How to fix Phang

Photo by Rob Simmons

The Union continue their run of form in Major League Soccer, sitting 2nd in the East with a chance to go back to 1st this weekend. There is an outstanding issue from the summer however, one not at all related to play on the pitch, that must be addressed.

Last month, the Union’s nascent mascot found himself in Philly Magazine’s “Best of Philly” issue. Considering the breadth of mascot-related coverage in this edition, that should have been a good thing. Unfortunately, his name was listed at the end of the publication, in the short and cutting “Worst of” section.

Phang, the worst of Philly?

How could a creature with such a short lifespan be the worst? The author had already given his support for the blue-bodied-one (and wrote as much shortly after he was born) and had to do some real soul-searching in light of this article.

How could they? Phang is cool, for crying out loud.

The highlights

How cool is Phang? Well, he ate some Skittles off the back of a majestic white horse. That turned his hair into a rainbow and subsequently prepared him to lead the Union’s Pride Night celebrations.

The author has since added this routine to his pre-game ritual, regularly renting an alabaster equus and buying candies in bulk. Alas neither his hair nor beard has been chromatically altered. The Skittles have been exceptional, of course.

He briefly became the 11th member of the Wu Tang Clan. The video memorializing his performance has arguably become the most talked-about Wu clip since Redman’s infamous appearance on MTV Cribs.

Author’s note: If the reader is unfamiliar with this Cribs episode, take some time and watch it. It’s almost impossible to believe it exists in real life.

Editor’s note: Despite his longstanding relationship with Method Man, Redman is technically not a member of Wu-Tang Clan. The Cribs clip is still gold though.

Finally, if you’d look at this, he quite overtly reinforced the theory behind the Bystander Effect while aiding and abetting a crime by noted Philadelphia personality, Ed Bassmaster.

Author’s note: The Bystander Effect has been thoroughly debunked recently, but only in the United Kingdom. Philadelphians will still watch a car get hammered into smithereens in broad daylight and not do anything to stop it.

This video went viral and was likely the inspiration behind Ilsinho’s magisterial performance in the match that followed. In summary, Phang’s is clearly an impressive list of cameos and one worth celebrating.

The problem

The problem isn’t that Phang is cool. He is unequivocally cool.

The problem is that mascots can’t be cool, it doesn’t work. Cute, cuddly, smiley, and even irreverent? Yes. Cool? No. Anything other than cute and cuddly is a swing and a miss, and here are three prime examples of brands going for something other than adorable… and failing.

Hip Hop becomes Franklin

Some local evidence can be found in the Philadelphia 76ers former mascot Hip Hop, the cool (and also super creepy) bunny that looked more like the cover of the reader’s Donnie Darko DVD than something kids might enjoy.


Mascots are for kids though, little kids, and little kids are interested in cute things and funny things because they have no interest in cool things. There is no such thing as cool to a kid. Cool is an adult construct and frankly they’re not jaded like that yet. Thus, Hip Hop never caught on and Hannah was right to be terrified.

Rather than evolve the bunny into something better, he was instead sent to the farm and replaced by Franklin the Dog.

Cuddly, smiley, and non-threatening Franklin the Dog. “1,000+ interviews with local kids” can’t be wrong.

The Michelin Man

The world’s most famous tire mascot went from bombastic to haunting to adorable as he aged, becoming the smushy and bouncy man he is today.

Hip Hop needed to be replaced, he’d gone too far. The Michelin Man didn’t need to be swapped out. Rather, he was rounded out, plumped up a bit and given a smile, even temporarily given glasses (which are very non-threatening), and of course had the eye that grew briefly in the middle of his head removed.

Simple as can, he became happy, smiley, and cuddly.

Mickey and Minnie Mouse

The world’s most famous mouse took a similar route, from horrifying to haunting, from using NBA Jam’s “Big Head” cheat code to straight up warm and charming.

Again, once the brand settled on a mouse for a mascot, they didn’t have to change animal altogether. Bright eyes, a smile, and some slightly wider features were enough to take the edge off.

Lessons learned

Phang is cool and that’s a problem.

The Union don’t have to move on from Phang the way the 76ers did with Hip Hop. Phang isn’t scary, he’s just too hip for his own good. Thus, in order to solve this problem, the Union must do two things to make him more lovable.

First, he needs to be a bit more, how shall it be said… a bit more jolly. The best two mascots in Philadelphia (and, scientifically, the world) are nearly as wide as they are tall and that’s a good thing.

Phang needs a paunch, or a “phaunch” if you will. That’s Step 1.

Second, Phang needs to be a bit more obviously happy. A wider head, a bigger grin, and some raised eye brows are usually enough.

Phang needs to be as happy as this fan is to meet him.

In the end it’s simple. Phang is almost a success but is two details short. Add those two things together? Problem solved.


  1. Note: Poochie died on the way back to his home planet

  2. Phang has a mohawk the only people who have mohawks in 2019 are 8 year olds, 40 year olds on a midlife crisis and corporations trying to be edgy.

  3. Maybe they could give Phang a paunch and explain it as that he’s always digesting a recently eaten rodent.

    FWIW – a fun follow on Twitter is Mascots Minute Silence which shows pics of mascots trying to participate in pre-game moments of silence.

  4. el Pachyderm says:

    With respect to the time and energy spent composing the 1,000 words in this article … I care only about Atlanta United. Let’s stay focused.

  5. OneManWolfpack says:

    Gritty DESTROYED any chance Phang had. Period.
    Phang was “born” about 2 weeks before Gritty. The minute Gritty showed up, it was done… other than that first day or so where people rebelled against Gritty (for some reason).

    • Chris Gibbons says:

      This is true.

    • Gritty proved this town can be a 2 mascot town. A third, for a largely irrelevant sport, is asking too much. He does what he does. I tend to cringe at appearances in vids or public but hardly consider him worthy.

  6. Mascots are for kids and people with no attention span. If both of those cohorts like Phang (seems the kids do, anyway), then we’re good. No disrespect intended to Chris’s amusing think piece on the subject.

    • In Tanner We Trust says:

      Funny enough, Hip Hop was the only mascot I ever liked. The mascot shouldn’t be a major part of a game, and shame on the crowd that only gets loud because a mascot tells them to. That said, nice article. Fun read.

  7. Philly magazine sux. Its target audience is wealthy main liners, not actual city residents. Despite the magazine’s name, they are out of touch with the city. Whatever they say, I believe the opposite

  8. Chris Gibbons says:

    You’re not the kind of guy who wants to spend $250 on 24 Karat Gold goo?


  9. Andy Muenz says:

    Shouldn’t the title of this article be “How to phix Phang”?

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