A mascot is much more than a guy dressed up in a funny suit who is there to entertain kids. Mascots can embody the team identity, fire up the crowd, boost the team’s morale and get under the opponent’s skin. This is what a good mascot can do, and there are many terrific ones across professional and college sports. There are also many not so great mascots, which make you cringe when you see them attempting to entertain the crowd. Sometimes, they even have a terrifying design which is doing the team no favors with the younger fan base.
11. Willie the Wildcat – Kansas State Wildcats
From the neck up, Kansas State’s Willie the Wildcat is a perfectly good mascot. He features a large, fuzzy wildcat head which perfectly embodies the team identity. The problem with Willie the Wildcat is the fact that from the neck down, he is just a human wearing the Kansas State football kit. Not only does this make him incredibly out of proportion which looks very odd, but it also ruins the illusion of the mascot being a character. Willie the Wildcat is therefore 75% human and just your average guy wearing an enormous cat head. It is hard to overlook this, which is a shame, as he has the right personality for a mascot and the potential is clearly there. Perhaps the budget would not stretch for a full body suit, and instead they could only afford the giant cat head.
10. Blue Blob – Xavier University
A good mascot will embody the team identity and should have some relation to the town or university. Ideas were clearly running low when they had to come up with a secondary mascot for Xavier University, as they decided to move away from D’Artagan the Musketeer, who was scaring children (understandably). For some reason, their solution was the Blue Blob, who is nothing more than, well, a blue blob. Aside from the color, there is no connection to the University and it seems particularly odd when he is alongside D’Artagan. The Blue Blob slightly resembles the cookie monster, only he looks like the very cheap knockoff version. He was designed so that they would have a mascot that wouldn’t scare children, yet there is still something quite unsettling about the Blue Blob and this is largely due to the fact that nobody has any idea what he is.
9. Mad Ant – Fort Wayne Mad Ants
Fort Wayne’s Mad Ant looks like a six-foot ant on steroids, so this is obviously one mascot that all kids (and many adults) will stay clear of. There is also something satanic and intrinsically evil about Mad Ant, who has a very menacing look on his face. This is not helped by the fact that he is a giant insect that looks like an alien creature. According to his profile, his season goal is “cheering the Mad Ants to victory and making you all smile,” but I’m not sure people’s first reaction will be to smile when he runs out onto the court. With a name as aggressive as Mad Ants, there is not much else that you could do with the mascot, but it perhaps could have been toned down slightly to make a less intense, evil and intimidating mascot.
8. Sammy the Slug – UC Santa Cruz Banana Slugs
Sammy the Slug is both awesome and terrible, but this is on purpose. He is a subversive mascot and according to UC Santa Cruz, Sammy represents “many of the strongest elements of the campus: contemplation, flexibility, non-aggressiveness and, perhaps above all, an iconoclastic challenge towards the status quo.” For a long time, Sammy was the unofficial mascot of the university, with the students pushing to make him the official one whilst the chancellor proposed a sea lion. Unsurprisingly, in a student vote, Sammy won by a landslide and UCSC were forever destined to have a slug as their mascot. Whilst the slug logo (seen on a t-shirt in Pulp Fiction) is friendly and unthreatening, the mascot seen at games is quite disturbing and creepy. Whenever the Banana Slugs (slowly) roll into town, you know that the opponents will be intimidated by Sammy, who is as loveable as he is terrible.
7. WuShock – Wichita State Shockers
Wichita State have a unique name for their teams: the Shockers. This is due to the fact that students used to earn their money by shocking (harvesting) on the nearby fields, plus very early on the football games were played on a stubbled wheat field. In 1948, the mascot WuShock was unveiled. The mascot is essentially somebody dressed up as a bundle of wheat, but this is not entirely obvious and without knowing about Wichita State, you may struggle to identify exactly what he is. A bundle of wheat may not sound too intimidating, but the more recent versions of WuShock see him sporting a rather evil looking scowl. WuShock is described by the university as “a big, bad, muscle-bound bundle of wheat.” It is certainly an original design, but it is also very strange and many people have no idea what he is when they first see him.
