Introducing (and in Defense of) Blooper
This week, the Atlanta Braves unveiled a new on-field Mascot at Chopfest. At the end of a three-minute, Back-to-the-Future-inspired skit to a crowd of manic children, Blooper burst through the doors, through a stream of confetti, and into our collective lives.
And the Internet let out a collective, "What the f****?"
Blooper is an interesting choice. Let's break it down in two pieces. First, let's go ahead and address the elephant costume in the room — Blooper looks like the Philly Phanatic.
To be fair, the Phanatic is green. And Blooper is this interesting shade of beige. And the Phanatic has only one horn-shaped protrusion, which is placed in and around the nasal area. Blooper has two, and they serve as ears. (Or that's what I'm betting. They may end up being cheer megaphones or condiment dispensers, but some things only time can tell.)
Blooper and the Phanatic both wear their team's jersey, hat and shoes, but that's to be expected. And decency is important for mascots, ranking just above IP infringement. Basically, they're dressed the same.
Blooper is more conservative in fur length/pile height and overall circumference, which I believe is an intelligent design decision based on geography. Weather is colder in Philly, so the Phanatic could use more fur and body fat to help stay warm. Atlanta's notoriously hot summers would probably cause an evolutionary precedent for Blooper's species (whatever that may be) to grow shorter fur. The weather would also cause him to sweat more during the season, so he's be less likely to put and keep on weight than the Phanatic.
Secondly, the name is a little problematic for the Internet. "Blooper" has two common connotations in baseball. First, a "blooper" is an easy-to-field hit. A hit directly to the short stop or a lob to the infield may be called a "blooper," and it denotes an easy out. Which for any team on offense isn't a great word to hear. Also, keep in mind that Blooper is coming in hot off the heels of Homer, a mascot name and word that denotes a home run. This may be splitting red feather hairs, but I'm not sure we're moving in the right direction here.
I know better than most the kinds of conversations that happen in design meetings for large brands. Blooper is the cumulative effort of dozens of people, thousands of hours of effort, and multiple stages of tweaks and re-designs.
Blooper is also, without a doubt, the best option the Atlanta Braves team came up with during the conception phase of the Blooper project. I applaud their work and can see the goals they are attempting to achieve with this unveil. Blooper looks cuddly and fun, appealing to children. His megaphone-shaped ears make him a shoe-in for leading the Tomahawk Team, and that belly is just begging to be shook around during mid-inning dance breaks. All in all, the Braves did they best they could. And as someone who's always on these kinds of projects, I can assure you of that. It's a team effort, and he's our finished product.
So that got me thinking, "What other options did the Braves turn down?" I couldn't sleep last night, thinking through all the other options we could have ended up with. And I promise you, it could have been worse. Much, much worse. May I present — The Rejected Braves Mascots (That Make Blooper Look Much, Much Better).
Cobb the Corn Cob
Moving the Braves to Cobb County wasn't a particularly popular decision. People threw a bit of a fit, but most of that was quelled when fans first visited the incredible SunTrust Park.
It's amazing. It has every accommodation anyone would need, and every design detail (apart from transportation) feels thoughtful and fan-forward. But, it's still in Cobb County. And people still have their feelings hurt about that.
So let's do something about it! Let's embrace it and move forward. How? Let's celebrate the new jurisdiction of the Home of the Braves with a cute, corn-shaped mascot. I present to you, Cobb the Corn Cob! We can dress him up with a jersey or hat, and serve hot corn on the cob at every concession stand for a mere $12.
And if the Braves lose, no worries! Free popcorn* for everyone! It's a win-win situation.
*One kernel limit per fan.
Lane the Traffic Cone
Moving to Cobb County brought on a whole new kind of traffic challenge for Atlantans, who basically already have a Master's Degree in the subject. But getting into, out of, and around the park any time close to first pitch or the last out is nearly impossible. It's a symptom of being located so close to the perimeter, but we're here now, firmly plated at the new SunTrust Park. So what do we do?
We celebrate it! Traffic is a part of our city's culture, so let's include it in our sports team mascot. Allow me to introduce Lane the Traffic Cone! He promotes safe driving, looking out for pedestrians, and reminds fans to leave with adequate time to get to the stadium, park in their designated section, and walk the few miles from their high-priced parking spot to their high-priced seat. (Three hours should be plenty of padding to make sure you're in your seat by first pitch.)
Between the seventh and eighth inning, Lane takes to the field via police car escort to lead the new mascot race, which, sadly, no longer features the Home Depot Tools. In the spirit of safety (and in the reality of Atlanta traffic), Lane will lead a string of hundreds of cars around the warning track at a bracing speed of 3 mph. This race will last from 6 am to 11 am and 4pm to 8pm every weekday, with unexpected races dispersed from 9pm to 2am throughout the week — just to keep you on your toes.
Murray the Bald Eagle
It's a common thing in the south to have two mascots. The first is whatever your team is called, and the second is a bird. No reason, it's just a bird.
So let's give the Braves a bird! His name is Murray, and he is, in celebration of the team's red, white and blue color palette, an American Bald Eagle.
He flies around the stadium on a rig during the pre-game National Anthem, the mid-game rendition of "God Bless America," and during the post-game fireworks display. It's a dangerous job, but Murray's up to the task.
Oh, and why "Murray?" Well, it's short for 'MURICA. (Duh.)
In professional sports, sponsorship is inevitable. It makes the world of MLB, NHL, NBA, and all the rest go 'round. But at SunTrust Park, it's a whole new corporate overlord ballgame. Everything has a sponsor. The Home Depot Clubhouse. The Xfinity Rooftop Lounge. The Superior Plumbing Throneroom. (Okay, I made that last one up.)
But these corporate sponsors are the reason the park looks so beautiful! And why we as fans have so many other things to do in the park than just watch that baseball game we paid an arm and a leg to see. So how can we turn that into a new mascot? Well, I proudly present Shameless Plug.
Shameless is a new kind of mascot. Not necessarily ownable by a single sponsor or even by the team as a whole. Shameless is owned by the highest corporate bidder, and his appearance changes from game to game. If Home Depot wants to sponsor Shameless for Opening Weekend, he can wear a hardhat and orange buckets for shoes. And if Bud's Discount Fireworks wants to sponsor Shameless for 4th of July Weekend, it's free reign for flame-retardant fireworks wigs and a roman candle jetpack. Sky's the limit. (Or not, in this case.)
I hope you see my point here, which is not to poke fun. (Well, not entirely.) My point is that as much as there's always a better idea out there, there's always a ton of much worse ideas, too. Let's give Blooper a chance to be the mascot we need and deserve. And if he's not, at least we have some other ideas to fall back on.