The New Orleans Pelicans announced Monday that the team's mascot, Pierre, will undergo reconstructive surgery after "suffering a broken beak" by running into a basket stanchion while playing pick-up ball with a number of other mascots.
“This will be a rather unconventional surgery for us," Pelicans team physician Dr. Matthew McQueen said in a statement. "I am not sure we have something to compare this to. It will be quite complicated and will require the use of some unconventional tools and instruments to reconstruct his beak."
The unusual "announcement" was made in an elaborate press release, which also included a statement from Carolyn Atherton, the curator of birds for the Audubon Zoo in New Orleans.
"We do see a lot of head trauma cases with pelicans," Atherton said. "Since they are the plunge-divers, sometimes they’ll hit sharp objects and a lot of times, they’ll have tears in their pouch or even eye problems. We’ve had quite a few pelicans we’ve treated for injuries similar to Pierre’s. After they’ve been treated, they’ve all come back looking bigger, stronger, faster and ready to take on the world."
What in the world is going on here? The Pelicans appear to be concocting an elaborate explanation for a new-look Pierre, after their original design drew criticism and was the subject of some mocking memes upon its unveiling back in October. Indeed, Grantland.com reported back in January that the Pelicans had plans to "re-design Pierre's head to make him less scary."
The original Pierre sported a blue jersey and shorts, matching blue gloves, blue accents on his yellow, furry wings and blue eyebrows. His face looked a bit like an over-sized clown mask, with an attention-grabbing red mouth and beak. Presumably, the surgery will reconfigure the beak so that his overall appearance is a little less creepy.
This tentative reaction from one young fan said it all.
The Pelicans promise to provide an "update on Pierre's condition" on Tuesday with a full story on his "recovery" to follow on Wednesday. That timeline should have Pierre 2.0 ready for 2014 All-Star Weekend, which is set for New Orleans and will run from Thursday through Sunday. In the meantime, enjoy this action photo of Pierre's unfortunate "injury."
Update: The Pelicans released this photograph of "post-surgery Pierre" on Tuesday.
Pierre replaced “Hugo The Hornet” as part of the Pelicans' re-branding effort. The New Orleans Hornets officially changed their moniker to the Pelicans in April 2013 after initially unveiling the name change and the new color scheme back in January 2013. Hugo had been with the organization since its inception as an expansion franchise in Charlotte in 1988.
Louisiana is known as the “Pelican State.” The brown pelican is the state bird and it adorns both the state flag and state seal. New Orleans also had a Double-A minor league baseball known as the Pelicans for more than 70 years. The Pelicans name beat out more than 100 other possible nicknames during a lengthy brainstorming process.
Back in December, the Charlotte Bobcats, who are reclaiming the "Hornets" moniker after this season, unveiled a new logo and announced that Hugo The Hornet would be returning as the organization's mascot.