Sports for Dummies: The good, the bad and ugly with Gritty

Ashley Potts

Unless you’ve been living off the grid for the last few months, you have heard of Gritty. Whether that’s because you like the Philadelphia Flyers or not is another question.

The hairy, dead-eyed, Cheeto dust-colored monster was created as a mascot for Philly’s less-than-successful ice hockey team. But I’d wager most sports dummies weren’t entirely aware of that, because Gritty has become a meme reaching far beyond sports. 

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Gritty is aptly named for the city his team represents. His official bio says he’s earned his name “for possessing an attitude so similar to the team he follows.”

“As a mascot for a sports team, he has more than done his job. He has drawn an incredible amount of attention to a team no one has paid much attention to in years. ”

The Flyers, and Philly in general, seem to pride themselves on being tough—in an abrasive, but somehow still endearing way. Gritty capitalizes on that as well as  millennial self-deprecating humor. That is where Gritty transcends just being another mascot and becomes a full-blown cultural phenomenon.

I genuinely can’t decide whether I passionately hate Gritty or find him brilliant and relatable. And, from what I can tell, I’m not alone. I ran a poll on Twitter and the results were 55 percent for loving Gritty and 45 percent for hating him, so it seems like we’re all conflicted.

I get the whole being-yourself-and-not-being-sorry-for-it thing. I’m here for it. I get that we live in a confusing time and we all have some pent up aggression we are trying to express. I get that telling your rival to “sleep with one eye open” is funny and engaging in a way that public relations usually doesn’t allow. I get being gritty and tough and standing up for yourself. Again, here for it. It all makes perfect sense, and it’s relatable.

As a mascot for a sports team, he has more than done his job. He has drawn an incredible amount of publicity to a team no one has paid much attention to in years. He has grown a huge amount of social media engagement in a short amount of time, so much so that he’s almost a weird influencer. The team behind this mascot should be proud. 

But, I still kind of hate him. He’s creepy. Some of the things I’ve seen Gritty-ified truly haunt me: the remake of the Kim Kardashian PAPER magazine photo especially. It’s kind of like watching your dad become a meme; it’s just uncomfortable.

The thing about Gritty that I hate isn’t really about Gritty at all, though. I hate the attention span and attention capacity of people. It’s fad culture.

Only a few things can hold our attention for a very short amount of time. I hope, for the Flyer’s sake, that Gritty is more than just a fad, but I’m not holding my breath for them.

Mascots have been around, being silly and causing trouble, for as long as most major sports have been around (#29Mascots). But how many other mascots can you name? Other than the terrfying googly eyes, I don’t see what’s so special about Gritty.

I think what saves him for me is that he embodies what this column is supposed to be about: making sports inclusive and fun for everyone, even if you aren’t a sports buff. So, even if you know nothing about hockey and Philadelphia, you can enjoy Gritty. Even if he gives me nightmares.

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Ashley Potts can be reached at sports@collegian.com or on Twitter @ashleypotts09.