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Playing possum

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When the Arkansas Travelers announced the first phase of rebranding last fall — which included unveiling a new logo and a "swamp camo" jersey — the team promised to later unveil a new mascot that team officials described as "a legendary creature, an omen known to bringing good luck." The big reveal came last week. Shelly, the goofy, buck-toothed horse that served as the team's mascot since 1996 was "upgraded" to Ace, a menacing, 7-foot horse. But Ace didn't fill the "legendary" good luck charm role. That's left to a second new mascot, Otey the swamp possum.

Has there ever been a more misguided mascot selection? Custom Characters of Glendale, Calif., who has created characters for the likes of Disney and DreamWorks, definitely didn't take a cue from Pogo. This swamp possum is all sharp claws and rat face. True to form, his backstory includes growing up "watching Travs games ... from underneath the stands" at Ray Winder Field. He's named "in honor" of former Travs infielder and groundskeeper R.C. Otey, who passed away several years ago. We're sure his family is touched.

The selection drew immediate jeers throughout social media and the web. National sites Deadspin and SBNation lampooned it. Look for Otey to join the Geoduck of Evergreen State (a green, phallic-shaped mollusk) and the Banana Slug of the University of California-Santa Cruz on worst mascot lists on the web.

Here's a sampling of a few of the mostly critical comments from the Times Facebook page:

Carey Voss How can there be so many problems with one tiny swamp possum? 1. perputuates hillbilly/ignorant redneck stereotype 2. creepy Clockwork Orange bowler hat (ready for some ultra-violence?) 3. the giant red bat suggests that we should all go out and club a bunch of possums after the game 4. WTF is up with the giant teeth and weird nose?

Daniel Green Once, someone's grandpa brought in a possum he caught to a "science class" at my elementary school. Thing proceeded to hiss, shit everywhere and play dead.

Yes. Let's compare a competitive professional sports team with that.

Beau Golden The marketers in California just have a great feel for what would appeal to people in Arkansas. What do we think of, when we think of Arkansas? Hillbilly Opossums.

Robbie Gill Run it over and leave it for the vultures.

Sharpe Dunaway I may be in the minority here but renaming the team to the Arkansas Swamp Possums would be pretty cool! Also an awesome band name.

Ed Caldwell Just say no, or consider Gary the Rabid Raccoon.

John Pettie How about the goddamn Arkansas Traveler as a mascot? Would that be so terrible? A man on a horse. There you go. That's the mascot. Not a stupid Bullwinkle horse with a Shell logo on its back or a disease infested, club-wielding marsupial.

Will Churchill Otey looks like a great mascot for a sweeping compound or a line of floor buffers.

Israel Rogers What, was rabid nutria already taken?

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