If you're a hockey fan or devotee of the noisome digital hive that is Sports Twitter, by now you've probably familiarized yourself with the Philadelphia Flyers' sinister, googly-eyed new mascot, Gritty. An amorphous burnt-sienna blob that looks like the product of the unholy union between a third-tier H.R. Pufnstuf character and an even-more-hirsute-than-usual Seth Rogan, Gritty began winning over children and under-medicated sociopaths alike shortly after the team introduced him to the world on Monday afternoon.
Minutes after his formal unveiling—in a ceremony punctuated by Halloween confetti and theatrical smoke, the Flyers trotted him out for a bunch of ecstatic school kids at Philly's Please Touch Museum—Gritty made his Twitter debut, where he was immediately greeted with accolades, hoots of derision and the inevitable cascade of uninspired reaction gifs. (How 'bout we retire that Exasperated Ryan Reynolds Facepalm thing already, huh?)
Gritty's more enthusiastic early engagers likened the Grimace-shaped mascot to canonical weirdos like Animal from "The Muppet Show" and Gossamer, the lurching orange fuzzball with tennis shoes on his feet and malice in his heart familiar from that old Bugs Bunny cartoon. More cynical Twitter users invoked the grim specter of PCP or observed that Gritty "looks like he's halfway through opening the Ark of the Covenant." One wag snarked that anyone looking for a marketing job should try cold calling the Flyers as the team is likely "hiring an entirely new staff."
Then, shortly after noon on Monday, Gritty secured his Philly cred by threatening to murder the Pittsburgh Penguins' mascot, Iceburgh. And lo! … a star was born.
But the Gritty media cycle was only getting warmed up. By the end of his first day on the job, the shuddersome Flyers ambassador with the bonkers "Phantom of the Opera" backstory had worked up quite a rap sheet for himself. Taking the ice at the Wells Fargo Center for a Bruins-Flyers exhibition, Gritty proceeded to shoot a fleeing team employee in the back with a T-shirt cannon, take a selfie with Claude Giroux's visibly shaken wife Ryanne Giroux and fall on his generous duff multiple times.
When the game ended, Philadelphia's newly-spawned hero fired off a few lethal rounds at human meme Kim Kardashian, aping her internet-shattering appearance on the cover of the Winter 2014 issue of "Paper" magazine. The image is at once haunting and beautiful and crazy, and if Gritty were to form a religion, all discerning hockey fans would join, regardless of team affiliation. No gods but Gritty.
The very next day, Gritty made his national TV debut in a three-minute segment that aired on ABC's "Good Morning America." Eyeballs pingponging wildly like those of a Broad Street cocaine enthusiast after last call, the silent Gritty danced, wiggled and gyrated throughout the interview while an interpreter translated for the home audience. As his allotted time expired, Gritty blew a wreath of smoke from his invisible ears.
Because the NHL faces the same uphill battle to recruit younger fans that has vexed nearly all of the major sports leagues—in 2016, the median age of the NHL viewer was 49 years old, a good seven years north of the NBA if still eight years shy of the MLB—unleashing the likes of Gritty onto an unsuspecting world is a smart play by the Flyers. As much as the internet is going to goof on hockey's ominous and dopey new addition, mascots aren't really meant to get much of a rise out of grown-ups. Gritty, like the Wu-Tang before him, is for the children—and they really seem to dig him.
Killjoy adults and run-of-the-mill haters who believe Gritty is an abomination in the eyes of a hockey-loving deity, consider this: Philly's unrepentantly messed-up new mascot has made a whole bunch of Extremely Online people discuss the Flyers for the first time since the 2009-10 team made it all the way to the Stanley Cup Final. That so many hockey agnostics are gabbing about this perennial lackluster franchise in late September suggests the marketing gimmick is working out rather nicely.