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Mascots Newsbeat

Thursday, June 01, 2023

The Athletic: After 50 years, is this the San Diego Chicken’s last stand? [$]

There have been high-profile highlights since Y2K — a tee-ball game on the White House lawn early in 2001, West’s record-breaking game — but the Chicken has largely faded from the public consciousness.

For Giannoulas, it’s been a slower time by design. In recent years, he’s found himself anonymously walking the concourse out of costume and noticing all the things he’s missed. “You reflect wistfully,” he says. What would it be like to watch a ballgame instead of performing at one? “I was working these things. I was enjoying it,” he says, but there are also joys to be found outside of work. It wasn’t until the early 2000s that he and Jane got to sit on the grass and watch the fireworks on the Fourth of July. “I remember saying, ‘Have you ever done this before?’” she says, “and he said, ‘I never have. Not like this.’”

His thoughts have turned toward his legacy. At times, that has been a subject of tension. His independence was so hard-won, and his livelihood so hard-earned, that Giannoulas felt the need to fiercely protect the character he’d pioneered. Raymond has prodded Giannoulas to share the wealth, to pass along some bits and not be so offended when other mascots use them. Giannoulas feels like he’s the one that put in the sweat equity. “I took the risk to see how they might play with an audience,” he says. Many of his routines are copyrighted, and he hasn’t been shy about enforcing his ownership.

But in another way, Giannoulas has evolved. As a younger man, he’d always insisted the Chicken would die with him. Now he’s become receptive to the idea of passing on the mantle. “Somebody pointed out to me: Do Kermit the Frog and Miss Piggy still exist even though Jim Henson is gone?” he says. “That makes sense. I see the point.” He can envision great things for the Chicken — animation, films, merchandise — under the right stewardship. “In broader hands,” he says, “it can grow exponentially.”

That raises the same question the courts seemed to settle back in 1980: Is it really the Chicken without Giannoulas in the suit? His admirers aren’t so sure. Longtime broadcaster Bob Costas wonders if a newer Chicken could work. The bits are old standards at this point — tired in the hands of anyone else, but vibrant when done by their originator. “When people know it’s the original Chicken,” he says, “that might make a difference to them.” West agrees. “You’re never going to be as good as he was,” the umpire says.

RoyalsRetro (AG#1F) Posted: June 01, 2023 at 04:25 PM | 14 comment(s)
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