Just Big Joe: How a Legend Became the New Mascot of the Ottawa RedBlacks
Historical figure, fictional character, mascot: “Big Joe” is all of the above.
The Ottawa RedBlacks dropped “Mufferaw” from “Big Joe” as the last name drew criticism from the francophone community. The name “Mufferaw,”some have complained, does not give proper homage to the real French-Canadian logger, Joseph Montferrand.
Not wanting to offend their large French fan base, an apology was in order.
"We unintentionally offended some with the original name and we sincerely apologize for that," said Jeff Hunt, President of Sports with OSEG.
The controversy over Joe’s name marks another French-English language dispute we have gotten all too familiar with. Political correctness aside, the legend of Big Joe is a mix of facts, exaggerations, and outright fiction.
Whatever you want to call him, Big Joe is a fitting team mascot for any sport that has high incidence of head trauma.
Big Joe the mascot is a characterization of Joseph Montferrand. Monterrand first gained notoriety at the ripe age of 16 when he allegedly defeated the then Canadian Boxing Champion with a single punch.
Monterrand put his fists to use on many other occasions working as a voyageur for the Hudson’s Bay Company in 1827. At this time, tensions ran high between English, French and Irish loggers. On one occasion, Big Joe beat a gang of 100 Irishmen on the bridge between Hull and Ottawa; a claim that might better fit fictional Joe.
Stoppin Tom Connors added to the legend with his song Big Joe Mufferaw, where “he had an old pet frog, [that was] bigger than a horse and [that] barked like a dog”.
A good mascot serves as a common identifier, often born out of a community’s history and folklore. They are also supposed to be fun.
One look at Big Joe the mascot should be enough not to take him too seriously. He is there to bring fans together, create excitement, and of course sell merchandise.
Much like the RedBlack’s franchise that was supposed to begin in 2010, and again in 2013, Big Joe is off to a shaky start. Let’s hope issues of political correctness can finally be put aside, so that French and English fans can come together to support Canadian Football in Ottawa.
All photos by David Barbour Ottawa-based artist Margaret Chwialkowska’s solo exhibition, “The...
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