Like many great things, the provenance of Gritty came quietly and unexpectedly, at least at the national level. Sports franchises reveal new mascots all the time; after all, Philly had only unwrapped the Sixers' new mascot, the underwhelming Franklin, in 2015. (I guess the verdict is still out on "democracy," but it does not work for mascots.) The fact that Gritty appeared to be a backward-engineered version of the Philly Phanatic—but modded with Flyers colors and a more hockey-oriented, bearded look—didn't give away much at first. It was weird, patently what Franklin wasn't—the product of a committee settling on a safe idea. Reactions were mixed. I seem to remember that the advent of Gritty led to a wide mocking of Gritty, which is something that feels insane to consider now.
But mere hours later, as social media had given Gritty a little wash-and-rinse, he became something much more than a mascot. He became an avatar, a hero we could project our feelings onto when we needed it most. In his first game, he became a walking reaction GIF that contained all the truths of human existence at once: sometimes we glide, as if gifted with wings, and other times we fuck up the shooting mechanism on a t-shirt gun and shoot a dude square in the back, point blank. Building an emotional connection to Gritty wasn't something that required any kind of work; it just kind of happened instantaneously. The real Gritty was inside of us, this entire time.