Mascot Liability

In an interesting ruling, the Missouri Supreme Court held yesterday that a spectator at a Kansas City Royals baseball game could get a new trial on a lawsuit against the team for an injury he suffered at a game in 2009.  According to the allegations in the case, the fan was hit in the eye by a wrapped hot dog thrown into the stands by the Royals’ mascot, Sluggerrr.  The lawsuit further alleges that the incident caused the fan to experience a detached retina and required him to undergo two surgeries to try to repair the damage.

In Missouri, as in many other states, the “baseball rule” applies to fans who go to a professional sports event.  Teams are protected from claims for injuries arising from the inherent risks involved in watching the event in person — like the possibility that a foul tip might come your way.  The Missouri Supreme Court said, however, that a hot dog thrown by a mascot is not an inherent risk — and thus the “baseball rule” doesn’t apply.

Some legal observers say the decision might cause sports teams to reassess their use of mascots, like Sluggerrr.  Wouldn’t that be wonderful?  I despise lame, furry, meaningless mascots and deeply regret how they have assumed increasingly prominent roles in virtually every sporting venue.  When I was a kid, the organist would play between innings at a ball game, and you could have a conversation and eat some peanuts; now every spare moment is cause for loud music, stupid contests, and idiotic mascots firing cheap t-shirts into the stands and engaging in other antics.  If the Missouri Supreme Court’s decision about Sluggerrr and his hot dog have brought that appalling era to a close, the judicial system has done a very good thing for society.

Stalking Brutus

Here’s a weird codicil to the story about the Ohio University mascot who tried to tackle Brutus Buckeye at the start of the OSU-OU game:  it turns out that the OU mascot always planned to do just that, and indeed tried out for the job of OU mascot last year with the ultimate goal of tackling Brutus at the start of Saturday’s game.  The guy who wore the Bobcat mascot uniform for OU at the game, Brandon Hanning, isn’t even a student at OU any longer.

Who knows where the Bobcat guy could be lurking in the future?  Brutus could be innocently buying groceries, only to get blasted by the Bobcat lurking behind one of the produce bins, or he could be hoisting a beer at a campus establishment and look up only to see the Bobcat bearing down on him, teeth bared.  If I were Brutus, I’d consider getting a restraining order.

Should Brutus Buckeye Be Updated?

The current Brutus

Every true Ohio State fan knows Brutus Buckeye.

In his current incarnation, Brutus is a muscular figure with a two-tone buckeye nut head that has human features.  He wears a Block O cap, a scarlet and grey striped rugby shirt with “Brutus” emblazoned across the chest, and scarlet sweat pants.  Ever discreet, he sports a strategically placed Ohio State towel at his midsection.  Brutus helps the cheerleaders lug the big Ohio State flag as they run down the field when the team enters before a football game, and he regularly interacts with the cheerleading squad, members of the band, Ohio State athletes, and diehard Ohio State fans during games and at tailgates.  In Columbus, at least, he is a popular figure.  It isn’t unusual to see Brutus Buckeye decals on cars around town, for example, and many Buckeye fans have a photo taken with Brutus prominently displayed at their home or office.

An early Brutus

Brutus Buckeye wasn’t always an athletic human figure, however.  When I first started going to OSU football games in the early ’70s, Brutus was a big Buckeye nut with eyes and legs and not much else.  He couldn’t carry a flag because he had no arms.  However, he could do an amusing little dance, his comparatively tiny legs boogieing away under that enormous nut head.  He also could somehow spin the head, which was cool.

I’m not sure how long Brutus has had his current incarnation.  It’s 20 years, at least.  Does anyone even wear rugby shirts anymore?  I therefore pose the question:  Should Brutus be updated?