- The Washington Times - Friday, July 11, 2003

Admit it. You chuckled. Cackled. Maybe even howled at the sight of Pittsburgh Pirates third baseman Randall Simon putting a kielbasa kibosh on one of the Milwaukee Brewers’ sausage mascots the other night, capsizing the Italian wiener with a well-placed bat tap to its foamy, oversized head.

And if you didn’t manage a hearty guffaw? Or found the whole dog-dropping spectacle “sickening,” like Brewers vice president Rick Schlessinger? Then read no farther. You’re already dead inside. And frankly, there’s nothing we can do. At least nothing that Prozac can’t do better.

For the rest of us — that is to say, those of us not employed by the Milwaukee Sheriff’s office — Simon’s assault-and-Brat-tery was largely laughable. For one, no one was seriously hurt. Second, and more importantly, a mascot went down. Hard. Which is funny in and of itself.

And also deeply satisfying. In a twisted, vicarious way. After all, who among us hasn’t wanted to pick up a large stick and play Wack-a-Wiener, striking back at the grinning goons and cavorting clowns that turn every game into a furry-suited theater of the absurd?

Or to put things another way: There’s a little sausage killer in all of us.

Go ahead and deny it. Swear up and down that you’re just not capable of mascot malice. That you wouldn’t harm a College of the Atlantic Black Fly. Truth is, you know better. Consider the evil lurking in the hearts of men, especially Philadelphia Eagles fans. Really, you have no idea what you’re capable of. None of us does. At least not until we’re holding a shillelagh in one hand. And that overstuffed, ripe-for-a-rappin’ Syracuse Orangeman in the other.

But don’t take our word for it. Look at recent history. Four years ago, a Philadelphia electrician shoved Baltimore Orioles mascot John Krownapple off the right-field wall at Camden Yards. Krownapple fell 15 feet, broke his left ankle, spent a month in a wheelchair and later won a $50,000-plus judgment against his attacker.

Earlier this year, Edmonton Oilers coach Craig MacTavish tore out the tongue of Calgary Flames mascot Harvey the Hound — never mind that (a) it wasn’t his real tongue, and (b) mascots aren’t allowed to talk anyway.

To hear former Washington Capitals and Detroit Tigers mascot Erin Blank tell it, mascot mauling isn’t uncommon.

“I would have people come up to me on the street and ask me if they could punch me,” she says. “I’ve been head locked and dog piled many times.”

Like former NBA guard Dennis Scott, we all have some rage inside. Maybe it’s the soul-destroying downtown traffic. Or having to pony up for Redskins preseason tickets. Or the guy on the Metro whose cell phone rings to the tune of “Yankee Doodle Dandy,” thereby approximating the soundtrack to Hades. Whatever the case, our inner Bruce Banners — the green, angry version — long to come out and play. And when they do, mascots make for easy targets.

“I think it’s the Wile E. Coyote factor,” Blank adds. “It’s a big cartoon character, so let’s see him smack his face into a cliff. You perform slapstick maneuvers, so fans think that’s permission to get rough with you.”

That’s part of it. But not all. In the manner of circus clowns, mascots are a bit frightening. Revolting, even. The grotesque and alien always bother us. Especially when it looks like a steroidal minotaur (Chicago’s Da Bull). A bulging, bug-eyed Greek soldier (Michigan State’s Spartan). A particularly irksome Christmas tree (Stanford’s Tree).

Plus, to anyone older than 5, mascots can be remarkably irritating — in that special fashion usually reserved for mimes making invisible boxes. There’s the hokey, off-kilter dancing. The constant mugging for the cameras. The tedious trampoline dunking. All of it as fresh as playing “YMCA” over the stadium sound system. Night after night after maddening night.

Faced with an evening of floppy-shoed follies and stuck with a tray of $8 beers, who hasn’t had the urge to pull a Terry Tate on Chicago’s Benny the Bull? Or pull the foam landing pad out from under Denver’s Rocky the Lion? Or simply rise up and swat G-Wiz’s somersault slam into the third row, a la those recent Mountain Dew Code Red commercials? Considering the circumstances, is it any wonder Simon snapped?

Better question: Why didn’t Simon snap sooner?

Look, it’s not that anyone condones senseless violence. Let alone senseless hot dog abuse. Even in the service of a cheap laugh. Still, there’s a reason Simon’s wiener-whomping antics were mostly met with a collective snicker. And in our blackened heart of hearts, just a little bit of envy.


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