Whimsy

The Phillie Phanatic’s best running gags, ranked

phanatic_220x364.jpgNow that Mr. Met is on the disabled list or grounded or whatever it is that happens when mascots go bad, it’s worth taking a look at the Phanatic – baseball’s best mascot – and appreciating the things that set him apart.

Our pal from the Galapagos is charming in everything he does, but we wanted to rank his best go-to tricks, jokes, and gimmicks. If nothing else, it’s a diversion from the decomposing carcass the 2017 season has been for the Phils. After all, he’s the one Phillies contributor who’s safe from slumps and regression.

10. The hip thrust

I get that the trademark hip thrust is a mostly harmless signature dance move, but it veers a little too close to the “what not to do” portion of a corporate HR video to put it higher on the list. We’ve grown to admire the Phanatic for his frequent misunderstanding of social norms, so his complete lack of malice makes it easy to forgive him when he crosses the line. Just get out of my personal space.

9. The ATV

I don’t know if you need a license to operate an ATV, but I can guarantee the Phanatic doesn’t have one. Still, I would have loved to be sitting at the table alongside Phillies brass when the Phanatic waltzed in to get permission to cruise around Citizens Bank Park in his ATV. I’m imagining a PowerPoint presentation full of meaningless charts and graphs with no actual numbers on them.

Come to think of it, he’s probably the “ask for forgiveness, not for permission” type.

Regardless, his ATV is what lets the Phanatic be more than just a sideline observer. Other mascots might be satisfied plodding up and down the aisles, giving a few high fives, and gesturing when their team does something worthwhile. That’s not the Phanatic, though. He needs to be on the field, involved in the action, and often completely in the way. It’s a good gag not for what it is but for what it enables.

8. Costumes and theme nights

For a Serious Baseball Fan™ like myself, attending baseball games must be done with extreme reverence and seriousness. I am to refrain from doing the wave, for example, and looking at my phone. Depending on who you ask, I also hate the game itself and want to kill it with my spreadsheets and numbers. Look out.

So, because I bring my rampant joylessness with me to the stadium, the only part of theme nights I’m allowed to enjoy is what the Phanatic adds to them. Other than photoshopped pictures of players as Star Wars characters or ’60s fashion icons, the Phanatic’s costumes and routines are hands down the best part of theme nights. Whether he’s dressed as a Jedi to take down Darth Vader or dancing with too many Elvis impersonators, the Phanatic always has a way to celebrate.

Also, the wave is fine and you should have fun at games however you want. I eat until I hurt.

7. Dumping popcorn

We’ve voiced our affection for the Phanatic’s tendency to dowse folks in popcorn before.

It’s like he’s doing what we all secretly want to do but can’t because we’re bound by etiquette and convention. It helps that his targets are so often the people Phillies fans would love to disgrace with a greasy mild inconvenience: Mets fans, talking head Ben Davis, the opponents’ broadcast booth, or even just some fan who got in the way.

6. Polishing the domes of bald dudes

The conventional wisdom suggests that you have to be able to laugh at yourself. Whether that’s true or not, you can certainly laugh at other people.

There is no better example of this than with one of the Phanatic’s simpler go-to goofs: bothering bald dudes by polishing their heads.

Depending on how my genetic predisposition manifests, this may one day be removed from the list.

5. Getting in the way

He means well, but the Phanatic is in someone’s way everywhere he goes. It’s just unavoidable given his size. This is a gift and not a burden, though, because there are few things I enjoy more than watching the Phanatic inconvenience someone. This is when he’s in his most natural state; he’s not pulling any tricks, he’s not using any props or trying to influence the game, he’s just being himself.

Even if that means destroying ESPN’s offices or being a workplace hazard while the guys in the booth are just trying to broadcast the game.

4. Getting the kids involved

AP Photo / Kathy Willens

Kids are the future or whatever, and the only way for baseball to survive despite its viewership being on the older side is by appealing to those darned whippersnappers and turning them into lifelong fans.

The Phillies don’t have a ton of ways to garner new fans at the moment, but they do have an oversized, impossible-to-miss green prankster mulling about who can amuse or gently torment kids at the ballpark. When the team is not only bad but waiting for a superstar player to emerge for fans to rally around, the kids really only have the Phanatic and spilling ice cream on themselves to look forward to.

Complain all you want about young people paying too much attention to their phones at games, but the only thing at CBP that’s better than a Snapchat of a poorly made salad is the Phanatic.

3. Unabashed Phillies fandom

The Phanatic looks star-struck every time he gets close to a Phillies player. He stands on their dugout and claps no matter how badly they’re losing. He’ll voice his disagreement with the umps any time a close call goes the other way. He’s even been dyed red before.

His pure, unwavering love for the team is one of the most admirable things about the Phanatic. It’s so easy to complain about performance, call for coaches to be canned, lament poor contracts, blame guys for slumps, stop watching games, vent on sports radio, tweet mean things, and so on. But you know what’s hard? Liking anything as much and as sincerely as the Phanatic likes the Phillies. Good for you, dude.

2. Anything that torments the other team

If you need an explanation of why Mets helmets have to be smashed and opposing players need to be harassed during their pregame workouts, you must be new around here.

Plus, it’s a combination of the best points of his other behaviors: delighting in the misery of others, acting out the things we wish we could get away with, expressing his own fandom, getting in the way of people trying to do their jobs.

Best of all, harassing an opposing player feels like a small win for the home team, especially in a stretch when we don’t see many others. Keep arresting the David Wrights of the world, Phanatic. Please.

1. The hot dog cannon

This isn’t my first mention of the hot dog launcher and, I’m warning you now, it won’t be my last. That thing is a marvel of both comedy and engineering.

I’d link to this video of a hotdog being launched at a pig mascot in every post I make if I could. I never thought I’d see a hotdog shot with such velocity or, in some cases, as much distance as the Phanatic imparts them with. The real majesty of the hotdog launcher is more apparent when it’s used for its original purpose: sending encased meat hurtling into the stands.

This is a microcosm of the human condition. After all, aren’t we all just encased meat hurtling toward our final resting places? Really makes you think.

Honorable mention 1: his tongue

The Phanatic’s tongue conveys a wide range of emotions: disgust, sass, playfulness, disagreement. Other than exaggerated body language and gestures, it’s his only means of expressing himself.

So why isn’t it on the list? Because it’s part of Phanatic biology, not some sideshow gag for your amusement.

Honorable mention 2: causes and literacy

Not surprisingly, the Phanatic is also involved in the Philadelphia community, championing literacy skills in children through the Phanatic About Reading program. But it’s not funny, so it didn’t make the list. Still, I don’t know what’s more impressive: the fact that the Phanatic can apparently read, or the fact that 40,000 classrooms in the area participate in the program.

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