PHREAK SHOW: The Phanatic; Man's Best Friend

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Pat Adair is more than just an Irish presbyterian minister from the 1860s.  He’s the self-described “legendary” auteur behind Dropped Third Strike, an enviously well designed Phillies blog.  Seen here posing with a lady friend and a smiling mail box or trash can, Pat’s wistful dreams of yesteryear can be found daily on his site, or if you happen to follow him on Twitter (@DroppedStrike3).  As two adults, we reached common ground in our appreciation of giant puppets; Pat likes to pen curiously historical pieces on them, and I enjoy laughing and clapping when they are around.  On today’s addition of the PHAIL SAFE, we the worlds collide.

The Phanatic: Man’s Best Friend

by Pat Adair of Dropped Third Strike

What does an overweight, furry, green anthropomorphic anteater/bird have to do with a baseball team that shares a name with a brand of cigars commonly used by teenagers for “home-made” cigarettes? Absolutely nothing. But to the residents of the Delaware Valley, the sight of the Phanatic lacing up his over sized, clumsy sneakers is as much a sign of spring as the crack of the bat.

Most everyone knows the story behind the Phanatic… Bill Giles had San Diego Chicken envy and hired a team with ties to Jim Henson studios to create the muppetish character we’ve grown to love. In a blunder of Ed Wade like proportions, Giles decided against purchasing the copyright associated with the costume for an extra $1,300 assuming that the idea would never fly with Phillies fans who already had Bi-centennial mascots Phil and Phillis prancing around their stadium concourse.

Naturally, he was wrong and the Phanatic was a rousing success. Giles approached the creators two years later to revisit the copyright idea and ended up cutting a check for a cool $250,000 (a cool 19,200% markup)!

If Kermit the Frog and Big Bird had a child, it still wouldn’t be as lovable as the Phanatic. Despite the gamey smell that tends to emit from what I can only imagine is a constant 150 degree costume, fans of all ages love to have their picture taken, face sucked, and belly bumped by the big green guy.

But it hasn’t always been smooth sailing for the Phanatic. While he holds numerous records amongst mascots, “Most Sued” isn’t exactly one that he likes to keep on his resume. Nevertheless, Dave Raymond and Tom Burgoyne (alleged best friends of the Phanatic) have never wavered in their approach to the art of mascotting.

The Phanatic’s methods of getting into the head of opposing teams is the stuff of legend. Whether he’s mimicking Chipper Jones during his pre-game stretch or giving Jonathan Broxton the “HEX” from the top of the Phillies dugout, the Phanatic just has a way of getting under people’s skin.

Legendary curmudgeon and former coach of the LA Dodgers, Tommy Lasorda was once so enraged by the Phanatic that he resorted to physical violence. George Steinbrenner commissioned a mascot similar to the Phanatic for the Yankees, but after seeing how annoying mascots could be to opposing players, he scrapped the idea altogether. In a town where wins have been few and far between, having a 6’8″ fur-ball in the back of your opponent’s mind is an advantage we’ll gladly take.

But he’s really there for the fans. The way kids scream as he rides that ATV onto the field, you’d think an impromptu Justin Bieber/Miley Cyrus concert had just broken out in center field. Since 1978, the Phanatic has been kissing babies, and sticking his tongue out at Mets fans. He’ll sit down in an empty seat next to you on a warm summers night and you almost want to buy him a $9 beer and a bucket of crab fries. He’s the friend you’ve had through thick and thin. He was giving you a hug and tugging on your mullet in ’93 and he was there to console you through the following decade.

Sure, he’s gone Hollywood on us a few times; He’s been inducted into the Hall of Fame, rung the bell at the NY Stock Exchange, had a few statues erected in his honorstarred in a commercial or two, and been named to dozens of best mascot lists. But he’s never sold us out. Regardless of his hectic schedule, you can bet he’ll be there for all 81 home games. Even when Chase Utley takes a day off, the Phanatic is still out there boxing with an umpire during the 7th inning stretch, and launching hot dogs around the concourse. For a city whose other mascots leave a lot to be desired (I’m looking at you Swoop, Hip-Hop, and Drunken Bernie Parent!), the Phanatic is an everyman who loves his team and his town.

Like us, he’s different from the rest of the sports world. He never waivers in his loyalty. He’s smart, funny, and creative. He’s a bit overweight, and loves his mom.  But most importantly, he irritates the hell out of pretty much everyone outside the Philadelphia area.

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