Mascots are weird.
They are, by their nature, unimportant. Someone had to go out of their way to create a mascot costume, and this took time and cost money, but they serve no real purpose other than simply existing and maybe handling a t-shirt cannon. We would be fine if all mascots suddenly were to disappear from this earth, but they persevere.
I'm not trying to say mascots are bad. They aren't. Sure, they're pointless, but some of life's great joys lie in pointless things.
Live mascots, in particular, are great. Some may be better than others, but even the worst live mascot is still pretty great. In virtually all circumstances, teams would be better off with a live mascot than a costumed one. Looking at you, Michigan. Not you, though, Iowa State. We don't need a bird with teeth that is also a tornado.
Also, not all costumed mascots are bad. As a concept, I like them very much. Sports are by their nature a frivolous and unimportant exercise, so what better way to hammer that home than have someone get into a foam and fake fur outfit and clap in an overly-ostentatious manner? In theory, they're fine, but very often there's something about them that upsets me in such a visceral way that it's hard to explain without sounding like a total weirdo.
And so, here I am sounding like a total weirdo trying to explain why the following things personally bother me about mascots, in no order.
1. Why are Brutus Buckeye's hands like that?
A little inside baseball here for a moment. In our photo tool, any search for Ohio State this whole offseason -- of which there have been many -- leads to lots of pictures of Brutus with the Playoff trophy at various rallies and events. I get it, I get why. But in damn near every single photo, he's creepily laying his strangely gloved hands on the trophy, and the contrast between his head and his hands unsettles me deeply. He wears wide receiver gloves, and the contrast between his very human-looking hands and cartoonish nut of a head feels like it just shouldn't be.
Jamie Sabau, Getty
The scale between the head and hands is all off. I'm not sure if wearing exaggerated Mickey Mouse-looking gloves would make me feel better, but I know I don't like this.
2. What on earth, West Ham United
West Ham's nickname is the Hammers, so you will not be shocked to learn their mascot is a hammer. Their current incarnation is Hammerhead, who looks like what would happen if you fed Ultron into a Super Nintendo and tried to make him a villain in a Mega Man game.
Clive Rose, Getty
There's another hammer mascot named Herbie, who appears to be a sentient hammer from South Park that wears a diaper. There's also a bear named Bubbles that's largely nondescript other than being vaguely creepy with tiny black eyes.
C'mon, West Ham. Pick one. Or better yet, pick one that isn't any of these three.
3. Purdue Pete's head
I would be remiss if I didn't mention that his current head is somehow better than the short-lived replacement that was put on ice back in 2011. But even with that in mind, this simply doesn't make any sense. Purdue Pete, from the neck down, is just a guy wearing a football uniform and pads. He is hardly the only anthropomorphized mascot in the world, but his large, carbon-fiber head with cold, dead eyes bothers me in a way that Oklahoma State's Pistol Pete does not.*
Pat Lovell, USA TODAY Sports
He's coming for you in your sleep. You know it, and he sure as hell knows it. Your phone just rang, and the call is coming from inside the house.
4. Why are you wearing shoes?
Penn State's mascot is not the only exhibit of this peculiarity, but come on. I like this mascot costume more than most people, but a full mountain lion costume paired with a pair of black, restaurant-grade non-slip Sketchers is ... curious.
Robb Carr, Getty
They could find gloves that match the rest of the costume, I assume some foot covers are not beyond the reach of our technologies.
5. Baseball's Pants Problem
Grant Brisbee wrote extensively about the issue of baseball mascots and their troubled relationship with pants. I have nothing truly further to add, as even after much deliberation, I still can't tell if baseball mascots are weirder with or without pants. The indecision flummoxes me greatly. I would just like to emphatically disagree with the final conclusion that Mr. Redlegs is the creepiest mascot in Major League Baseball. Mr. Redlegs is a handsome gentlemen of taste, and I will hear no arguments otherwise.
Joe Robbins, Getty
6. Dinger, why?
Okay, so besides the whole no pants thing, I take further issue with the attire of Colorado Rockies mascot Dinger, specifically. Why are you wearing a belly shirt for a jersey? Baseball jerseys are specifically made to be long so they can be tucked into pants, so I'm not sure how they decided it would be proper to outfit their purple, bejeweled dinosaur mascot with a half shirt.
Doug Pensinger, Getty
Also, again, what's with the shoes? Those aren't even baseball cleats, they would serve no purpose. This is ridiculous.
7. Maybe we just shouldn't bother with human mascots
I won't come for the West Virginia mascot since he has a gun, but if your best idea is to just put a guy wearing clothes out on the field, try again. This does not apply to mascots on horseback, as the live horse lifts all boats.
Is this entire point just to say that Notre Dame's mascot is bad?
Brian Spurlock, USA TODAY Sports
I'm not going to lie, the answer is yes.
8. I believe we've found "playfully nefarious"
I'm of several minds on Sparky, Arizona State's mascot. Let's not even get into the dubious hand gesture. Sometimes I think if you put a tux on him, he'd look like a greasy dude standing at the end of the bar in a movie you'd watch on TCM. Other times I think he's seconds away from grabbing some poor girl out of the stands and tying her to a railroad track before being foiled by Our Hero.
Mark J. Rebilas, USA TODAY Sports
I guess I'd feel better about the whole thing if he was able to twirl his mustache instead of having it painted on his face.
9. Yeah I didn't forget about the Pelicans
The world's aversion to Pierre the Pelican is well documented. I also think he is tremendously strange and unsettling, but I still can't deal with the time they did a face surgery gag and tweeted a photo of him with a totally wrapped head, like some kind of God forsaken mummy gimp.
NEWS: @PierreTPelican underwent successful surgery yesterday at Ochsner Medical Center - http://t.co/qI6gXts2J1 | pic.twitter.com/PdcWhzaOKF— New Orleans Pelicans (@PelicansNBA) February 11, 2014
His new look post-face surgery was far less jarring, but the damage was already done and everyone only remembers his original ghastly visage. And then they did King Cake Baby. Stars preserve us.
Thank you for indulging my neuroses.
*Do all mascots with fabricated plastic heads have to be named Pete? Wait, that's my name, too. Oh God, I need to lie down.