Hero of the masses: Gritty, meet a true mascot of the people, Southpaw. (@Southpaw)
Allow me to briefly step across the sports aisle to discuss Philadelphia Flyers mascot Gritty.
Gritty is a seven-foot-tall, amorphous, orange, hirsute being. You may be thinking “Well, that doesn’t really sound too different from other ambiguous sports mascots.”
Generally, I would have agreed with you. Until I looked deeply into Gritty’s eyes.
Not all heroes wear pants. pic.twitter.com/2Ln7CwMhIs
— Gritty (@GrittyNHL) December 4, 2019
Gritty’s batshit gaze is the embodiment of something Friedrich Nietzche said:
If you look long enough into the void, the void looks back through you.
It makes a perplexing amount of sense that leftists have co-opted Gritty as a symbol of antifascism and working class rebellion. What initially began as a Philly-area adoption of Gritty as a leftist idol has become a nationwide sentiment.
The Jacobin, a publication that describes itself as “a leading voice of the American left, offering socialist perspectives on politics, economics, and culture,” claimed Gritty for the left with a simple tweet:
Gritty is a worker
— Jacobin (@jacobinmag) September 26, 2018
Although Gritty has been crowned as King of the Working Class, I would like to propose an alternative leader: Southpaw, the Chicago White Sox mascot.
— Southpaw (@Southpaw) August 8, 2019
Regardless of your social, economic, or political stances, it is a fact that Chicago has a vibrant and rich legacy or immigrant and working class neighborhoods. In the early 20th Century, Chicago was the site of many critical labor upheavals. These early strikers were men, women, and children who hailed from Pilsen, Bridgeport, Pullman, and other South Side neighborhoods.
The South Side in particular was home several working class industries (meat packing, steel mills, and basically all the other jobs no one wanted to do) as well as a large amount of black Chicagoans who arrived in the city after Reconstruction and in the Great Migration. Rich black industry grew in the South Side, but it was not without struggle. The Red Summer of 1919 occurred as a result of racial tensions bubbling over after increased job and housing competition. Slap an expressway in the middle of everything to further divide people, and, in an incredibly brief oversimplification, the South Side has long been a cauldron of racial, labor, and class tensions.
In contemporary times, it seems at times to be the South Side against the rest of Chicago and the world. I can only speak from a transplant’s experience, but the image outsiders (especially white folks) have conjured up of the South Side is one of wild-eyed fear and unknowing.
That fear and unknowing extends to White Sox fans. White Sox fans, as you all know, are a mystery to everyone that isn’t a White Sox fan. And to be honest, people should be scared of White Sox fans, as they are the baseball equivalent of self-flagellators.
While there are various White Sox players, commentators, and other symbols we idolize in our suffering, it is time to put away our earthly comforts and embrace the unknown that is Southpaw.
What is Southpaw? Like the mystery of the South Side and Sox fandom, honestly, none of us really know. But we find out what Southpaw isn’t from his MLB profile:
Some people think he’s an alligator, frog or even a dirty sock. Those are all really goofy, but he’s none of those. Southpaw is a fuzzy green dude that loves the Chicago White Sox. Southpaw’s favorite snack is Ants on a Log. No, not real ants (he’s not an anteater, silly), but the snack with celery, peanut butter and raisins. He had a pet rock once, but he rolled away.
Believe it or not, this vague description put to bed some questions we had at SSHP. Brett and I briefly discussed Southpaw’s gender identity and how we would go about finding out about it, but luckily, the MLB helped us figure out the proper pronouns to use for Southpaw.
We are able to glean a few insights about Southpaw’s viewpoints via social media:
Southpaw believes in a regulated work day.
— Southpaw (@Southpaw) December 2, 2019
Southpaw puts his time in working in charity and entertainment, but quittin’ time is quittin’ time.
Southpaw is a creature of the people …
— Southpaw (@Southpaw) August 14, 2019
Even fans of the opposing team. If there are any Astros fans looking to jump ship, run into Southpaw’s warm embrace, comrades.
… and the people love Southpaw back.
— Southpaw (@Southpaw) January 20, 2020
Southpaw isn’t afraid to strike and stand up to bullies.
— Southpaw (@Southpaw) October 17, 2019
A true leader of the people is not afraid to go on strike or face down powerful figures.
Southpaw stands for equality.
— Southpaw (@Southpaw) July 1, 2019
And, finally, Southpaw doesn’t punch children.
Gritty recently ran into trouble with the law for assaulting a 13-year-old. From SI.com:
Philadelphia Flyers mascot Gritty is under investigation for allegedly assaulting a 13-year-old boy during a photo shoot, police said.
Chris Greenwell and his son Brandon met the hairy, googly-eyed mascot at a November event for season ticket holders. Brandon patted Gritty on the head after he and his father posed for a photo with him at the Wells Fargo Center, Greenwell told The Philadelphia Inquirer.
Greenwell said that as Brandon walked away, Gritty ran out of his chair and “punched my son as hard as he could.”
With a history of hardcore, working-class credibility, residence on the blue-collar side of a union-heavy city, love of the people and equality, and disdain for the powerful, Southpaw is America’s true working-class mascot.
When you gaze into Southpaw’s eyes, you will not see a void; you will see a comrade looking back at you saying, “Damn the man. Gritty, who?”
— Southpaw (@Southpaw) July 4, 2019