What makes the Phillie Phanatic such an iconic mascot? The Phanatic is a lovable trickster who not only loves the Phillies (hence, the name) but also gets the crowd involved and starts all sorts of shenanigans with players including the Phillies. He has been known to start fake arguments with umpires, warm up in the bullpen, try arresting opposing players, and even ride his ATV over Mets and Tommy Lasorda dummies in front of their dugout.
In fact, the Phanatic is arguably the best mascot, entering the Mascot Hall of Fame in 2005 and beating out the San Diego Chicken for the 2008 and 2011 Forbes Magazine Best Mascot. He has his own line of collectables and his own children’s books series. He even appeared in a hilarious ESPN commercial.
This so far is an impressive list of the Phanatic’s credentials but one thing trumps these all: the existence of the Phanatic’s Japanese doppelganger. The culprit is Japan’s Hiroshima Carp, probably known best for this viral video.
Hiroshima Carp’s mascot Slyly has caused a ruckus for hardcore, yet unsuspecting Phillies fans (otherwise notorious for fights and miscellaneous slander) over the overt similarities. Both mascots are big, fat and furry, with long noses, retractable tongues and large wide eyes. They both wear baseball shoes and a large baseball jersey. The only real difference is that, while the Phillie Phanatic is green, Slyly is blue.
Interestingly, the two mascots were produced by the same company, Harrison/Erickson in New York, in connection with Jim Henson of “The Muppets” and “Sesame Street” fame (source).
What isn’t similar between these two? Of course, Slyly’s budget is much smaller than his stateside counterpart (source). Also, the Phanatic’s age is twice that of Slyly’s (source). And while the Phanatic romps around on his ATV, Slyly is equipped with a not-so-cool Segway. Last, Slyly has a Mohawk that sags down his neck resembling a mullet.
The man behind Slyly is actually a Philadelphian who has more than a bit of experience in the field (source). In the US, he has performed as various mascots, not to mention being a former Phillies Phanstormer (one of the guys that helps load the hotdog and t-shirt-shooting guns). The Carp management decided Slyly’s identity should remain secret (although many Japanese knew he was a foreigner after his dancing-through-Japan’s-national-anthem blunder).
Slyly is a party animal like the Phanatic but in a more reserved way. Given the modest nature of the Japanese, Slyly has keenly appropriated the Phillie Phanatic gig and has thoroughly adapted it to the culturally different game of baseball in Japan. In fact, there are many differences between baseball for Americans and Japanese.
Japanese fans cheer in relatively different, yet respectful ways. They only cheer when their own team is at bat. No one yells at the refs. No one mocks or harasses the other players. Music and crowd chants are lead by what seems like college marching bands that sit in a reserved section. The cheers are very structured and everyone chants together. There is the common “kattobase” chant which roughly translates to “Let ‘er rip!”, a seventh inning fight song, and a few others. You could imagine the differences on the field as well.
Imitation is the highest form of flattery, as the saying goes, and with the heart and talent of Hiroshima Carp’s Slyly, Phillies fans should be flattered.