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About Screech's Unveiling

Of course it snowed.

I mean, this is the Nats, Spring of '09. The prospect was four years too old, the GM resigned, the Dominican operation was dismantled, the free agent pitcher held out and got dropped, and the D.C. area was savaged by snow the day that the newly mature Screech mascot was to be unveiled at the ESPN Zone. Peter Bondra called and canceled his evening appearance at the same restaurant, but when you're the Nats, the show must go on, even in a deserted and lifeless city. Hey, I wasn't gonna miss it if downtown D.C. was leveled by multiple hurricanes.

The show started with fewer actual Nats fans than flat screen TVs, which were used to show a Screech retrospective to the strains of "Pictures of You." Imagine the young Eagle hatching from a giant egg in the outfield. Imagine bloggers furiously trying to think of "egg on their face" jokes.

The reporters must have been spooked by the snow, too, though the Times and Roll Call were spoken for. Wait, Roll Call?

"I'm an intern," the reporter explained.

The Nats PR staff sat with reporters and explained that the original Screech was a baby eagle, and that the intent had always been for him to grow up one day. The new costume was designed by Major League Baseball's design department, with input from Half Street, and it would demonstrate that Screech (and the franchise) were growing up.

"He's like a teenager now," Chartese Burnett, vice president of communications and community relations, told me. "Wait until you see his new attitude. I think he wants to be youthful and hip and cool. Adults aren't cool."

The ESPN Zone staff stood at the entrance as SlapShot and the Racing Presidents greeted the public; "I know way too many mascots," one staffer said. Don't we all.

Nats in-game host Clint was the emcee, and he touched the heartstrings when he discussed Screech's "offseason growth spurt," a line evidently borrowed from Jose Canseco.

"We've noticed quite the miracle in our little baby Screech, and we couldn't be more proud," he said. ("He got slim, not big," said manager of communications Lisa Pagano, when I expressed concerns about the juice.)

Finally Screech emerged, to the strains of "Thriller." It was beyond awesome. The cavernous restaurant may have been in slow snow-related traction, but Screech was shaking it. He did Michael Jackson. He did Napoleon Dynamite, to the strains of "Canned Heat." He did Beyonce's "Single Ladies." He came out into the crowd and wrapped a scarf around my neck. He was indeed skinnier, and more fluid, and more agile, the mascot equivalent of the trimmed down Ronnie Belliard.

"I was telling him he needs to put Teddy on his plan," Clint told me. "That guy's been trying forever."

"This gives him more opportunities," said entertainment coordinator Tom Davis. "Hopefully Screech can learn a few things, maybe do some flips or something, some gymnastics. He still needs to work on that flying though too."

At this Screech stood up on a nearby chair and made like he was gonna jump.

"That's not a good idea," Davis said. Screech put his now-removable hat on backwards. "Wear it the right way," Davis said.

"You're going to make a good dad one day," Pagano noted.

"To an eagle, maybe," Davis said. "I'll make sure to add that to eHarmony: Would make a good dad to a bald eagle."

There weren't really enough fans to do much of a survey about the new look, but after posing for the requisite photos with Screech, I asked one of the bloggers for some thoughts.

"Other than the head, he doesn't look much like a bird," noted Dave Nichols of Nationals News Network. "He could use some tail feathers, he could use some semblance of wings."

Before I left, I talked to another fan. And, believe it or not, he highly, highly approved. See, John Endahl works for the USDA's Food & Nutrition Service, and he thinks the non-plump version of Screech, fit and active, is a much better image.

"A slimmed-down Screech is just the way it should be," he told me. "There are too many obese children and children at risk of obesity. Projecting a smaller image of a mascot I think is the way to go."

See? The Nats finally caught a break. A nutritionist spouting stats--30 percent of kids are obese or at risk of obesity--came to the unveiling of their skinny, high-fitness mascot. Of course, Endahl was sitting in front of a plate of french fries at the time. "Special occasion," he said with a smile.

By Dan Steinberg  |  March 2, 2009; 2:26 PM ET
Categories:  Nats  
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You're intrepid, Dan. No question.

Maybe the Roll Call intern got mixed up and thought it had something to do with the White House Easter Egg roll? Or not.

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | March 2, 2009 2:44 PM | Report abuse

Only in DC could a mascot go on a crack diet and be an improvement.

Posted by: twoeightnine_ | March 2, 2009 2:48 PM | Report abuse

The p.r. expert who decided not to pay rent on the ballpark must have been given Screech's makeover as his/her next assignment. Really, really impressive. The last version was generic but at least cute. The Racing Presidents are awesome. This thing looks like the bad guy on an episode of "Scooby Doo." And the continued presence of Clint speaks for itself, as nice a guy as he may be.

Posted by: UrbanShocker | March 2, 2009 2:52 PM | Report abuse

What's "slow-related traction"??

