Tuesday, August 6, 2013
The quest for athletic dignity suffered a crushing setback recently when Pachi the Porcupine was unveiled as the official mascot for the 2015 Pan American and Parapan Am Games in Toronto. Among the animal kingdom's representatives of grace, power and majesty, the porcupine ranks right up there with the sloth and the blowfish. About the only positive I can find in Pachi is that he at least breaks the predictable Canadian mascot mold of a beaver with a hockey stick or a moose in a Mountie hat.
The entire mascot concept has run its course and then some. When London, Ontario native Ted Giannoulous debuted as the San Diego Chicken in the mid-1970s, he not only pioneered a new entertainment genre, he embraced the role as a professional, and turned the Chicken into brand before "brand" became an overused word in the business lexicon. Giannoulous put thought and preparation into his public appearances and was actually entertaining, as opposed to the legions of oversized pretenders who careen around ballparks and arenas like escaped mental patients, with no apparent rhyme or reason to their so-called antics. I reluctantly include Youppi in that group, if only because he's never been the same since the Expos left town, and you can almost see the sadness and confusion in his googly eyes as he wanders aimlessly around the Bell Center.
If Pachi the Porcupine brings some redeeming entertainment value to the Pan Am Games, I will stand corrected. In the meantime, having a mascot for its own sake serves no purpose, beyond scaring small children and blocking your view of the game.