Mascots are fun, lighthearted and (sometimes) fluffy distractions from the action on the field, court or rink at sporting events.
But are they essential to these games?
That's what the Missouri State Court will be deciding in a bizarre lawsuit involving a disgruntled Kansas City Royals fan.
John Coomer, 53, was at a Royals game four years ago when he was struck in the eye by a hot dog tossed by the team's mascot, Sluggerrr. According to the Associated Press, Coomer claims that he has had to have two surgeries since the incident and his vision is worse now than it was before the incident.
Coomer sued the club, and the first court to hear the case sided with the Royals, essentially saying that Coomer was at fault because he wasn't paying attention. An appeals court in January overturned that decision, ruling that while being hit with a baseball or a bat is an inherent risk in attending sporting events, being hit by a hot dog is not.
This is where the case gets tricky. While baseball clubs are protected from being sued by fans in the case that they're injured by a bat or a ball that flies into the stands, where does a hot dog tossed by the mascot fit into the discussion? Or what about a T-shirt launched from a T-shirt gun? That's what the justices on the Missouri Supreme Court will be deciding.
Experts say this case will serve as a precedent going forward. If the court rules in favor of the Royals, teams likely won't have to change many practices. If Coomer is awarded damages, it could force teams to rethink fan interaction.
Earlier this year the Idaho Supreme Court refused to step in to a case involving a fan who lost an eye after being hit by a foul ball at a minor league game. It ruled that baseball fan injuries are so rare in Idaho that it did not see a reason to intervene.
"If you could get a court to go the other way and say in-game entertainment is a natural part of playing baseball in the U.S. in the 21st century, that would be a tremendous precedent that could cut off future lawsuits," Bob Jarvis, a sports law professor at Nova Southeastern University in Florida, told the Associated Press.
Coomer has paid roughly $4,800 in medical costs since the incident, and his lawsuit seeks an award of "over $20,000" from the Royals.
(H/T to For The Win)