Endangered Sports Mascots: Save Hip-Hop
Fan movements are usually built around getting a player or firing a coach. Local 98 made “Philadelphia wants Jim Thome” shirts. Flyers fans pined for Eric Lindros. Eagles fans once wanted Ricky Williams, now they want to fire Andy Reid.
Sixers fans want to kill a rabbit.
There is no bigger indictment of the town’s lack of interest in the 76ers than this: The team’s new owners have told Sixers fans they’d read their comments, and the only concrete idea fans can get behind is getting rid of Hip-Hop, the creepy anthropomorphic rabbit that’s been the team’s mascot since 1998.
Hip-Hop, who according to his official biography has a masters in math from Johns HOPkins (get it?), doesn’t really do that much. He dunks off a trampoline in-between quarters with his crew, the Hare Raisers (get it?). He shows up at Sixers charity alongside people like World B. Free (get it?).
He should be pretty innocuous, but there is something really weird about that rabbit. Mascots are supposed to be fuzzy or fearsome. “Muscular rabbit” doesn’t fit either category. CSN’s John Gonzalez calls him “a gross, embarrassing, obvious attempt to appeal to 20-somethings.” It’s true! The mascot of the 76ers seems like he’s a phony.
He’s even kind of a rip-off of the Phoenix Suns’ Gorilla. Why does the team mascot dunk anyway? When the Phanatic plays baseball with other mascots on his birthday—the regular season game to attend, in my opinion—he’s terrible, making him all the more likable.
No mascot in Philadelphia is going to match up with the Phanatic. But when the Eagles do poorly people don’t call for the Swoop’s head. Philadelphia sports fans care so little about the 76ers there isn’t even a player on the team everyone hates.
Ten years ago, the 76ers were the best team in town. In the spring of 2001, every store in the city had a “Go Sixers!” sign in the window. The 76ers were on the cover of the Daily News for 20-plus straight days. People streaked in Center City after Game 1 of the NBA Finals. Nobody complained about Hip-Hop.
Or maybe they did. What Sixers fans really want is for the team to acquire better players, win more games and eventually contend for a championship. But submitting that suggestion to the owners is boring; they have to know that already. It’s more fun to think they’ll read your letter and fix your stupid pet peeve about the 76ers.
So why shouldn’t I join in? Here are my five incredibly frivolous suggestions for the new Sixers owners.
- I think Hip-Hop should stay, but only because I’m a jerk who enjoys how much everyone hates him. The new owners might want to listen to the public, though. I don’t know if they need to go as far as to bring back Big Shot, though; maybe Pat Croce would be willing to come back and play a pirate mascot.
- Dr. J is selling off his championship rings, including the one he won in 1983 with the 76ers. World B. Free is a better ambassador to kids than Hip-Hop. Think how awesome it would be if he teamed up with Dr. J to replace stolen basketball hoops.
- The Inquirer’s Kate Fagan wrote the other day the 76ers practice facility should be more like the team’s futuristic-looking practice facility in Just Wright. It was a convincing argument, and opens up other ideas to take from movies: The Sixers could make a fan the coach (Eddie), get a ghost to influence games (The Sixth Man) or hire Dick Butkus to coach and put a girl on the team (the TNBC sitcom Hang Time).
- Oh, yeah, try to have a season and all. That would be nice. It doesn’t have to be 82 games. But it would be nice to have a chance to buy those cheaper tickets.
- The Sixers play this stupid little chime after they make a free throw. It is the most delightful portion of their in-game presentation, and it needs to stay forever.