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Phillies Determined to Hoard Every Last Dollar

By Mitch Nathanson, Historical Columnist 

Regardless of whether you found yesterday's unveiling of a rejiggered Phanatic acceptable or not we should all be clear as to what that unveiling represents: the organization's determination to hoard every last dollar out there. 

Without getting into the specifics of the club's dispute with the designers of the Phanatic as well as the nuances of intellectual property law, the club's attempt to perform a legal end-around by way of sky-blue tail feathers is yet another brazen money grab by the organization that is telling in what it says about how the club feels about its fans.  In short, it simply doesn't care about us.

We know this because the Phanatic by now is woven into the cultural fabric of both the city and its sports fans.  Mess with him, even a little, and you mess with so much more.  The Phillies know this, of course, which is why their revamp hews as close to the old Phanatic as their lawyers determined was legally possible.  Yes, he does still look like the Phanatic.  Except that he's not the Phanatic.  Instead, he looks like something a team of lawyers came up with in an effort to save their client a few million dollars.

Of course, a few -- or more likely several -- million dollars is nothing to sneeze at.  And if the Phillies truly believe they're in the right here they ought to go to court and prove it.  Maybe they are.  And maybe they will.  But in the meantime the creature that took the field in Clearwater yesterday emitted the stink of a group of very rich men trying to get away with something.  And confident that we -- the fans -- either won't care or, even better, will cheer them on for doing so. 

We shouldn't let them get away with it.  The design team that, let's face it, created the creature we know as the Phillie Phanatic, are artists who are entitled to the protection of the law.  Whether the law is in their favor or not in this instance ought to be litigated.  The Phillies braintrust ought to be familiar with how these sorts of things are resolved -- each team puts their best out there and in the end, the best team wins.  The guys in the clubhouse do that 162 times every year.  Like them, their bosses want to win here as well.  Except that they very badly don't want to play the game.

There's an arrogance to all of this.  A nastiness.  A pettiness.  The Phillies would like us to believe that not only are they a family but that all of us -- fans and organization -- are sort of an extended clan, all in this together.  Except that they'll not hesitate to pick our pockets whenever they can ($14 beer anybody?) and won't hesitate to hold a cultural icon hostage in their effort to protect their bulging wallets.

Watching the legalistic transformation of the Phanatic yesterday I couldn't get that P.T. Barnum phrase out of my head: There's a sucker born every minute.  Whatever we do as fans, we ought to make sure the organization knows we won't be played for their want of every last dollar. 

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