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The Phanatic vs. Swoop: Showdown
Meg Favreau
3/4/2008



Illustration: Meg Favreau
It’s late summer, that time when the hot Philadelphia days start giving way to cool nights. While the Phillies are wrapping up another lackluster season, the Eagles are just starting to lace up their cleats. This occasionally results in the event known as “Having a Phillies Game and an Eagles Game on the Same Day.” In a town full of sports fans, this is like to a solar eclipse, but with more beer. 5 p.m. The Phillies finished their game an hour ago, and the fans are now tailgating near the Linc, waiting for a 7 p.m. Eagles kickoff. The robust smell of burgers mixes in the air with the first bite of fall. Beer cans open, ksst, ksst, ksst. People laugh. The Phillies lost today, but there’s still an Eagles game to come. Philadelphia is hopeful and happy. Except for the Phanatic. He’s leaning forward as he drives away from Citizens Bank Park in his Phord Phocus; his posture is defeated. His honking horn of a mouth droops, and his tongue is sticking out just a bit. His wife, a former batgirl named Joanne, scratches his green, furry back. “It’s just hard, y’know Jo?” he says. “I mean, 10,000 losses. 10,000 losses! And I’m supposed to stay cheerful through all of that. I’m supposed to drive a four-wheeler around and act like nothing’s wrong when these guys are getting humiliated out there. And there’s nothing I can do to help! Not to mention that nobody really gave a phuck about us today, it’s all about the goddamn Eagles. I mean, they’re not even playing a real game, just pre-season, and that’s still all anybody cares about!”




Illustration: Meg Favreau
“Come on, Phan,” coos Joanne. “I think you underestimate yourself. You do so much to cheer the players up. I mean, how about that nice batch of thank-you cookies Ryan Howard sent over last week? And just think about the fans, honey. The fans love you.” He looks at her as he pulls onto Pattison. “I know, Jo. I do. Sometimes, though, I just wonder why I –“ Screech. The Phanatic looks up, horrified, as his little Phocus swipes the side of a black Dodge Nitro. The metal yells as the cars push against each other, and the Phocus spins 180 degrees. The Phanatic slams on the breaks, and Joanne gasps as she’s thrown forward into her seatbelt. The airbags deploy with a sudden puff; Joanne hits her head on the window. The Phanatic’s skull knocks back into his headrest. “Oh my god,” says Joanne. And then, everything stops. Everything is quiet. Their ears roar with the sound you hear in a conch shell, when you convince yourself that you’re listening to the ocean but it’s just the blood in your ears, reverberating back at you. They look at each other but don’t say anything. Then the Nitro’s door opens. Out steps Swoop, the Eagles mascot. There’s a cut under his eye, and his feathers are ruffled. Very, very ruffled. “Phuck,” says the Phanatic. His voice is tense with fear and anger. “Not this bastard, not right now.” “Phan…” says Joanne, as he climbs out of the car. “Be careful.” The Phanatic walks toward Swoop with his gut out; Swoop stands next to his SUV with his chest puffed. He’s a tall bastard, with a razor-sharp beak and angry eyes. He’s breathing in and out heavily, and his nostrils flare. “What the fuck, man?” Swoop squawks. When he speaks, the yeasty smell of beer wafts from his breath. “Look what you did to my Nitro, you goddamn wash-up!” “I’m the wash-up?” asks the Phanatic, pointing at himself. “Last I checked, I wasn’t the one drinking before a game!” “It’s called tailgating, idiot. It’s something people do for sports teams that they actually like.” The Phanatic looks at the ground, bites his lip. Joanne opens the car door and holds out his insurance card. “Phan,” she says, “just exchange information and let’s get out of here.” Still looking at the ground, he says quietly, “Get back in the car, Joanne.” She stands there for a moment, hesitant, her knuckles white as she grips the car door. The Phanatic spins around. “I SAID GET BACK IN THE CAR!”




