By: Santino Filoso
Hard to believe that only three days ago Redblacks owner Jeff Hunt proudly introduced Ottawa’s newest mascot, Big Joe Mufferaw, to 500 screaming children at a French elementary school in Kanata. The name, a tribute to a French legend in the Ottawa region, was clearly an attempt by the Redblacks to include Franco-Ontarian and Gatineau fans and link to the Ottawa Valley’s history. Jeff Hunt explained the selection by saying:
Our fans spoke and we listened. We heard that fans loved the look of our mascot and hundreds said he had to be Big Joe Mufferaw. We like the name too because it reminds us of our city’s past and fits so well into the branding of our football team.
While many loved the name selection,
Thumbs up for Big Joe Mufferaw, the new Redblacks mascot. They don’t always get names right, but nailed this one. Ottawa Valley legend.
— Wayne Scanlan (@HockeyScanner) March 28, 2014
— Tim Baines (@TimCBaines) March 28, 2014
The REDBLACKS have a mascot named Big Joe Mufferaw, things just don’t get much better than that.
— Dustin Nielson (@nielsonTSN1260) March 28, 2014
— Don Landry (@CFLLandry) March 28, 2014
a small yet vocal minority immediately expressed their displeasure.
— Kenneth Hertendy (@kenhert) March 29, 2014
— Canadiens Errants (@CanadiensErrant) March 28, 2014
S’approprier les symboles historiques des autres est un comportement de colonisateur qui n’a pas sa place au 21ème siècle #JosMontferrand
— Alain Ducharme (@alduc) March 30, 2014
— Kim Murray (@TheKimMurray) March 28, 2014
This small minority has led the team to do a complete 180 and drop the ‘Mufferaw’ from the mascot’s name, who will now be known as ‘Big Joe’ in English and ‘Grand Jos’ in French.
It’s interesting to note that at first the official Redblacks twitter account tried to reason with some of these people by replying to them and explaining that the mascot is not specifically based on Jos Montferrand himself but rather the character immortalized in Bernie Bedore’s stories and the Stompin’ Tom song. Even some of the OSEG corporate accounts responded with explanations like:
Joe Mufferaw-imagined by Bernie Bedore…inspired by Outaouais lumberjack Jos Montferrand. Our Joe represents both. #rnationl
— Randy Burgess (@OSEGRandy) March 28, 2014
It’s disappointing that some people can’t understand the difference between a legend and a person. Jos Montferrand was a real person, Big Joe Mufferaw was a fictional character, based on the exploits of Jos, who gained popularity through a Stompin’ Tom song and a series of kids books by Bernie Bedore. The mascot was named after the character, not the man.
Though sad, it’s understandable to see the Redblacks bend to the wishes of a few loud voices. Clearly they are afraid of alienating the French market, a key mistake that played a large part in the Renegades’ demise. That being said, it looks incredibly amateur to suddenly backpedal because of some negative feedback. If something as simple as a mascot’s name is enough to keep some fickle fans away, how will those fans react when the team goes on a losing streak? Was it season ticket holders complaining or were the French news reports giving Redblacks brass sleepless nights?
Futhermore, didn’t the Redblacks anticipate some kind of negative feedback before they made the choice? For a team that withstood a barrage of criticism over it’s own name, it’s surprising to see how quickly they folded and dropped Mufferaw from the mascot’s name.
— RedBlack Renegade (@RedBlackGade) March 31, 2014
Even more startling is that by changing the mascot’s name, the team has caused an issue where there wasn’t one. The easiest solution would’ve simply been to keep the name as Big Joe Mufferaw for English market and refer to him as Jos Montferrand in the French one.
In the end there’s not a whole lot of difference between Big Joe and Big Joe Mufferaw, but any way you slice it this kind of flip flopping doesn’t help the Redblacks build their brand.
Where do you stand on this issue?