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Mascots, Unmasked

An absurdly deep dive into the history, culture, and antics of sports mascots.

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If you’ve ever wondered what’s going on inside Mr. Met’s gigantic head, this reading list is for you. Here’s how dancing chickens, slam-dunking gorillas, and wacky whatsits invaded the sidelines, plus tales of iconic (and occasionally infamous) sports mascots and the performers who bring them to life.

Image by Tom Fowlks/Getty Images

La Mascotte [LISTEN]

99% Invisible

Furry, larger-than-life, foam-headed mascots may seem standard-issue for sports teams now, but this is only a relatively recent phenomenon in the history of professional sports.

The Mascot Whisperer

Max Rubin
The New York Times

Dave Raymond practically invented the modern sports mascot. And over four decades, he has built a career on helping pro teams bring them to life.

The Monster in the Mirror

Michael Baumann
The Ringer

Gritty, the Philadelphia Flyers’ sensation-causing mascot, is a weird and scary avatar for a weird and scary time. The 7-foot-tall orange monster didn’t just put one city in touch with its identity: He is all things to all people. He is meme. He is messenger. He is message. And, in many respects, he is messianic.

How Cyril the Swan Became the UK’s Most Notorious Mascot

Jeff Maysh

Beginning in the late ’90s, Swansea City’s mascot was accused of all manner of fowl play, from inciting riots and head butting a referee to attacking other mascots and even a rival coach, all while saving the club’s financial fortunes. Then the nine-foot-tall bird became the prime suspect in a serious assault.

The Secret Life of Live Mascots

Ryan McGee

Uga, Bevo and Rameses are all household names to many college football faithful. See what life is like off the field for these living symbols of school pride.

BONUS READ: A Look Inside Japan’s Obsession With Bizarre Mascots

James Dator
SB Nation

In the United States, mascots are designed to appeal to children and are typically associated with sports and consumer brands. This is not true in Japan, where almost every brand, prefecture, and local government is represented by a mascot, promoting everything from local produce to pachinko parlors and generating billions of dollars in the process.