Over the past 11 years or so, I've read almost every single mascot article that has come out, it's my profession, I can't help myself. But over the years, there have been so many lists based on looks, not substance. This is a substance list. I'm also willing to test my theory that this will be the most viewed post on my blog so far. A list creates controversy, because it leaves people out and recognizes that some are better than others. Almost all major websites, papers and other media outlets all have done a Top Mascots list, there is a reason they do this. It creates controversy and controversy drives traffic, which in turn, drives revenue. I'm not driving revenue with this site or my opinions, I'm here to simply break down the top mascots and programs. Remember, this is an opinion, like every other list ever created.
We'll start with the "premier" league for mascots, the NBA. In the NBA, you have the highest concentration of full-time performers and good character programs, so it will be tough to break down.
#1 - The Gorilla. One of the original NBA mascots. The first mascot to do a number of common-place stunts like trampoline dunks, flaming hoops, etc... A big part of the Phoenix Suns game entertainment and a pioneer in the field. It seems like there is great buy-in for the Gorilla, which starts with the ownership group.
#2 - Clutch. A ground-breaking mascot in the realm of bringing a business model into the creation of a character program. A leader in school shows, skits, video and marketing. Also, broke the NBA mold of the skinny, athletic, gymnastic character.
|A hero for fat mascots everywhere.|
#3 - Rocky. One of the most consistent characters in the NBA, famous to the masses for his feud with Charles Barkley to most of America. Well known to those in the business for always being on top of the next promotion, video, etc... A good combo of athleticism and hilarity.
#4 - Benny. The Chicago Bulls are known for putting on a good-show, and without MJ, it's a testament that their game-entertainment carried them through less successful seasons. Benny is a big part of that. A performer who mixes in athletic ability with astounding dancing and a little bit of a reckless attitude.(supposedly, running over a cop on a mini-bike and high-fiving someone too hard, I believe)
#5 - Tie Between Rumble/Squatch(same performer) and MoonDog. Rumble was the first mascot to do the tall ladder backflip dunk that was popularized last spring when Bango blew up on YouTube. MoonDog is a veteran performer who has been bringing it for many years now and has always had a consistent program.
Honorable Mention - Hooper. I've known the last two Hoopers personally, so I had to throw them in!
Next up is the league that I know the least when it comes to their mascots and their respective programs, the NHL. I like hockey, but I like hockey for the fights and beer. It's such a fast paced game that the mascot usually gets lost for me.
#1 - Sharkie. Sharkie, to me is the most recognizable NHL mascot. Maybe it's because I'm currently located in Central California, but he always seems to have good skits, videos and is constantly in the community. Sharkie travels very well for an NHL mascot program.
|Sharkie, being lazy.|
#2 - Stanley. The Florida Panthers mascot is running a good program and is always coming up with new online content. He's also a very knowledgeable ex-college performer and is on top of the trends.
|Don King approves of Stanley being #2|
#3 - ThunderBug. Another performer I personally know. However, that's not why she's #3. ThunderBug has a great reputation over the years as an innovator and the current performer is no different.
|ThunderBug, hard at work. (Sitting down and watching the game.:)|
#4 - Gnash. The Nashville Predators mascot was my UCA instructor when I was in college, the first "pro" mascot I had met at the time.
|I give this jump a "teeeeeen"|
#5 - Louie. The youngest character on the NHL list for me is Louie from the St. Louis Blues. He seems to have successfully integrated a mascot into a hockey rich team. Not the easiest task.
(I know I said I would try to keep bias to a minimum, I didn't for the NHL, I simply don't know too many of the performers)
The next league I'm going to take a look at, is the NFL (No Fun League). Mascotting in the NFL is very interesting to me. You only have 10 home games to prepare for, but at the same time, the NFL is notorious for cracking down on mascot performance. It's a tough league to figure.
#1 - Jaxson De Ville. This was one of the easier #1's to determine. Jaxson has created a monster program in Jacksonville, based around a large number of community appearances, great stunts and a poke fun of attitude to some of the stiffer "suits" who are running the NFL.
|Take that NFL.|
#2 - Swoop. The Philadelphia Eagles mascot is a constant during Eagles games and is usually good for some stunts throughout the course of the year. He's always been good at being part of the show that the Eagles put on.
|There were better photos of Swoop, but the ugliness of this jersey still blows my mind.|
#3 - KC Wolf. A long-time veteran of the NFL mascot scene, KC Wolf may be best known outside of Kansas City for his tackle of the streaker, but in Kansas City, fans have supported this character who is constantly seen around town.
|KC Wolf jumping on the pile.|
#4 - Toro. The Houston Texans mascot has always impressed me with some of the pics and video that come out of his performances. I'm not terribly familiar with many of his stunts, but he comes to mind to me more than many other mascots in the NFL.
|Toro. (Not the lawnmower)|
#5 - Pat the Patriot. Not a big fan of his performances and the fact that most of his popularity is working for a winning team, however, he was caught doing some naughty things in the off-season, which raised his profile, good or bad.
|Pat "Coattails" Patriot|
Next up is the second most mascot friendly "major" league, MLB. Baseball and mascots are synonymous with each other.
