vigilante joy-bringer in and outside the stadium, thanks to his trademark lycanthropic appearance.
So when he suddenly disappeared from Chiefs’ games, his absence was quickly noticed. A bit of crowd-sourced investigation later, it turned out that those pricey season tickets were subsidized by a string of bank robberies. He was indicted on 19 charges, including bank robbery and money laundering in August of this year. We wish him the best of luck in his upcoming legal DE! FENSE!
Philly Phanatic, So Many Times
It’s really not that surprising that we’re going to double-dip in Philly sports when it comes up to fucked-up fan behavior, mascot suits involved or not. The fact is that young chaos-child Gritty enters an empire already known for mascots going overboard. One of baseball’s most famous mascots and fellow city representative, the Philly Phanatic, has — his? her? their? — own formidable rap-sheet, one that’s earned them the title of “The Most Sued Mascot in Sports.”
Seems the cheese doesn’t fall far from the steak.
Eli Yudin is a stand-up comedian in Brooklyn. You can follow him on Twitter and Instagram at @eliyudin and listen to his podcast, What A Time to Be Alive, about the five weirdest news stories of the week, on Apple Podcasts, Spotify or wherever else you get your podcasts.