Illustration: Meg Favreau
“Got some problems controlling your woman?” asks Swoop. “Your coach got some problems controlling his sons?” the Phanatic shoots back. “Hey man, I’m not the one who just crashed his dinky little car into the most popular mascot in Philadelphia. Speaking of, I was talking to Howard Eskin the other day, and he said he thought HipHop had more fans than you.” The Phanatic closes his eyes. Quietly, he counts to ten. Then he turns around and starts to walk back to his car. “What’s the matter, man?” calls Swoop. “Are you going to go cry like that sissy boy Mike Schmidt did when he retired?” The Phanatic stops. “What did you say?” Swoop smiles. “I asked if you were going to go home and cry about how much the Phillies mean to you like that stupid little sissy Mike Schmidt.” The anger runs through the Phanatic’s body like coffee, hot and bitter. His muscles tense. He spins around and stalks back up to Swoop. “Don’t you EVER say that about Mike Schmidt. EVER. I am so sick of this shit. Every charity event, every Thanksgiving parade, it’s all about the Eagles, with your cocky face leading it all. Me crashing into your car? That was an accident. An accident. But you know what? You had it coming. I don’t care if you guys almost broke Billy Penn’s curse in ‘05. I don’t care if you’ve got a bunch of cheerleaders hanging off your wing. I don’t care if your games are sold out or that your coach’s sons act like they’re Paris-phucking-Hilton. Hell, you could ejaculate pure gold for all I care. You need to realize that you are not the only goddamn mascot in this town. So yeah. Yeah! I hit your precious car, a car so huge that you’re obviously compensating for something else! Go to your goddamn game. Zipline across the field. Do coke off the breast of one of the cheerleaders when McNabb gets a touchdown. Whatever. But pay for your own goddamn car.” The Phanatic breathes out a choppy breath. He’s shaking. He takes off his cap and runs his hand through his furry hair while Swoop stands there, silent. Then, Swoop laughs. It starts as a chuckle, then erupts into a full belly laugh, crowing out into the late afternoon air. “So what you’re saying to me, man, is that you expect me to pay for my own goddamn car, that you ran into, because your team sucks?” He gasps for air and erupts with laughter again. Doubled over, wings on his knees, Swoop manages to choke out, “10,000 losses.”


When Swoop stands up, his face his red. Smiling, he saunters up to the Phanatic, very purposely puts his wings on the Phanatic’s shoulders, and gives a little push. It’s not hard, and the Phanatic only tips back a little bit. But it’s provocative, the sort of push a middle school bully gives to the asthmatic kid he knows won’t fight back. Like Swoop’s car, the push is a symbol of who’s the biggest. Who’s the best. Whose players are chosen for the Herr’s ads.

But the Phanatic, he pushes back.

Swoop stands there for a moment, stunned. Not stunned from the force of the blow, but from surprise that the Phanatic pushed back. Something flashes in his eyes for just a moment—respect? But then Swoop pulls back his great wing, the muscles tense like rubber bands. The air shakes with anticipation, and Swoop lets fly with an adrenaline-fueled punch into the Phanatic’s face. Inside the Phocus, Joanne screams. A bit of blood sneaks out of the Phanatic’s mouth and down his fur. “I like the way your little lady screams there,” says Swoop, waving his crotch toward her. “Do you think she needs some eagle love?” With that the Phanatic runs forward, his gut wiggling from side to side, and jumps on Swoop, tackling him to the ground. They hit the pavement with a smack and start rolling between the two cars. The eagle bites the Phanatic’s arm with his sharp beak; the Phanatic yelps, then shoots his long tongue into Swoop’s eye. While the bird is disoriented, the Phanatic punches him in the face, once, twice, coming down hard on the Eagle’s skull.

But then Swoop kicks him in the crotch, wrestles his way on top, and punches the Phanatic in the neck. Joanne opens the car door. “STOP IT!” she yells. “For the love of William Penn, stop it!” The Phanatic pushes Swoop away and stands. Both mascots are covered in dirt and blood. The Phanatic walks back to his car. “Ha!” laughs Swoop. “Can’t even take one little fight, man? You’re more of a wuss than I thought! Well go on, then! Go home and cry to Jose Mesa!” Nodding to himself, the Phanatic pops his trunk and pulls out his hot dog cannon. It smells of salted beef parts and glistens in the late-day sun. The Phanatic balances it on his shoulder, closes the trunk, and walks back towards Swoop, who starts hooting with laughter. “You’re going to hit me with the hot dog gun? Oh man, who’s compensating for the size of his dick now, huh?” The Phanatic comes in close to Swoop, so close that his conical mouth is nearly touching the bird’s beak. They lock eyes, the Phanatic shooting daggers from under his feathery blue lashes. Then the Phanatic grabson to one of Swoop’s brown wing feathers, and he pulls. Swoop opens his mouth with a great yowling squawk of pain, and the Phanatic uses that moment to level his cannon and shoot fifteen hot, greasy hot dogs down Swoop’s gullet. The Eagle steps back with the force, gags, catches his breath. The Phanatic drops the cannon to the ground, grabs Swoop by the jersey, and pulls him close. “In thirty years, after you’ve pumped yourself full of steroids and Viagra, after you’ve pushed your muscles further than they should go and made your joints bend bend bend, after you’ve done too much blow and drank too much beer, you know what’s going to kill you? A heart attack caused by these fifteen extra hot dogs. Say hello to death for me, motherphucker. Just not today.” The Phanatic pushes Swoop against his Nitro and gets into his Phocus. He drives away, away from the blood on the pavement and the words that hang in the air. He drives away from Citizens Bank Park and the Linc; he drives away from the fans and the disappointment. His bumper drags on the ground. But it’s okay, it’s okay. Right now, the Phanatic is feeling great.


Listings associated with this Feature:

Citizens Bank Park Lincoln Financial Field


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