A surprising, disappointing, yet understandable move

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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,

a small yet vocal minority immediately expressed their displeasure.

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:

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.

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?

@RedBlackGade

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2 thoughts on “A surprising, disappointing, yet understandable move

  1. From the start people who have no interest in capital-region football have attacked this team repeatedly. First the NIMBYs in the Glebe didn’t want the stadium rebuilt in their neighbourhood. That had to work its way through the court system. Then people with no connection to Ottawa’s sports history were upset by the team name. We’re still hearing about that and probably will be for a while until people get used to it. Now French language warriors are upset by the mascot. I suspect that anyone who gets offended by the name of a mascot will never be truly interested in football in Ottawa. Sad that this small vocal minority managed to remove the mascot’s tie to the history of the Ottawa area. Now instead of being a local legend, he’s just a lumberjack named Joe (Jos). But good to see this blog, and I know that the emerging Rnation will be all the stronger for everything we’ve gone through since April 2006.

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