Gritty is the new Philadelphia Flyers mascot. He looks a little like Animal from “The Muppet Show,” if Animal gained some weight and got super into hockey and ketamine. Other than that, he seems pretty unremarkable to me, which is why it has been weird to find the whole damn country going mad for Gritty.
From Deadspin: “It’s Gritty’s World Now.”
From USA Today: “I learned to love Gritty the terrifying mascot and so can you.”
And from The Daily Beast: “Gritty, the Philadelphia Flyers’ Bizarre New Mascot, Is Antifa Now.”
This last one, of course, prompted The Wall Street Journal to publish “Antifa Appropriates a Creepy Mascot,” a call to rip Gritty back from the laborers who have claimed him.
Why were so many people so eager to claim Gritty as their own? How is Gritty any different from every other chain-smoking off-brand Muppet wandering around Times Square? What was I missing?
I decided to put these questions to my good friend and former colleague Samer Kalaf. He is the news editor of Deadspin, a sports site you used to read. He took some time out of his day to Gchat with me about Gritty’s baffling appeal. A transcript of our conversation is below. It has been lightly edited for grammar and clarity.
If people asked you what Gritty was, what would you tell them? Pretend you were not telling them for something that you knew was going to be published on the internet.
Gritty is a shaggy, shapeless beast that the Philadelphia Flyers created to distract fans from the fact that their team isn’t particularly good. I have no clue if he actually smells, but he looks like he smells.
Did they have a mascot before gritty?
To my knowledge (I looked online), the Flyers hadn’t had a pre-Gritty mascot since the ’70s. It was something named Slapshot, and it kind of looked like Telly from “Sesame Street.”
But isn’t gritty just a postpuberty Animal from “The Muppet Show”?
He shares some traits with Animal, though I don’t know if that was the inspiration. I think the more intentional resemblance was to the Phillie Phanatic. They’re both big-bellied and colorful, although Gritty’s face is probably scarier to children.
But why is everyone acting so delighted by Gritty? I feel I’ve seen some version of Gritty a million times in my life, and none of those times did I think, “Wow, incredible.”
I think because he originated in Philadelphia, people were delighted by the fact that a grimy, unkempt mascot was created to represent the city. People enjoy roasting most things a sports team introduces ― new uniforms, logos, mascots ― and they did roast Gritty at first. But he kind of grows on you after a while. Also, he has googly eyes.
Is he grimy, though? He doesn’t look any dirtier than any other Muppet. And that’s the other thing that’s been pissing me off. People keep saying, “Ha-ha, the mascot is a dirtbag.” But I don’t see any dirt.
That’s true, although I think it’s more because of the team’s reputation than actual dirt. Hockey is kind of a grimy sport, but the Flyers are also well known for the era of the Broad Street Bullies, where they fielded a very good team that was also full of pieces of shit.
I should say that they won two Stanley Cups during that era.
OK, but all the idiots online who keep saying, “Oh, my God, Gritty!!!” don’t know that. And I don’t see what the reputation has to do with the fact that they just gave a random Muppet a funny name.
Probably not, but I think the shaggier the mascot, the better. You want it to have a lot of goofy parts that shake or wiggle when it dances around.
But that still doesn’t explain all the blogs and tweets fawning over Gritty. All mascots wiggle and dance.
Yeah, but this was a new mascot, and it looked very goofy. I also think boredom and a natural desire to find and focus on something lighthearted played into it.
But the appeal has been universal. Just the other day, I mentioned I didn’t understand it, and everyone looked at me as if I had just shit on the table. Why can’t anyone just tell me what I’m missing?
Hmm, I don’t know if it’s something I can explain. Gritty straddles the line between horror and humor pretty well, and he has a catchy name. I feel the reason teams have mascots and various contests/skits during games is specifically to target people who aren’t seriously invested in, say, the Flyers.
Fine, but what was the Gritty-Barstool thing all about? [For the uninitiated, Barstool is your racist high school friend’s favorite website.]
I see. And how do you feel about Gritty engaging with Barstool over Deadspin?
On principle, Deadspin doesn’t curry favor with mascots; if anything, we pervert them.
Do you like Gritty less than you did before?
The charm’s wearing off, but maybe it will come back if Gritty falls down the stairs at a game or something.
Gritty fell on his first day, right?
Yeah, he slipped on the ice.
Do you think it was planned?
I hadn’t thought of that. It might’ve been, in a strategy to make Gritty an endearing and relatable figure a la Jennifer Lawrence. It looked like it hurt, though.
Do you think Gritty is a Trump supporter?
I can’t say with certainty, but I hope he isn’t.
I just hope Gritty uses his platform for good. Hockey is a MAGA-heavy sport, so the odds are bad for Gritty.
Great, thank you. This has been very informative. Is there anything else you’d like to tell our readers?
I reached out to the Philadelphia Flyers to determine whether Gritty supports President Donald Trump and his policies. A spokesperson said, “Ha-ha. I’ve heard everything now!” and directed me to another individual to contact. I’ve followed up three times now, plus one time to clarify that I was referring to Gritty the character and not the person in the suit. The Philadelphia Flyers continue to stonewall. So if you work for the Flyers and believe you have insight into Gritty’s voting record, please get in touch here. The people deserve to know over whom they fawn.