#1 - The Phillie Phanatic. Easiest #1 pick out of any of the leagues. If you're reading this blog, I shouldn't have to explain to you why the Phanatic is #1.
|Dear Brad, Thanks for voting me #1 in MLB. Love, The Phanatic. P.S. Love the Blog|
#2 - The Pirate Parrot. The Pittsburgh Pirates and the Pirate have a good thing going. I really believe that it's the goofy nature of the character, down to his look and antics, that make the Pirate a success. Even though he's working for a terrible team, his marketing efforts and antics are top notch.
|What are all these fans doing here?|
#3 - Oriole Bird. I'm usually not a fan of teams that don't have full-time performers, but the Orioles are an exception for me. The Oriole Bird is one of the oldest MLB characters and all the performers leave the program better than when they came into it. A history of solid performers have made the Oriole Bird a great success throughout the state of Maryland.
|Hey Oriole Bird, Just Remember what I said about the Champagne Room.|
#4 - LouSeal. The SF Giants fanbase has an interesting reaction to mascots, this dates back to the creation of Crazy Crab, the anti-mascot. LouSeal has done a good job of not completely shunning the anti-mascot past of the SF Giants, but embracing it and making the character program the winner. For that reason, he lands on my list of top mascots in MLB.
#5 - Tie between Raymond and Billy. The two sunshine state MLB mascots come in 5th in my opinion. I love the way both suits look and both of the attitudes of the characters. What is it about Florida mascots and quirky behavior?
|Goats = Mascot Gold.|
|Raymond....in his prime.|
Now that I've broken down the 4 "big" leagues, I'm going to analyze Minor League Baseball and NCAA characters. First up will be what's near and dear to my heart, Minor League Baseball.
#1 - Thunder. The Lake Elsinore Storm have an attitude and great marketing plan that revolves around fun and especially around Thunder. They have taken their time to carefully select the right performers and then given them all the necessary tools to succeed. There seems to be great ownership and management that truly understand what it takes to be successful.
|Thunder has fallen and can't get up.|
#2 - Wool E Bull. The Durham Bulls character had a ball thrown at his head in Bull Durham. Not only that, last check, they had a full-time performer and had really bought into the power of harnessing Wool E. for all he's worth.
|Who Does #2 work for? The Durham Bulls, that's who.|
#3 - Parker. My past character of the Grizzlies, falls in at #3. We'll see what happens in the future, but the past 5 years were outstanding, it's just a lack of history that prevents me from putting him higher on this list.
|That's where I used to work.|
#4 - Phinley. The character of the Clearwater Threshers has done a good job of becoming an important piece of the teams marketing effort. They've done a great job establishing an identity in a baseball and sports rich area.
#5 - Orbit. The Albuquerque Isotopes mascot program really bought into the fun attitude and getting a great costume and full-time performer before many other MiLB teams did. For that, they deserve some credit.
Finally, I'll give my Top 5 Mascots in the NCAA. This is usually the most debated list anytime some publication releases one. I don't think this one will be however, because it's based on program strength, not a popularity contest.
#1 - YouDee - University of Delaware. This Fighting Blue Hen has produced more mascot performers than any other college program I can think of. Despite a smaller enrollment than many schools, YouDee is always near the top of UCA and always being innovative. There are a number of reason I believe YouDee has great success. There are a number of pro-teams in close proximity to the U of D campus. Raymond Entertainment Group and Dave Raymond (original Phanatic) are headquartered next to campus. Good alumni who still have contact with the program.
|That's right YouDee, you're #1.|
#2 - Aubie - University of Auburn. Aubie has consistently put their performers into the pro's. They have a high profile character who always performs well and an alumni base who support the program. A lot of their success comes from the consistency the get from the Aubies. Aubie is always a smooth, good dancing, flirtatious mascot.
|#1 in Football, #2 in NCAA Mascots.|
#3 - Sparty - Michigan State University. Sparty is probably the most recognizable mascot in America. A great program with a very well connected alumni-base that help this program stay near the top of competitions and idea-generation. Also, a great strength of this program is the quantity of mascots and how quick they are building an alumni base. There are 4 - 6 performers per year now in order to keep up with appearance demand.
|Hmmmmm, #3 you say?|
#4 - Goldy - University of Minnesota. Goldy spins his head and is always one of the funnier mascots when it comes down to it. Also, the 2011 UCA National Champion.
#5 - Monte - University of Montana. A lesser known school, but a great training ground for future "athletic" mascots. I really like their program because it's established it's uniqueness by keeping the "gymanstic and athletic" vibe of Monte.
|Monte. (If you couldn't read his headband)|
There you have it, go ahead and argue why I'm wrong.