Now, let’s be upfront. The public should always be skeptical of mascots. What do they want from us? What’s their mission? Who sent them? Why are most, at best, ambivalent about wearing pants?
Maybe we’ll get answers to those questions one day. But we’re stuck waiting until one of them learns how to speak.
Today, Nashville SC unveiled Tempo the Coyote as their new team mascot. He seems to be here with good intentions, and while my personal fear of mascots might keep me from one day literally embracing Tempo, I’m always down to embrace club culture that organically grows into something bigger.
Some of you are definitely frantically searching for a country song or musician that has anything to do with coyotes. You aren’t going to find it. The new mascot doesn’t have any direct connections to music, although a group of coyotes is officially known as a “band.” Instead, what we have is an excellent piece of fan service for the folks who’ve been following the club well before their inaugural MLS season in 2020.
It began in the late summer of 2018. It’s an inside joke and it would feel intrusive for an outsider like myself to explain. Ask a longtime Nashville fan if you really want to know. What you need to know is that Nashville fans ran with it. It even grew enough among the community to make an appearance on the Nashville SC home broadcast.
When Nashville thumped Richmond 4-0 in a USL Championship game, broadcaster John Freeman called the team “a pack of coyotes, on the hunt again.” The casual references to coyotes continued among the fan base, and just when you thought they might go away, the world delivered a sign in January 2019.
To quote News 4 Nashville:
Employees at Music City Center are used to dealing with tourists in downtown Nashville, but they had a very unexpected visitor on Sunday night.
According to officials with the convention center, the coyote ran past a security checkpoint at 7th Avenue South and Korean Veterans Boulevard around 10:20 p.m.
An honest to goodness real-life coyote showed up in downtown Nashville and declared himself a sovereign citizen that doesn’t abide by security checkpoints. It took a trip to the Nashville convention center before running into a bathroom, then was escorted gently from the premises and released into the wild.
With that, a piece of the future became clear. Other options were considered. But, like, c’mon.
“We looked at a raccoon, but the Titans already have T-Rac,” said Chris Jones, senior director of fan engagement. “Then, you know, no offense to any box turtle mascots out there, but it didn't really strike fear in anyone's eyes.”
Which leads us to a quick point that needs to be made: On a scale from Benny the Bull to King Cake Baby (NSFW? NSFL???), Tempo is very low on the terrifying mascot scale. Some coyote mascots have eyes that make them seem like they’ve seen every horror of the universe that then molds into an unending kaleidoscope of terror. Tempo does not. This is a big win for Tempo.
Before Tempo could become a reality, Nashville had to find someone to become the coyote. Applicants apparently poured in – most of y’all want to live in Nashville even if you don’t know it yet – and, eventually, 12 candidates remained. The club held socially-distanced auditions, some of them virtually, and assessed the candidates. First, they had to make that process a little less uncomfortable.
“We borrowed and rented some mascot uniforms for them to try out in,” Jones said. “Nothing more awkward than just the random person in shorts and a T-shirt trying to try to pretend to be a mascot.”
Nashville ran the candidates through an audition that included acting out emotions, dancing and improv. Candidates were presented with a table of objects ranging from a lightsaber to an everyday comb and told to … well, do whatever mascots do. Then the candidates did the one thing they’re never allowed to do otherwise: they talked. After a Q&A, Nashville decided on their winner.
I can’t mention their name. Why? Because I don’t know their name. Only a select few know them as anything but Tempo. Mascot code is a heckuva thing. Any secrecy surrounding Nashville’s newest addition comes down to the code. While we don’t know much about the person in the costume, the folks in Nashville feel they’ve created a piece of the franchise specifically for the fans, grown from the fans.
“It just gave us another kind of a feather in the cap and something else for us to engage our fan base and in a really fun, unique way,” Jones said.
I’ll admit that it seems like a decent idea. However, there’s something still bothering me: It appears that Tempo has elected to join the select group of mascots who wear pants. When asked for comment on the matter, Tempo said absolutely nothing.