The Pelicans have now debuted their physical mascot, appropriately around Halloween and Dia de Los Muertos. Dubbed “Pierre the Pelican,” his Lovecraftian visage is certain to star in the nightmares of many an impressionable child.
The national media has latched onto Pierre’s horror-inducing appearance with particular gusto. USA Today’s sports page labeled him “completely and utterly terrifying.” Deadspin opined that Pierre is “perfectly armed to terrify,” describing his massive mouth as “the portal for your soul’s devourment.” There was even speculation that perhaps Pierre was just a Halloween ploy.
Twitter was no more forgiving. One tweet referred to Pierre as a “clown murder bird.” References to Pierre eating babies and small children abounded.
It’s easy to see why commentators are railing. Pierre looks eerily similar to New Orleans’ other famously frightening visage, the Pontchartrain Beach clown. Perhaps Pierre was intended as an homage (or the hand-picked successor) to that scary clown that infested our neuroses. More likely than not, however, he was just a huge marketing blunder.
This latter interpretation is taken by blogger Jeff Bostick, who argues that Pierre was “focus-grouped into being to appeal to some composite 12-year-old boy who doesn’t exist in real life.” There’s merit to this stance. Rather than looking ungainly and somewhat awkward like a real Pelican, Pierre was designed to appear athletic, tough and ready for business. Hell, he’s even got a Mohawk.
However, we’ve all seen corporatized mascots before. The particular problem here is that the “business” Pierre appears ready for entails tracking down and murdering college students at a remote cabin.
On the other hand, Alex Woodward over at Gambit Weekly has argued that all of this is “awful knee-jerk hyperbole.” Woodward points out that the mascot for the Sacramento Kings, Slamson the Lion, is far more scary looking. I tend to agree with Woodward on this score, if only because Slamson’s cold, dead, vacant eyes trump Pierre’s Joker-esque smile. However, it’s still a close call.
But Woodward is also correct on his overall point that Pierre has engendered a disproportionate response. Sure, he’s a nightmare-inducing abomination straight from the pits of Hades, but mascots in general range from goofy to scary. Hugo the Hornet, our prior mascot, looked like a cross between a Teletubby something out of a bad Japanese anime. Is anybody really mourning that?
With the unmerited fracas that accompanied the name-change of New Orleans’ NBA franchise from Hornets to Pelicans, I suppose a negative reaction was inevitable. It’s not helped by the fact that Pierre is, in fact, a thousand kinds of awful.
In the end, all we can really take from this is that I already know my Halloween costume for next year. It’s sure to be scary!
Owen Courrèges, a New Orleans attorney and resident of the Garden District, offers his opinions for UptownMessenger.com on Mondays. He has previously written for the Reason Public Policy Foundation.