A Mascot’s Meanings

Photo: Erick W. Rasco/Sports Illustrated/Getty Images

Next weekend, Hofstra will host “The 50th Anniversary of the New York Mets,” a scholarly conference at which papers will be presented exploring subjects like “How Poetic Forms Ritualize the Mets,” “The Mets As Punk Rock,” and a historian’s perspective on the Keith Hernandez trade. Here, an excerpt from attorney Patricia Rossi’s paper, “The Mascot: An Examination of Its Traditional Societal Significance and Its Evolution Into Its Modern-Day Role in Major League Baseball, Specifically With Respect to the New York Mets Franchise”:

“The reliance upon an object or animal to create good fortune can be traced to the caveman, who worshipped certain wild animals, most likely in the hope that their powers would magically transfer to him and his tribe. But the English word mascot is entrenched in French operatic roots. In 1880, the French opera La Mascotte debuted. It told the story of a farm girl who brought good luck to whomever possessed her, provided she remained a virgin. La Mascotte came to New York City in 1881. One can draw a line from the modern mascot rallying a crowd at a sporting event back through this opera and on to a primitive man performing a dance in a mask and animal skin.

While the Mets’ mascot was intended to ignite the franchise’s popularity, its implementation also responded to societal trends and needs. It’s the mid-sixties, and we see a societal emphasis on the nuclear family. In fact, families are a prime fan contingent. It is quite interesting to note that Mr. Met occasionally appears in print with a Mrs. Met and three little Met children, the smallest of three a baby in Mrs. Met’s arms.

By the mid- to late seventies, the Mets mascot has disappeared. Why? Perhaps one reason: Mr. Met marketed to the nuclear family, but in the mid- to late seventies, the U.S. has begun to experience a steady increase in the divorce rate. One could draw the conclusion that the intended target of the franchise during this era has purposely shifted from the nuclear family to the single male.

In 1994, Mr. Met reappears. Let’s take a broad look at society in 1994: The economy is thriving, and individuals have some discretionary funds. The reappearance of Mr. Met at this juncture seems tied to a corporate milieu. And what about in 2012? As the franchise struggles financially, Mr. Met is being utilized to assist in addressing those issues. One of the perks the owners assembled to attract new investors is personal interaction with Mr. Met. In conclusion, today we see a reliance upon the mascot somewhat akin to primitive man’s, that is, employed to create good fortune and a bountiful harvest.”

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A Mascot’s Meanings