“Well, try it on,” they told me.
I’ll never forget the first time I slid my body into all that fresh fur, glue and foam. It was like a few dozen green shag carpets sewn and glued and wired and stapled together. It took form and when I first laid eyes on it in the early spring of 1978, it reminded me of a second cousin to the Muppets’ Miss Piggy. But six months later, after a hot Philadelphia summer, the new car smell was gone, replaced by … well, you could have dunked that thing in hot water and made perspiration tea. But that was OK. We had a lot of fun, me and this big, green thing with a 12-inch inflatable tongue, the size 30 shoes and backward red ball cap. I was a college kid from Newark, Delaware, who needed something to do in the summer and was lucky enough to land a part-time gig with the Philadelphia Phillies. “Just go out and have fun,” Bill Giles, my boss and the Phillies executive vice president, told me — and that’s what I did. I followed his orders. They were life changing. And they can be life changing for you.
The Phillie Phanatic — the best, most iconic and, of course, most fun mascot in all of sports — was born on April 25, 1978. For 16 years, I was the guy inside that costume, buzzing around Veterans Stadium on my four-wheeler, terrorizing Tommy Lasorda, mocking umpires, spit-shining bald guys’ heads, dancing on dugouts, dropping popcorn (accidentally on purpose) on opposing fans, high-fiving Tug McGraw, visiting hospitals, attending funerals—yep, did that—pushing the envelope and simply following orders.
Spending 16 years inside that big, green costume taught me the Power of Fun and how it can transform a life.
I saw how it put smiles on the faces of fans even when the product on the field wasn’t all that good.
I saw how it drove an organization and how having a workplace that was fun actually enhanced productivity.
I saw how it affected my own life and helped me get through the loss of my mother way before we were ready to let go of her.
I saw how it pulled me through the dissolution of my first marriage and ultimately led me to the bliss of my second—even if my brother-in-law didn’t immediately approve. You see, my future
mother-in-law told him his sister was “dating a Phillie.” (OK, so she stretched the facts a little bit.)
Technically, the Phanatic might be a voiceless mass of green fur, but for 16 years and through today, that big green guy was whispering something important and profound in my ear. I want you to hear what I heard all those years ago. It starts with the F.U.N. of fun.
First, I realized fun can be a Force (F.) if you chose to see it and use it. Second, I found out that fun can work anywhere. It’s a Universal (U.) force that worked in the places you might expect—baseball games and parties—and in places you might not expect—from Bobby and Ethel Kennedy’s private residence at Hickory Hill to electric polymer engineering conventions. Third, I learned to embrace the word “No” (N.)—the battle cry of the Funkiller—and see how this fun could be adapted to work in different environments. Finally, when I put it all together (F.U.N.), I saw how amazing
this universal force, when applied correctly, could be at overcoming some of my worst times. Distracting yourself with fun, to overcome negative brain wiring and help in the worst of times, is where the Power of Fun takes shape and can truly help. It changed my life. It can change your life and it certainly can help us overcome in times like these.
Hey, how about a cup of that perspiration tea?