He’s perhaps this year’s most celebrated figure, but we still know remarkably little about the hirsute, tangerine, hockey monster known as Gritty. Case in point: After sending a half dozen emails to various authorities, I’m no closer to identifying the strange, purple opening on his belly.
We know that the Grimace-like mascot has “grit,” of course, and that he engages in amusing, (mostly) non-threatening antics, but what is the anatomy of a Gritty like? Is he human? Does he eat people food? Can a Gritty, dear reader, experience love? These are just a few of the questions I wondered after watching this shocking video filmed Saturday:
In it, a purple, sphincter-like aperture can be clearly spotted on Gritty’s belly. For a moment, he appears to idly tickle it. But what is this orifice? Judged by placement alone, it seems analogous to the human navel—but it’s like no belly button I’ve ever seen.
Consulting past videos of Gritty, I uncovered even more confusing evidence. In footage from late September and early October, a entirely different object can be spotted on Gritty’s body in the same place. This protrusion is orange and button-like, with a black “x” that plainly communicates “navel.”
I reached out to several designers and public relations officials associated with Gritty, asking them to identify his purple hole and explain its apparent change. Only Brian Smith, the Philadelphia Flyers’ manager of media services, replied.
“I honestly have no idea,” he wrote. “If I had to guess I’d say it would have something to do with Hockey Fights Cancer month, but I really don’t know.”
It’s true, the NHL’s annual charity event has a purple theme, but the lilac of Hockey Fights Cancer is a bit lighter—not to mention that promoting it with a scrunched tummy donut would be super weird. So, lacking an official explanation, I turned to the experts.
“I guess that thing is Gritty’s belly button (although it looks like it’s infected or prolapsed!)” said Chris Carlier, who documents Japan’s “weird and wonderful” costumed characters with his Twitter account Mondo Mascots. Carlier named several other mascots who had belly buttons, but all of their outies featured the telltale “x” seen on Gritty’s earlier protrusion.
My co-workers had their own suspicions. To some, the hole best resembled an artificial stoma. Others saw a tumor on the beast’s belly. One colleague suggested the opening was some sort of inflation port. Another that it was Gritty’s true mouth, as his visible maw was “only for screaming.”
To me, the absence of an official story suggested conspiracy. If it was a belly button, it was certainly a strange one—for reasons no one was willing to explain. Perhaps all celebrities possess purple tummy puckers. The rest are just better at hiding them.
In the end, we may never know what Gritty tickled. For me, the purple scrunchie was a mystery to be unraveled, the kind of cultural detritus we’re expected to accept with a shrug. But maybe it’s just another facet of Gritty’s endless mystique. An orange enigma gliding silently across the ice, his secret purple star pointing him forever towards glory.
Do you have information—or at least a compelling theory—about Gritty’s purple hole? Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.