As he prepared for his grand debut to the world, Hunter the Canadian Lynx took a deep breath and looked down at his furry body. His artificial hair shook with a combination of nervousness and excitement, as he peeked through the curtain at the expectant faces of the school-age children in the crowd, anticipating with delight the appearance of an adorable creature, preferably round and utterly huggable. He anxiously wondered if the world would like him-- all he wanted to do was make everyone smile.
Yesterday, Hunter the Canadian Lynx made his first appearance in public. It is safe to say at this point that the public did not like Hunter the Canadian Lynx.
The memes have been made. The jokes poking fun at every aspect of his terrifying mien have been made. Hunter the Canadian Lynx woke up today a mascot with a severely wounded heart, his warm lynx tears trickling out his alien green eyes and dampening the artificial fur that constitutes his rather strange face.
Today, I woke up and decided to love Hunter the Canadian Lynx. It will take practice for me to make eye contact with him for a sustained period of time, but as with all things, practice makes perfect. I love Hunter because he is the epitome of what it means to be an Oilers fan; we are all Hunter the Canadian Lynx.
Look at Hunter- something about him feels very familiar. Has there been another group of people so universally and reflexively mocked and derided as easy pickings in recent memory? Has there been another entity that's been put together with great individual parts, with the absolute best of intentions, only to turn out tragically awkward-looking? Has there been another creation that looks horrific on the surface, but still receives the perpetual adoration of hundreds of thousands of loyal fans?
In a stroke of genius, the Oilers have produced a mascot that perfectly epitomizes both the Edmonton Oilers and its fans; a mascot with a face only a mother could love, representing a team only sadistic lunatics would continuously support. Hunter the Canadian Lynx is ugly and he knows it. He knows people will laugh at his ugliness but he still raises his paws in the air with a smile, posing on a hockey stick with every ounce of his surprisingly slim body. We Oilers fans will mock ourselves for the almost laughable ugliness year after year, but still cheer on the team with renewed optimism and relentless enthusiasm time after time, when we know everyone else is laughing at us, when experience has taught us we should really know better.
Beautifully ugly, endearingly terrifying, perfectly awkward-- Hunter the Canadian Lynx is an oxymoron that encapsulates the paradoxical experience of being an Edmonton Oilers fan. It's a kind of love others just don't understand, and that's what makes it special. When I see Hunter at an event or game, I will approach him and give him a hug while praying he does not eat my soul, bravely embracing this creature I have an irrational love for.
Hunter, I still find you a little terrifying to look at, but if there's one fanbase crazy enough to love a creature like you, it's Oilers fans. See you in my nightmares/sweet dreams tonight-- I may scream at first, but with all things involved with being an Oilers fan, though it doesn't really make sense at first, eventually you just stop fighting and give in. Try to love him a little, everyone-- we are the only ones who ever will.
(And if you don't love him, he will probably make you…somehow.)