I will never forget the moment I first set eyes on the horrifying visage of Pierre the Pelican. The picture popped up in my Twitter feed: the glassy, soul-dead eyes; the gaping, hungry beak exposing a matching blood-red tongue; the feathers the tawny yellow of a urine-soaked rag; the arm-wings spread wide like an ostentatious bro-Antichrist; it standing in a shadowy hallway crisscrossed with pipes and wires and industrial-looking boxes, giving the viewer the impression of running into this demonic man-bird in the darkened bowels of an abandoned turn-of-the-century smallpox hospital. Fittingly, it was the day before Halloween.
The response from basketball fans and pundits on Twitter was that of thousands of people instinctively recoiling from their collective computer screens and smartphones. Almost immediately the hive mind went to work, creating memes and ’shopped photos by the hundreds. Pierre as Pennywise, luring children into a sewer grate; Pierre chest-bursting a gore-cavity in John Hurt’s sternum; Pierre in da Vinci’s The Last Supper, the apostles seemingly ready to snitch to the centurions for free just to get out of there. “Yo, Claudius, he’s right there, with the beak. Forget the silver, just kill it.”
The response from the usually fractious sports-watching community was unanimous: What the fuck is that thing? What on earth were the Pelicans thinking? What person or persons designed this foul beast, and why aren’t they locked up, or at the very least barred from unsupervised visits with children? How could these ostensibly sane people look at Pierre’s yawning, red beak, his tongue lapping luridly from the shadows of his mouth, and go, “Yeah, that looks fine”? I mean, clowns, though scary now, were once socially accepted entertainment providers, back when television was in black and white, and people couldn’t tell how screwed up they really looked. What’s Pierre’s excuse?
Well, the answers to those questions are now moot. The Pelicans are redesigning Pierre. Or, rather, just his monstrous head, leaving the BrooklyKnight the league’s sole horror-scot. (BTW, I object to the idea that the Knight is even in the same fear-inducing ballpark as Pierre. The BrooklyKnight — as off-putting as his metallic General Klytus face and black shell armor are — is a knight and therefore was raised to that station by an authority figure. He’s scary, yes, but official, and underneath all that armor, a human. Pierre has no title, no provenance; he is a deformed crypto-zoological abomination that seemingly crawled out of an ancient well that the French dug, inadvertently, into an Indian burial ground on top of which the New Orleans Arena was built, and the Pelicans’ front office just figured they’d put his ass to work.)
If I had to guess the moment that the shot-callers in the Pelicans’ front office decided You know what? Enough is enough, it would be during the Pellies home loss to the Spurs on January 13, when Pierre, in the course of his normal ominous stalking of the arena, reached his matted, feathered arm-wing toward a child, and wiggled his blue-black talons as if to beckon the boy into his putrid embrace, only for the boy to stagger backward in mindless terror toward the instinctual security of a parental figure, presumably scarred for the rest of his natural life. “Mommy, I just wanted to watch the basketball, then the scary bird hissed at me and his breath smelled like sour milk and rotten fish and I want to go home.” The moment is, of course, immortalized in GIF form, which should make pinpointing the moment it all went wrong to the boy’s future therapist a rather simple matter.
But, what will the new Pierre look like? We don’t yet know, but I would start here:
Make New Pierre’s mouth not a blood-red horror beak with exposed tongue evoking a ravenous hunger for flesh.
Make New Pierre’s eyes not dilated, black dread-voids that stare into your very soul and hypnotize you as he closes for the kill.
Don’t stop with New Pierre’s head. Think about redesigning the rats’ nest feather-fur and coloring it not the color of a two-pack-a-day smoker’s teeth.
Fix his terrifying blue-black claw hands. Even Mickey Mouse wears gloves.
Now, there is a line of thinking that goes something like this: Pierre is unique, and, yes, scary, and doesn’t it help the team if he strikes fear into his enemies? The problem with that thought is Pierre isn’t on the road with the team striking terror into the hearts of opposing fans and teams; he’s wandering freely around the home arena, not just shadowing the opposing team’s bench. The beast is unchained and roams where it wants.
The redesign is set to be unveiled “hopefully” before the All-Star break. The question then goes to disposal; in other words, what happens to the head? Will it fall into the hands of some memorabilia collector who doesn’t understand its seductive, evil power? Such a person — any person, really — will be unable to resist the dark call, growing from a whisper at the edge of a nightmare and hissing, “Put on the head. Put on the head,” allowing Pierre to rise again, to stalk the darkened alleys, local sports arenas, and rail yards of some unsuspecting town in search of tramps and runaways to devour. No, that can’t be allowed to happen. The head must be cut into pieces and burned, lest its evil continue to poison the Earth.