The energy inside the New Orleans Arena was a first. On the historic opening night of the New Orleans Pelicans first-ever season, an atypically packed house — decked out in navy blue and red outfits or brand new (and minutes-old) jerseys and ball caps — reached unheard sound levels for a New Orleans basketball team, practically threw themselves onto the court after big shots and bad calls, and at the game's climax for a potential buzzer beater to send the thing into OT, when prompted to get loud — first the men, then women, then kids, then everyone — exploded into an affirming "Holy shit, we have a basketball team" 10-second scream.
Who prompted the crowd? Just one dude, standing at center court. Pierre the Pelican, introduced to fans just an hour before with the fanfare of a John Wall intro, and 45 minutes after dancing alongside the senior dance team, and another 20 after shooting a T-shirt gun and mugging for fan photos.
Nobody should be surprised mascots are goofy. They're cartoons. They're clowns. They rally, dance, pose for pictures — none of this should be news to anyone who has watched any sport in the last 5 million years.
What does Pierre look like? He looks like a pelican. A cartoon-y, clown-y, dancing pelican (with a mohawk). And he's New Orleans' own. He's now one of three mascots for New Orleans major sports franchises. He's not a retrofitted blue and purple hornet. He's a red and blonde pelican, from nowhere else but New Orleans, which celebrated its new team's debut, which is huge deal for a number of reasons.
He is completely and utterly terrifying.
Pierre the Pelican is not badass and does not really look like a Pelican. He is terrifying and awful.
It's the scariest thing in the world.
That's the story — awful knee-jerk hyperbole — from last night's game. Not the impressive first-half start and commanding lead and strong defense (keeping the Indiana Pacers to 35 percent), not what led to the deflated momentum in the second half. Not even, "Hey, New Orleans has a new mascot."
What does one look for in a mascot: spirit, somewhere between youth pastor and rodeo clown, and a sense of humor. If your first thought looking at Pierre is "sheer terror": well, good, I guess that means the Pelicans have another asset in its mascot: striking fear in the cold, cold hearts of its enemies.
You know which NBA mascot looks really scary? This thing. Where are the eyes. That thing survives on the souls who dared to stare too long in the black pits where eyes should be.
By comparison, Pierre is Donald Duck.
In its NBA preview, GQ called the Pelicans a "welcome diversion from the comings and goings of the league when you want to be reminded of basketball's capacity for invention and strangeness."
At least the franchise will hold the world's attention with the strange, even if, really, it's not the strange.
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This looks great.