What to Know
- The Phillie Phanatic, and his fans, are famous across the United States. He's been well known — and well loved — for the past 40 years.
- Gritty's reception, however, has been much more divisive. This weekend, his debut was met with uproar on Facebook and Twitter.
- We talk about their differences and explore why Tom Burgoyne and David Raymond, who developed the Phanatic, believe in Gritty, too.
On Monday, the Flyers debuted their new mascot, a 7-foot-tall orange monster named “Gritty”. Some fans loved him. Some fans hated him. All of them had something to say about it.
Most couldn’t help comparing the furry creature to another iconic Philly sports character: the Phillie Phanatic.
But how, exactly, do the two mascots compare?
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Born in the Galapagos Islands, according to Phillies lore, the Phanatic came to Philadelphia over 40 years ago. Since then, he’s made quite a name for himself.
A flightless, furry green bird with a vuvuzela for a nose, the Phanatic is endearingly enthusiastic. He has a verified Instagram account featuring pictures of himself hugging fans and waving from his ATV. He’s been featured on "30 Rock" and "The Simpsons." He encourages kids to read, dances with umpires on the field, and cares about his mom, Phoebe.
In short, he’s universally loved.
Gritty, on the other hand, is apparently one of the most divisive mascots to hit the Internet.
Fans expecting a cuddly, friendly mascot might be disappointed. But his name hints at who Brian Allen, the Penn State graduate who designed him, envisioned him to be.
In sportswriting, grit is not cute. Grit is, actually, sometimes kind of ugly. The phrase “Philly grit” is popular because it references a combination of luck, stamina, and sheer determination. It might not be pretty, but it is undeniably effective.
And ‘Gritty’ the mascot is the same.
The overgrown, googly-eyed orange monster crawled out of his secret subterranean lair after he was disturbed by recent construction at the Wells Fargo Center, a far cry from the Phanatic’s sunny Galapagos isle. He’s also had some brushes with authority. In the past, he’s been caught eating snow right out of the Zamboni and devouring sausages at every Flyers Dollar Dog night.
Gritty is described as feisty, loyal, mischievous, and fierce. As an ultimate Philly Flyers fan, he’s unwelcoming to any opposition. “His father was a bully,” explains the Flyers website. “So naturally he has some of those tendencies.”
In the past two days, he’s skidded (literally) into the rink, taken a spill on the ice, hit his helper in the back with a t-shirt gun, and danced in front of hundreds of screaming children.
Oh yes, and then there are the memes.
Gritty may not be as wholesome as the Phanatic, but he’s definitely more meme-able. Twitter has gone wild over the mascot, editing him into everything from horror movie stills to Sesame Street collages. On Monday night, he joined in, tweeting himself posing like Kim Kardashian West in her 2014 Paper photo shoot. Twitter ate it up.
Though the mascots are different, the man behind the Phanatic seems to think that Gritty will be just fine. "I honestly can't remember a mascot introduced in the age of social media that didn't get some kind of backlash," Tom Burgoyne said to the Inquirer. "I actually think it's really cool-looking.”
David Raymond, who helped to develop both characters, added his support as well. Backlash is normal, he told the Inquirer, but he thinks Philadelphians will come to love the new Flyers mascot.
"Let's just watch Gritty be Gritty and see what happens."