One of my favourite things to do is attend a Toronto Blue Jays Game. Whether I’m with friends or family, I always enjoy the sights and sounds of the ballpark: the taste of the popcorn, the crack of the ball off the bat, the smell of the freshly cut… AstroTurf? Ok, maybe not everything is perfect, but my love of baseball allows me to put up with certain annoyances. With one exception:
When I was a kid, I hated mascots. There’s something about a giant, eternally smiling bear that drives fear into a child’s heart. I was never sure if a mascot would hug me or punch me. Pat me on the head or snap my neck. Sign an autograph for me or stab me with the pen I provided. That unpredictability was terrifying.
For example, the Canadian National Exhibition used to have a bumblebee mascot. And it scared the hell out of me! I remember hiding in between two trees upon the mere sight of it, thinking I was safe. How naive could I be? We eventually made eye contact. Not since Medusa has a gaze been that deadly.
Sports mascots drive me equally insane. Look, I get it. Mascots are for kids. They’re hired by the team to entertain the fans and occasionally toss a free t-shirt into the crowd (which grown men will inevitably fight over). But for many mascots, this isn’t enough. They crave attention. Like Kim Kardashian with an audio recording, they need to be relevant. They want you to know them. Yet whether it’s the Blue Jays’ Ace or the Maple Leafs’ Carlton the Bear, my thoughts have always been the same: “Please let me watch the game in peace.”
My worst encounter with a mascot happened on a family vacation to Pennsylvania — at the greatest water park known to man: “Sesame Place.”
Yes I said “Sesame Place.” A water park based on Sesame Street. I’ve been to many water parks over the years and they are usually terrible. Long lines, Band-Aids in the water and awful food. But not this one. With amazing water slides and an overall fun atmosphere, I would highly recommend going there on your next vacation. Just remember to bring a small child with you as it may be considered “creepy” to go on your own. Regardless, Sesame Place was one of the highlights of my trip. With one exception:
At the time of our trip, I was ten and my younger brother was six. And when a six-year-old wants to visit Elmo and Big Bird, there is no stopping him. Unfortunately, this meant I had to face my enemies.
All day I managed to avoid interacting with the Sesame Street gang. “Hi Elmo, please don’t touch me;” “Hi Cookie Monster, my head is a circle not a delicious pastry;” “Looking good Grover, please don’t shank me.” This strategy of fear and false positivity worked until we came to…
For those unfamiliar with Sesame Street, Telly is a purple monster who is obsessed with television. Telly also has a tendency to worry about the little things in life. He’s basically every TV sitcom mother in the last thirty years. Just watch him explain the word anxious.
As we approached Telly, my parents ask me to accompany my brother. It was at this moment I knew I was their least favourite child. But alas, I approached the purple monster, remembering to keep my distance. My brother ran to Telly with a big smile on his face and handed him his autograph book. All seemed to be going fine — until it wasn’t.
Suddenly, Telly approached me with his arms outstretched. Like a zombie on the Walking Dead he sauntered in my direction; his sadistic grin and bright orange nose closing in on me, fast. I was horrified.
So I ran. I ran as fast I could. “Forget my brother he’s a lost cause, everyone for themselves!” I thought to myself. Telly, that son of a bitch, was going to murder me. This was how I was going to die. At a water park, in my bathing suit, by the 15th most popular Sesame Street character. And if you don’t believe me the list is: Cookie Monster, Kermit, Elmo, Big Bird, Bert, Ernie, Oscar the Grouch, The Count, Snuffy, Grover, Rosita, a bunch of the grown-ups and then Telly.
After running faster than I care to admit, I turned around. Nothing. No Telly, just a bunch of confused park guests and my brother still waiting to have his autograph book signed. As it turns out, signing an autograph without a hard surface is difficult. And Telly thought my head was very hard. Embarrassed, I walked back and assumed the position. Autograph complete.
As I’ve gotten older my dislike of mascots has all but subsided. While I’m not hiring one for my next birthday party, I can associate with them as long as they respect my space. In fact, I was perfectly fine on my trip to Disney World. No running, no thoughts of my impending death, just many uncomfortable pictures. Call it maturity or rationality either way me and mascots have begun our rehabilitation.
But Ace, if you see me at the next Blue Jays game, leave me alone. And please no autographs.