Mascot Mania: And on your left, we have Gritty

Written By Sarah Gibson, Sports Columnist

Well, I have been put through the absolute ringer this week due to events I will not discuss that have nothing to do with anything that rhymes with the Bresidential Brelection. So, I decided to take a look at a meme trend I noticed this week and dissect it. Warning: this week’s piece is all opinion and almost no history; plus, it’s about everyone’s favorite orange… thing. But in all seriousness, that does mean that I have to talk about the election. 

Now, I thought it was a great idea for The Globe not to endorse a candidate. I don’t think newspapers should. However, it doesn’t take an ace gumshoe to deduct that I personally swing left. I have friends that swing left. I follow accounts of other people who swing left. But, something I noticed is that Gritty, the overnight mascot sensation, whose popularity extends past hockey fans and sports fans into the general public, is very popular in liberal and leftist memes. 

There are a lot of reasons why this could be, but I have my own guesses. I think I’d like to start by citing the creator of Gritty, Freelance graphic designer Brian Allen. In a Vox article published in 2018, Allen said the following on Gritty’s conception: “we eventually settled on a monster. Because with a monster, it doesn’t come with preconceived stereotypes. If you choose a bull, it’s gotta be aggressive, or if you choose a hawk, it’s gotta be cunning.”

And I think in and of itself, that’s a very liberal concept. I think for humans, we have expectations set for us before we’re even born. Your genitals at birth decide what color your parents dress you in or what toys they let you play with. For many, race is the foundation of why they are treated worse than others. With how systemic prejudice has become, I don’t know if this is ever possible, but it seems almost utopic to be able to bring something into the world without expectations. Now that my daily allotment of Thinking has been taken up, let me explain why I think Gritty actually grew so much in popularity: it’s because he sucks. 

Well, kind of. It’s because when he was introduced, he sucked. He was just this terrifying orange thing. He was simple and unlike any mascot ever because no other NHL mascot had been this scary from the get go. People started making fun of him then, and liking him ironically because over the past few years, liking something that is bad out of irony has become pretty popular. Eventually, that turned into liking him unironically, because Gritty wasn’t squeaky clean. He wasn’t like the other mascots. People actually loved his angry exterior. I think they decided that Gritty was a leftist because originally, Gritty was a bit of an anti-mascot. Even the most intimidating mascots (for the most part) were pleasing to look at, but Gritty was everything that a group of old people in a brainstorm session wouldn’t like. He was emblematic of mascot counter-culture. He was the people’s mascot, and the people decided that Gritty eats fascists. 

Throughout time, it seemed to be an identity the Gritty grew into, as much as he could. In 2019, Gritty attended Philadelphia’s pride parade, hauling around a large pride flag that included the black and brown stripe, which was adopted by Philadelphia in 2017 to symbolize the struggles that people of color face in the LGBTQ+ community. Granted, he still belongs to a corporation, so I doubt we’ll see Gritty do anything beyond that, but I can say that I think Gritty has cemented himself as a leftist icon, something that I don’t think is going away anytime soon.