Everyone has their own differing opinions when it comes to what makes a good, respectable sports mascot, and no fictional beast has polarized the general audience more than the orange, Philly-born mutt known as Gritty.
The Philadelphia Flyers unveiled the googly-eyed, sinister beast to the start off the NHL season, and right off the hop it was clear that Gritty wouldn't be playing the roll of your everyday, child-pleasing mascot we've grown to love and accept.
No, no, no. This thing is different. Gritty is a cocky asshole. A superstar of a mascot who has spent his first month in the spotlight in both the hockey world and beyond. From flying into Philly's home opener on a literal wrecking ball, to making the rounds on the late night TV circuit, to recreating a viral Kim Kardashian photo, to growing a Twitter following of 150K in a month, Gritty has forced himself into the mainstream conversation. And, remember, he's just a fucking mascot.
For every person outside the city that has a problem with the Flyers' new hype man, there's 100 Philadelphia sports fans who are firmly behind the savage monster. It's peak Philly in the most glorious way.
One of those people who is all in on Gritty is 25-year-old apprentice lineman, and Northeast Philly native, James Kirn, a lifelong Flyers fan who showed his respect to the polarizing mascot by getting a massive, vibrant (and very, very permanent) tattoo of the tweaked-out fur ball directly on his left ass cheek.
In a very important conversation with VICE Sports, Kirn spoke about the decision and reaction he's gotten since getting Gritty's face plastered across his ass.
The following interview has been edited for length and clarity.
VICE Sports: What were your first thoughts when the Flyers unveiled Gritty to the world?
James Kirn: Oh man, I guess the same thing everyone else thought—like what the hell is that thing? But I loved it immediately, when it came out [I thought] that this is great. I just thought it was hilarious. How could you not?
What has made Flyers fans like you and many around hockey embrace this freak of a mascot so much?
It's just the way he acts, running around like a mad man. The way he acts toward the fans and everyone else, you know? He pretty much does whatever he wants whenever he wants to do it. It's pretty badass.
Where did the idea to get Gritty tattooed on your ass come from?
My buddy who was supposed to go with me is getting married, so he came over and asked me to be in his wedding and brought me a bottle of whiskey, and that's how it all started. And then we went and grabbed food and when he was going to take me home he mentioned it and I said, 'Dude, I'm in.'
[My] buddy brought it up to me. I always wanted to get a tattoo on my ass cause I knew it'd be funny, but he brought it up to me and was like, 'Yo, let's get Gritty tattoos on our asses, and I'm like, 'Let's do it.' If I thought people weren't going to get a laugh out of [the tattoo], it definitely wouldn't be on me right now, I'll tell ya that.
But then your buddy bailed after bringing up the idea?
We were out grabbing some some drinks and something to eat [on October 18], and he was taking me home and was like, 'You wanna go get those Gritty tattoos?' And I [told him] I'm all in. [But] we just ended up going home that night. Later on I texted [my buddy] and said, 'Yo I'm going, I found someone to do it and you're either in or you're out.' And he said he didn't know, so I said, 'Alright, sorry man.' And the next thing I know I'm face down getting my ass tattooed.
What's the reaction been like from friends and family?
I mean I loved the idea, like why not, you know? I think it's funny, apparently everyone else thinks it's funny. Of course there's a handful of people that think I'm a jackass but I don't care—that shit doesn't bother me. The bad reaction I've gotten isn't too bad, just people thinking I'm a jackass, which I know I am so it doesn't bother me.
After it was done I went [to see my friend who suggested the idea) and a couple of my buddies were there and took videos and stuff. Dude, it's hilarious. My brother is a huge Flyers fan so he loves it. [My] mom and dad were kind of like, you know. My sister's got a bunch of tattoos so she thinks it was pretty funny. Friends and family laugh at it because they know my personality—they're not exactly surprised that I went through with it.
My sister and brother love the ass tattoo so much they're getting the Phillie Phanatic and the Sixers mascot (Franklin) on their asses, and I have a 13-year-old brother whose going to get like a fake Swoop tattoo (the Eagles mascot) on his ass and we're getting a picture.
How many beers deep were you the night you got inked?
Quite a few. Yep, quite a few.
How did you select the tattoo artist and what kind of reaction did they have?
I have some tattoos but I wasn't going to make my regular guy tattoo my ass, you know? So I went to [some guy] in the city. He was real hesitant at first. I walked in and I asked him if he knew the Flyers mascot, Gritty, and he said of course. Then I was like, 'Well I want to get that on my ass' and he kind of like put his head down and looked over at one of the other artists and the other artist like shrugged his shoulders. [But then] the guy said, 'Alright, fuck it, let's do it.'
I [asked if] he was sure and [he was], so I said, 'Fuck it, let's do it.' He went back and drew it up and that was it. After he got over the fact that he was tattooing my ass, he actually loved the idea—he thought he could go viral with it, too, so he made sure to do his best work on it, and he definitely did. It turned out great.
What was your mindset once you knew it was actually going to happen?
Once I was committed it was game on. Once I decided to do it, there was nothing stopping me. I didn’t even care because, like I said, I knew it was going to be funny shit, so why not? There wasn't one single part of me that thought, 'Am I really doing this?' I was one-hundred percent in—not even one bit of hesitation.
Anyone in the Flyers organization, media, or Gritty himself, reach out to you after?
Nah, not really. I was actually surprised when you even contacted me—I thought, 'Wow, is this guy serious?' I'm going to try to get Gritty to come to my buddy's wedding next year. I'm going to try to get him to come to the wedding and I think the only thing that's going to stop it is if the Flyers have a game that day because it's an October wedding. That might be the only issue. It'd be great, so I'm going to work on that.
How do you feel about going semi-viral on social media?
When I put it on Twitter I was just doing it for a laugh, I didn't think people would eat it up like they did. I didn't put it on Instagram or Facebook or anything, I just threw it up on Twitter to see what kind of reactions I'd get. I was reading some of the stuff people were saying and I just could not stop laughing. It was great.
How much did it cost and what was the process like?
I think it took around two and a half hours. And it hurt like hell. It hurt real bad. I think I paid him $300. I know what they cost so I knew it was a good price.
[But] I never intended for it to be as big as it was. He pulled out two stencils and I looked at both of them and one was bigger and one was a little smaller, and he put the stencil down and I looked at it in the mirror and thought, 'Wow, that’s huge.' I never wanted it to be that big but I was like, 'You know what, fuck it.' I didn't even care. It takes up my whole ass [cheek].
Do you see yourself regretting this at some point?
No, no. I've already committed to the fact that it's on there forever so, no, I don't care.
You going to even out your ass tattoo ratio with one for the other cheek?
I've thought about it already, we'll have to see. It's gotta be something just as outrageous, you know what I mean? Maybe I'll [also] get the Philie Phanatic on there.
If I would've gone with the Phillie Phanatic on my ass to start instead of Gritty, it wouldn't have blown up like it did, you know what I mean? Gritty's face is one that's only been out for like a month, but everyone in hockey recognizes it—more than just hockey. He's a star. You can't mistake that face. I got guys at work calling me Gritty and shit. It's great, I love it. I love the attention it brings, I love the laughs.
Have you been showing off your ass art?
I have a picture of it so sometimes I'll bring the picture out, but it depends where I'm at. If I'm around my family and stuff I'll just pull down my pants and bust it out and say, 'Look what I got' and just stand there with my ass out. I pulled it out at the bar one [recent] night and got a good reaction. I didn't get any free drinks out of it, though, which would've been nice.