With piece after piece of bad news littering the sports landscape, a single ray of celestial sunlight pierced through the poisonous haze of our fine city when Major League Baseball announced mascots would be free to prance about their empty ballparks when the 2020 season began.
It’s an extraordinarily welcome bit of news for Phillies fans who will have the pleasure of enjoying the finest mascot ever created (sorry Gritty) in the Phanatic for the summer. It’s extraordinarily bad news for Braves fans who have no choice but to gaze upon the unholy abomination that is Blooper for the next three months.
A return of the Phanatic (even with his updated look) in the sultry days of summer is a welcome return to normalcy in a tremendously odd season of baseball.
Yeah it’s a silly sentiment, but so what? Bobby Wankel will tell you all about Zack Wheeler needing to develop a third pitch to be effective, or Roman Quinn’s ascent to starting in centerfield (until his inevitable injury) or the dangers of Bryce Harper edging himself into the fold as the franchise GM. Bob is the man for that….but I’m here to tell you that if I don’t see the Phanatic capering his ass off all over the empty stands of Citizens Bank Park I will be more than a little disappointed.
This is a prime year for some never before seen shenanigans from everyone’s favorite big green mascot. We need the distraction. I can’t spend all summer staring back at the horrifying visages of smiling cardboard fans gazing at us like lost souls trapped in ethereal prisons, sentenced to watch Vince Velasquez pitch in 97-degree weather for the rest of eternity like General Zod floating through the phantom zone.
I cannot listen to Ben Davis laugh at his own jokes as they echo through the empty Citizens Bank Park seats all summer. I can’t. I WON’T. Life is too short and the pandemic is already sucking the essence from my once vibrant corporeal vessel. Davis seems like a wonderful person and a lovely human being, but if I have to hear him knowingly chuckle to himself after yet another dad joke I’m going to die. My sense of smell and taste will disappear, everything will fade to black and I’ll quietly fade away.
But the Phanatic is our savior, and with an empty stadium at his disposal the possibilities for his antics are endless. I’ll leave it up to the professional, but every second I don’t see him shooting hotdogs into the empty upper decks or barging into the announcing booth to shine Tom McCarthy’s head is a wasted moment for me.
It’s going to be a weird year. We can all agree on that right? Watching games without fans, getting daily updates on new COVID-19 infections, wondering if we’re even going to get through 60 measly games before it all comes tumbling down like a stack of hydroxychloroquine pills.
The Phanatic is an anchor. He’s gotten us through seasons when the Phillies would devote 45 minutes of a 1-hour yearbook to him because there was nothing else the fans wanted to remember about the team. Put on any Phillies yearbook from 1995 to 2000 and you’ll hear Harry Kalas inevitably say, “Even though the (insert year here) Phillies were 73 games out of first place by July, they still knew how to have fun,” to cue a 25 minute montage of the Phanatic’s best gags from the season.
Plus, Wheels always seemed to get a little too annoyed whenever he showed up in the booth, so that puts him way ahead in most fans’ books.
It’s comforting to know he’ll be there, that his massive shoes will be clomping through the lonely and stained concourse of Ashburn Alley, looking for his next bit or to simply annoy an unlucky employee that enters his field of vision. It’s nice to know he’ll be a constant this summer in a literal and figurative world of change.
And you know the Phillies yearbook will always be watchable while he’s around.
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