Thursday, October 31, 2013

Did no one even think to call him Pistol Pierre?

The New Orleans Pelicans made their regular season debut last night in front of a nearly full house (nest?).  I say "nearly full" because some of us apparently had difficulty finding a ride.

Those fans who chose not to burn their tickets were treated to an entertaining basketball game. Or at least a large portion of one. The Pelicans couldn't quite finish off the Pacers after having led for most of the game.

There were many positives, though. The young re-vamped Pelicans roster is athletic and versatile.  During the first half in particular they looked especially quick on defense. Their guards disrupted a lot of passes. They scored "points in transition" which we are often told is a good thing. Jrue Holliday is as good as advertised.  Eric Gordon looks a little taller in the new uniform, although maybe that's just because he's standing up. Tyreke Evans didn't really do anything to impress me but I like the idea of him coming off the bench.   Anthony Davis has a goddang 20 foot jumper! This is going to be a fun team to watch.  It's a little sad that they couldn't win the home opener. But, if you're among the record number of season ticket purchasers this year, do not set those tickets on fire just yet.

Anyway, none of that has much to do with the actual story from last night which is this. The Pelicans' new mascot is downright horrifying.

Wait. Sorry. That's not him.  Here he is.

This is Pierre the Pelican, the mascot that the New Orleans Pelicans have chosen to represent the team's totally badass namesake. Pierre the Pelican is not badass and does not really look like a Pelican. He is terrifying and awful.

This beast is perfectly armed to terrify. From a distance, it's cute and cuddly enough to make you think you shouldn't be afraid, but then you get up close and catch a glimpse of that gaping, "smiling" maw which is the portal for your soul's devourment. Bravo if this is all a Halloween ploy.
Luckily the internet was created to polish such turds for us.  It did not disappoint last night.  By now there are far too many Pierre-themed one-liners, GIFS,and Photoshop jobs to collect in one place. But SB Nation and B & G Review do a good job of getting you started.

Naturally there is also the obligatory contrary argument.  Gambit's Alex Woodward writes
That's the story — awful knee-jerk hyperbole — from last night's game. Not the impressive first-half start and commanding lead and strong defense (keeping the Indiana Pacers to 35 percent), not what led to the deflated momentum in the second half. Not even, "Hey, New Orleans has a new mascot."

What does one look for in a mascot: spirit, somewhere between youth pastor and rodeo clown, and a sense of humor. If your first thought looking at Pierre is "sheer terror": well, good, I guess that means the Pelicans have another asset in its mascot: striking fear in the cold, cold hearts of its enemies.
Reading Alex regularly over the years, I've come to understand that internet-borne "knee-jerk hyperbole" is something of a pet peeve of his.  But I don't think the reaction to Pierre the Pelican is an appropriate example to apply this complaint to.

For one thing, the multiple pilings on from all corners certainly can be said to exhibit a sense of humor. Some are funnier than others, of course, but the general thrust of these posts is not that the commenters are literally terrified.  They're laughing at a mascot that the majority feel has missed its mark somehow.

I agree with Alex that a mascot is an essentially goofy thing. Sports, themselves, are goofy activities that nonetheless inspire irrational communal passions among groups of otherwise loosely affiliated people. A proper mascot is a kind of performance art commentary on how absurd the whole situation is.

The reason Pierre fails to do this, though, is he appears to be taking himself a little too seriously.  It's as though the artists who designed him bent a little too much to the misguided criticism that Pelicans was not "intimidating" enough to serve as a nickname for a sports team.  If you think your team's name needs to intimidate foes, you're probably taking the wrong approach to this to begin with.  Besides, real life pelicans are quite frightening. If you really want to scare some children, put a live pelican out on the court.

But we don't actually want to intimidate anyone with our costumed buffoon. We want to entertain people. We want to dance around and do some pratfalls for them. We want to fire some T-shirts to them out of a pneumatic tube.  Pierre just isn't enough of an avuncular goof for these purposes.

Instead he looks designed to convince some imagined naysayers that a pelican damn well could get out and play some ball if he wanted to.  Check out Pierre's wristbands.  Notice the costume's athletic build.  See the look of mad determination on his face.  That freaking mohawk. This is a Peli-bro we are looking at.  He looks like he was focus-grouped into being to appeal to some composite 12 year old boy who doesn't exist in real life.  We've seen this before. It's classic "Poochie-ism"

This is why everyone is laughing. The problem isn't only that Pierre is "too scary" it's that he's trying to be an "intimidating" presence in a position that doesn't actually call for that. He's ridiculous for the same reasons Greg Schiano is ridiculous. Sure it's funny and absurd and we like those things. But it's unintentional humor. I'm glad we got to have a our laugh at its expense, of course. But that still doesn't make the thing a success.

P.S. The name Pierre is also terrible. Like they just looked around the room and said, "New Orleans is kinda French, right?" I appreciate the symmetry of having a Pierre and Drew on the Saints and a Pierre and a Jrue on the Pelicans but, clearly, this was not an intentional joke either.

No comments: