The New Hampshire Fisher Cats' Restaurant Mascot Race

My opponent was formidable — he had already run both as the steak and the cactus

The most ridiculous sports moment of the summer — and perhaps of the century — occurred when Uruguay's Luis Suarez deliberately bit an Italian player in the World Cup. Although sinking your teeth into your opponent is inexcusable under any circumstances, it would at least be understandable in the New Hampshire Fisher Cats' restaurant mascot race.

Who can resist chomping on a juicy steak — even one with running shoes?

I've been enamored with the ballpark's T-BONES Great American Eatery vs. Cactus Jack's mascot race since it was launched last year. Sports rivalries typically involve hatred. But how can a slab of sirloin feel motivated to beat a saguaro cactus?

The steak's natural opponent might be broccoli or Brussels sprouts — the ultimate battle of meat-eaters vs. vegans. Yet unlike fellow eatery KC's Rib Shack, which deliciously mocks vegetarians in their advertising, T-BONES offers an inclusive vegetarian-friendly menu.

Proud that Manchester has its own meat mascot race of any kind — in the storied tradition of Milwaukee (Racing Sausages) and Pittsburgh (Racing Pierogies) — I wanted to strike a blow for carnivores everywhere. The Fisher Cats and T-Bones kindly humored me, recently suiting me up for the 4th inning contest.

I took my responsibility seriously — eating a T-BONES All-American Burger with garlic mushrooms and pretzel roll as a training meal the previous night. Buddy Bajerski, the Fisher Cats' community relations manager, would be my thorny opponent. At least 20 years younger with an athletic build, he would present a formidable challenge.

Buddy had run as both the steak and the cactus numerous times before and his advice was simple: Stay on the outfield grass and away from the dirt. Getting too close to the infield was a recipe for getting beaned with the baseball — and an unwelcome cameo on ESPN SportsCenter.

"On your mark … get set … go!"  We both sprint past the New Britain Rock Cats rightfielder and head for the left field wall. I am sprinting as fast as I can, feeling like I am breathing into a giant paper bag because the costume only has ventilation where the mesh is for the eyes. Buddy later likens it to running with a surgical mask.

Suddenly, out of nowhere, Fungo the Fisher Cat darts into Cactus Jack's path and trips him. I honestly did not know this was going to happen, but I know I will still be forever known as the "Tonya Harding of Baseball Mascots."

Nonetheless, I keep running and do a victory dance at the finish line. Fungo, every bit the carnivore in real life, kindly kept his teeth to himself.

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