Monday, January 19, 2009

White Sox mascot to help represent Illinois in D.C. inaugural parade

Tourists to the District of Columbia and residents of the capital city are going to get a garish sight when they happen to catch a glimpse of the float included in the inaugural parade that is meant to represent Barack Obama’s home state of Illinois.

To be pulled by a John Deere-brand tractor (the company is based in Moline, Ill.), the float will have a display meant to represent what the Land of Lincoln is all about.

BUT INSTEAD OF having some young girl in a tiara and sash that declares her to be Miss Illinois something-or-other waving her hand, one of the things meant to represent us will be a fuzzy green blob (that’s the best way I can think to describe it) waving its left paw to the masses gathered along Pennsylvania Avenue.

I can’t help but wonder what all those people who don’t have a direct tie to the South Side will think of the sight.

Will some think that we’ve gone goofy in Illinois and/or Chicago? Perhaps they’ll think some creature from the California float snuck onto the Illinois float to try to take over, or that Rod Blagojevich wanted to be a part of the day’s festivities, but had to put on a silly costume in order to sneak in because nobody would let him in as himself?

Because what those people will really be seeing, is Southpaw.

FOR THOSE OF you who have no clue who Southpaw is, the character is the official mascot of the Chicago White Sox baseball team. The guy who wears the costume at White Sox games and at public appearances on behalf of the team is now in the District of Columbia, waiting for his participation in the inaugural parade.

The White Sox (whom Obama has often said are his rooting choice for a professional baseball team) approved inclusion of their mascot on the Illinois float – probably with delusions that it would result in lots of national publicity for the ball club spinning about in their collective head.

Now there are a couple of professional sports franchises who have costumed mascot characters that are a significant part of the teams’ public character. Just about any fan of professional sports in this country knows what the Philly Phanatic is.

In fact, there’s always “The Famous Chicken,” who has become bigger than his original ball club, the San Diego Padres (who now employ a giant costumed missionary named “Friar” to dance around in between innings).

THEN, THERE ARE teams like the White Sox with “Southpaw,” a character created a couple of years ago out of hope that he could help enhance the child-appeal of the ballpark atmosphere at U.S. Cellular Field. Nobody outside of the hardcore fandom has a clue what it is supposed to be.

I don’t know how successful Southpaw has been in trying to gain the love and respect of White Sox fans, or of Chicagoans in general. There are many in our city who don’t have a clue as to his existence. He certainly isn’t beloved.

For every kid who gets a kick out of a giant ball of green fuzz shaking their hand in between innings, there are several (slightly inebriated) adults who find his presence irritating – usually because they think they have to have an attitude that if something didn’t exist in the ball park when they were kids, it must be bad.

In short, Southpaw certainly isn’t a figure that I think of as universally representing our city or state.

I CAN’T HELP but wonder why Jerry Reinsdorf didn’t send the mascot of his other professional sports team in this city – Benny the Bull of the Chicago Bulls would likely have had greater recognition upon being seen by the masses from around the nation. It would also seem to work better, since Obama himself has indicated that while he likes watching the White Sox, basketball seems to be his preferred sport.

So what will the nation think of Southpaw when he gets his national introduction on Tuesday? Will they think he’s cute? Or will they wonder what “Oscar the Grouch” is doing wearing a White Sox uniform?

There is one plus. At least the White Sox no longer have their dueling mascots from the 1980s.

Just think of how ridiculous people would think Illinois is if they were to see the sight of Ribbie and Roobarb engaging in slapstick while roaring down Pennsylvania Avenue on their motorbikes?


EDITOR’S NOTES: There will be moments of sophistication and high culture as part of the Inauguration festivities on Tuesday. Then, there will also be moments such as those ( involving Southpaw.

Jesse White will go from being the guy whose bureaucratic action stalled Roland Burris (,0,2963946.story) from becoming senator for one week to being the namesake of the tumbling team that also will represent Illinois in the parade.

Moline-based John Deere will have dealerships in Pennsylvania and Maryland provide the tractors that will pull floats ( in the inaugural parade.

This ( is Southpaw.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Southpaw is loved my many kids, and adults. I applaud the White Sox for sending this beloved mascot to the parade.