Posted by: NatsNut | March 2, 2009 2:57 PM | Report abuse

"He's like a teenager now," Chartese Burnett, vice president of communications and community relations, told me. "Wait until you see his new attitude. I think he wants to be youthful and hip and cool. Adults aren't cool."


Look, Scratchy, it's our new friend, Screech.

What's that name again? I forgot.

(rapping) The name's Screechy E, And I rock the telly, I'm half Joe Camel, And a third Fonzarelli. I'm the kung fu hippie, From gangsta city, I'm a rappin' surfer, You the fool I pity.

Ooh, Screech is one outrageous dude.

He's totally in my face.

(playing guitar) Wiggity wiggity, Word up? Rock on party!

Catch you on the flip side, dudemeisters. (holds out hand for high five, Scratchy extends his arm and Screech withdraws his) Not!! Hey kids, always the extreme!! Bust it!

Posted by: combedge | March 2, 2009 3:04 PM | Report abuse

Slow = snow (methinks).

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | March 2, 2009 3:14 PM | Report abuse

Oh, he fixed it. Too fast for us, eh?

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | March 2, 2009 3:14 PM | Report abuse

Well played, combedge

Posted by: Kev29 | March 2, 2009 3:15 PM | Report abuse

Somewhere in mascot heaven, Gunston is smiling.

Posted by: bryc3 | March 2, 2009 3:21 PM | Report abuse

wow. just... wow. chartese, you've outdone yourself.

""Wait until you see his new attitude. I think he wants to be youthful and hip and cool."

did she get her marketing degree out of a crackerjack box? f'reals?

"I think he wants to be youthful and hip and cool."

i just had to put that in there again. just clueless.

Posted by: sec231 | March 2, 2009 3:32 PM | Report abuse

It's true! Adults are not cool! Except FNS nutritionists. Actually, everyone who represents the USDA is awesome.

Posted by: Lindemann777 | March 2, 2009 3:46 PM | Report abuse

Screech goes on "special diet" in the offseason to maintain his tenuous hold on his spot over hot prospect Uncle Slam. Now the pressure is on Slam. Does he hold true to his beliefs or take the easy road to try and maintain his competitiveness?

It's the vicious cycle of baseball's steroid era. If Slam shows up in Woodbridge looking like G-Man from the Wizards games, I think we'll all die just a little bit inside...

Posted by: pondaz | March 2, 2009 3:53 PM | Report abuse

Not Uncle Slam. Say it ain't so...

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | March 2, 2009 3:58 PM | Report abuse

According to Ms. Berry - "I think he wants to be youthful and hip and cool."

But they're not really sure. They'll be reading the SportsBog, FireJimBowden, and BPG this week to fill in the rest of Poochie, I mean Screech's marketing persona.

Seriously, did she just jot down some notes in the car ride over?

Posted by: comish4lif | March 2, 2009 4:19 PM | Report abuse

Finally, the Racing Presidents find a reprieve from mockery and scorn.

Posted by: StetSportsBlog | March 2, 2009 4:19 PM | Report abuse

I don't get all the bile. What exactly is so bad about the new Screech?

Posted by: NatsNut | March 2, 2009 4:26 PM | Report abuse

Maybe he's the new scapegoat?

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | March 2, 2009 4:31 PM | Report abuse


That smile makes the new Mazda3 front end look normal. Talon is the best eagle mascot. They should have left the chick looking thing alone. Even the Rocky Mountain Arsenal Talon-wannabe doesn't have anything on Talon(What happened to the original RapidMan, Dan?). They should have left the chick looking thing alone or if they felt the need to change it, go with the adult look instead of the awkward teenager. It was already enough of a joke, but the Nats are actually diluting the brand with the change along with the Racing Presidents. People associate that borrowed tradition with the Nationals and not our national bird as they do with DC United or even the Caps.

Posted by: sitruc | March 2, 2009 5:35 PM | Report abuse

The Caps borrowed the Get Your Red on tradition from the Nats...

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | March 2, 2009 5:37 PM | Report abuse

Also the Animal House clip, from what I've read...

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | March 2, 2009 5:37 PM | Report abuse

Worst. Mascot. Ever.

Posted by: kingrob76 | March 2, 2009 11:27 PM | Report abuse

So by the logic of baby Screech to mature Screech, does that mean in 2012 we'll get a middle-aged Screech with a beer belly and a wandering eye for chicks?

Which of course would eventually lead to 2015's curmudgeonly Screech having grown old and bitter and tells everyone to sit down and be quiet so he can take a nap.

Posted by: ryaneades | March 3, 2009 7:50 AM | Report abuse

It's worth repeating. Chartese Burnett is a disaster and needs to be fired.

Posted by: SSB1 | March 3, 2009 11:27 AM | Report abuse

So she's the new scapegoat, SSB1?

I can't wait to see the curmudgeonly Screech, ryan.

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | March 3, 2009 11:43 AM | Report abuse

Worst is the quote from Clint. Couldn't he have hit the door with JimBo?

Posted by: jdschulz50 | March 3, 2009 11:46 AM | Report abuse

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