The Phillie Phanatic exemplifies all that a mascot should be.
The jolly green giant has been bringing joy to sports fans for over three decades now. People love going to games just to see him because he adds to the excitement of the event. Sure, he has a little bit of a weight problem, but doesn't everybody? He's just trying to get by like everybody else.
Because of all these characteristics, the Phillie Phanatic is the gold standard by which all other mascots are measured in my mind. I bring this up because the mascots at the Olympics have been lacking for a while now. Ever since the '96 Summer Games in Atlanta, each mascot has left a lot to be desired.
Are you kidding me? This was one of the worst mascots I have ever seen. I remember seeing Izzy and being embarrassed for a second that the Olympics were taking place on American soil.
Four tiny owls that look like they could be blown over by one big gust of wind. Yikes.
Sydney '00--(l to r) Syd, Millie and Olly
Olly the bird has some potential (the goggles were a nice touch) nut please tell me who thought Syd the platypus and Millie (an enchinda) were cool looking.
Salt Lake City '02--(l to r) Coal, Copper and Powder
Again there was some potential here, but the rabbit's ears look like they could kill somebody. Just take a closer look at this kid's face in the picture, he probably thought Powder's ears were going to crush him.
Athens '04-- Athena and Phevos
As you can see, I actually got to meet this pair in person. They were supposed to be dolls, but what dolls have size 30 feet?
Turin '06--Neve and Gliz
A snowball and an ice cube. That's right I said a snowball and an ice cube. The people in Turin must have spoken to the Atlanta organizers before deciding to go with these two.
Beijing '08--The Fuwa
Maybe the Chinese think these little guys are cute, but I don't think there is going to be a lot of worldwide appeal with this group.
If you would like to see the entire list of old Olympic macosts, I suggest you check this out.
After seeing that list though, I think it's time to declare a state of emergency in Olympic mascot world. The Phanatic should be declared the official Olympic mascot until somebody can come up with another idea.
By the way, if you think things are getting better in Vancouver in 2010, think again.
Salt Lake City mascot phot via ksl.com
Athens mascot photo via my own personal collection
All other photos via Getty Images