Philippines, 29 May 2024
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SECOND OVERTIME: Who is this jolly red fellow scolding me?

CHICAGO -- Players come and go. Franchises move on. That's just a fact of NBA life.

But years after Michael Jordan had left the building and seasons after Derrick Rose and his oft-injured body had moved on to the Knicks, the Cavaliers and now the Minnesota Timberwolves, one constant hasn't changed for the Chicago Bulls: team mascot Benny the Bull.

As a beat writer for the Bulls since 2001, I've seen Benny hundreds of times at the United Center, where he entertains thousands with his antics that include break-dancing, motorcycling, and of course, slam-dunking with an assist from a dutiful trampoline.

I've never really tried to interview Benny for two reasons: He's always busy, so good luck chasing him around, and he doesn't really talk, he's a mascot for God's sake.

But during Bulls Media last Monday at the Advocate Center, the team's practice facility, I flagged down the furry red fellow and asked him: "Why are you wearing Derrick Rose's jersey?"

Benny didn't like it. He told me through an assistant-slash-spokesman that jersey No.1 was his all along, wearing it with playful pride long before Rose was drafted by the Bulls as the No.1 overall pick in the 2008 NBA draft.

After a Google fact-check, it turned out that Benny was right.

And boy, of the many things in life I'm not proud of, being scolded by a mascot, his giant eyes glaring at me, ranks rights up there.

Not only that, he playfully threatened me with physical violence while holding a caveman-like club. This by the way unfolded amid a sea of Bulls players and reporters who must have wondered: Who picks up a fight with a mascot?

So who is Benny the the Bull?

Well, hes' an icon in the Chicago sports scene who can party like a rock star. He plays the electric guitar, the drums, and with people's feelings, especially those who dare come to the United Center wearing enemy jerseys. But all in good fun of course as he spills them unintentionally (wink, wink) with a huge bag of popcorn.

Benny was named after Ben Bentley, the Bulls first public relations manager and Stadium announcer. He's been the team's mascot since 1969 and has never looked back. In 2016 Forbes named him the most popular mascot in all of sports while USA Today ranked him the NBA's No.1 mascot in 2018.

Benny the Bull has adapted to the times and has gone digital. He has 233,000 followers on Instagram and 129,000 on Facebook. Just for the record, I have zero followers on both social media platforms.

Benny works just as hard as any other Bull. He makes about 250 appearances a year, championing the team's charitable pursuits and visiting sick kids at hospitals where he puts smiles on the faces of those who need rays of sunshine and hope.

Benny the Bull, after all, isn't just a jolly red fellow. He really is an All-Star good guy.

Click here to view a list of other articles written by Homer D. Sayson.

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