KEOKUK, Iowa. “Stormy,” the mascot of the Keokuk Grizzlies Arena Football League team, is a cute fuzzy bear who wins the hearts of kids with high fives, pictures and autographs. “I don’t know why they call me ‘Stormy’, and there aren’t too many bears in Iowa, but I love my job,” he says through a mesh screen covering his big grin.
Despite his gentle nature, Stormy is not one to back down from mascot fights, which are staged to provide entertainment for fans but frequently escalate out of control when one animal hits too hard, or uses a hold that violates the Queensbury Rules. “I was going at it with ‘Ducky,’ the mascot for the Mississippi Flyway, and she hit below the belt,” says Stormy. “What you saw on the highlight film after that was not acting.”
Once the dust has settled, however, clashing mascots often behave much as humans do and become intimate. After the female’s gestation period is complete, the resulting product is a sterile cross-breed, comparable to a mule, the offspring of a horse and a donkey. “We love our little guy, even though we’ll never have grandchildren by him,” says Ducky of Storm Bird, a cute and playful fellow who is just beginning to show pin feathers on his paws.
Scientists say there are ecological benefits to cross-breeding mascots, including a wider gene pool into which future mascots may dive, plus a reduction in tedium at many sporting events. “Species are disappearing every day around the world,” says Dr. Ethel Nuringer, a professor of biology at the University of Missouri-Lone Jack. “Some are dying of boredom watching soccer on ESPN2, and a good mascot fight and roll in the hay provides an evolutionary offset.”
But others say the pain endured by half-breed mascot offspring far outweighs whatever remote benefits may accrue to the animal kingdom as a whole. “Imagine how you’d feel,” says Tigress, product of a one-night stand between mascots for the St. Louis Cardinals and the Detroit Tigers. “I’m the only teenage bird I know of with stripes on my face and whiskers.”
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