6. Purdue Pete – Purdue Boilermakers
Purdue Pete’s soulless, haunting face is genuinely terrifying, and he is sure to put fear into the hearts of anyone that he locks eyes with. He does not look like the sort of mascot that kids adore, and instead it is much more likely that he stalks them in their nightmares (this is furthered by the fact that he carries a gigantic hammer around with him). There is something particularly creepy about mascots who are humans, and Pete is especially creepy largely due to his huge plastic face. Most mascots are furry which makes them friendlier, but Pete has a gigantic plastic face with enormous, soulless eyes which make him very menacing and evil looking. Sure, he does a good job of intimidating the opponents, but he also intimidates everyone he looks at and wouldn’t look out of place in a horror flick.
5. Pierre the Pelican – New Orleans Pelicans
The original Pierre the Pelican is the stuff that nightmares are made of. When New Orleans first unveiled Pierre the Pelican (fittingly, the day before Halloween), they did not get the reaction that they were hoping for. Instead of a friendly and loveable Pelican that can fire up the crowd, they created a monster that struck fear into every child in New Orleans. He had a particularly evil and menacing face, and the reaction was so negative that action had to be taken. New Orleans did an excellent job of this, and said that the mascot had to have surgery after breaking his beak in a pickup game. After what must have been some serious reconstructive surgery, they unveiled a post-op Pierre the Pelican, which is much friendlier and looks like he wouldn’t devour your soul. Still, pre-op Pierre still wasn’t as disturbing as another Pelicans mascot (more to come).
4. Dandy – New York Yankees
The Phillie Phanatic is one of the greatest mascots in sports, and he creates an identity for the team and also generates an enormous amount of money for the Phillies. This is something that the Yankees wanted to capitalize on, so in 1979 they decided to unveil their own mascot inspired by the Phanatic. The result was the less than memorable Dandy, who was created by the same person who designed Miss Piggy and several other fantastic Muppets characters. Dandy was not as classic as the Muppets characters, and the fans certainly did not take to him. He was supposed to be a pinstriped bird, but looked much more like a pinstriped pear, and he also sported a ginger moustache and Yankees hat (worn sideways). Dandy first made an appearance in 1979 at Yankee Stadium, but he was confined to the Upper Deck area and would only last until 1981.
3. Crazy Crab – San Francisco Giants
Crazy Crab is famed for being a terrible mascot, but you can’t help but feel sorry for this giant, crazy crab, who suffered some serious abuse at the hands of his own home crowd and even the players. He had a brief career as the Giants mascot, only lasting the 1984 season where the Giants also had a terrible season with a 66-96 record. This meant that the crowd was angry throughout the campaign, and they decided to take it out on Crazy Crab. He was regularly pelted with items by the crowd, as well as the players, and this lead him to need a reinforced suit with a fiberglass shell. He was designed as an “anti-mascot” to satirize the other mascots, but the hatred went too far and this is most evident when he was taken down by two San Diego Padres players and he suffered an injury.
2. King Cake Baby – New Orleans Pelicans
As if (pre-op) Pierre the Pelican wasn’t harrowing enough, the New Orleans Pelicans unveiled this monstrosity for Mardi Gras. A King Cake is a pastry made for Mardi Gras with a plastic baby baked into the dough (whoever gets the slice with the baby is supposed to have good luck). The Pelicans decided to celebrate their heritage with King Cake Baby, who is an incredibly disturbing eight-foot plastic baby with a demented smile on its face, wearing nothing more than a diaper (which is often falling off), a bib with “I heart King Cake,” and a crown on his head. He is essentially a giant version of Chucky from Child’s Play, and you would not want to stare into his soulless eyes for too long. When this is combined with pre-op Pierre the Pelican, it ensures that they have a terrifying tag-team of mascots at the Smoothie King Centre.
1. The Stanford Tree – Stanford Cardinal
Nothing fires up the crowd or intimidates opponents like a tree. The Stanford Tree is an unofficial mascot that was first introduced by the band in 1975, and each year it has a new design but will always remain a bizarre mystery. The team name is Cardinal (after the color), which gives them many options, but they have never had an official mascot and the Stanford Tree is now famous around the world (largely because it is so terrible). The tree idea derived from the Stanford logo, which features a redwood tree from the Palo Alto region, but the mascot has even taken the form of a palm tree in recent years. The Tree has been abused so much over the years, largely by Stanford students, that the selection process of who plays the role now sees the candidate go through “grueling and humiliating physical and mental challenges.”