The Philly Phanatic and the Phandom Menace

The other day, I learned that down in Clearwater, Florida, the mayor had bestowed the key to the city to none other than the Philly Phanatic.

Yes, that’s right. Mayor George Cretekos gave the key to the City of Clearwater, Florida–a city of which he is technically in charge–to a baseball team’s mascot.

The reason, it seems, is because the Philadelphia Phillies have visited Clearwater for Spring Training annually for the past 66 years, having started in 1947. The news was covered in a press release that the city published just the other day to commemorate the Phillies’ return to Clearwater for yet another round of preparations for the forthcoming 2012 season.

Of course, hearing that the Phanatic–which is basically some weird, Philadelphia-themed Muppet-man–had received the key, I started thinking about the mascot, and just how phanatical Phillies phans are about him. There’s no better way to figure that out than to see what kinds of weird junk you can buy bearing his bizarre, green likeness.

A quick search on Amazon turns up plenty of products, most of which seem to be aimed at kids. That’s not surprising, considering that mascots are basically cartoon characters teams use to indoctrinate fans young–and a big, green, fluffy weirdo must seem more fun to a little kid than just a bunch of bored-looking guys sitting in the dugout.

It’s also hard not to get distracted by the first few listings right out of the gate. The first item for sale is a cute little plush doll shaped in the Phanatic’s image. Though, at $24.99, it’s not that cute. After that is a children’s book, The Phillie Phanatic’s Christmas Wish, an item that answers a question I never knew I had: the Phillie Phanatic is a Christian. And here I imagined he’d be, like, some kind of weird demon worshiper. I mean, look at that guy.

Perhaps most disturbing is a ten dollar DVD called The Phillie Phanatic Goes Hollywood, a “movie” that runs…

…37 minutes.

So, you know, nothing especially epic there.

Funnily enough, the movie doesn’t appear to be listed on IMDB, making me wonder whether or not the movie is even real, or if you’ll just get a DVD case filled with sand and shredded baseballs or something. If it is real, though, it makes you wonder what kinds of situations the Phanatic might encounter out in Lipstick City. Drug abuse? Romance? The Dodgers?

Of course, the Philly Phanatic has appeared on the small screen in places that go beyond his antics at Philadelphia home games. Watchers of the excellent show 30 Rock might remember he showed up on an episode from season six a few weeks ago. There, via subtitle, he claimed to be a lost undersea king, which is, perhaps, my favorite moment for this giant green thing.

In the end, what have we learned? That mascots are marketable? That the Philly Phanatic enjoys the Yuletide Spirit? And that mayors are basically just giving out keys to the city to anyone who’ll walk up to the podium? I’m not sure. But I do know this: I’m really tired of writing “Phanatic” as though that’s really how it’s spelled.

C’mon, Philadelphia. Get it together with your spelling.



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