Why wouldn’t the giant robot in pads be there?
January 20, 2019 4:28 AM   Subscribe

“I remember one day, my son, who was 7 or 8, had drawn me a picture of a hybrid robotic football-player-slash-cowboy. He was really sold: ‘You should do this! It would be so cool!’" The secret history of Cleatus, Fox Sports’s bizarre football robot.
posted by How the runs scored (25 comments total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
Fuck Murdoch.

Not in any good way
posted by pompomtom at 4:36 AM on January 20 [3 favorites]

Huh. I always thought this was a Xbox/Halo promotion that never ended.
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 5:56 AM on January 20 [5 favorites]

I've always wondered why a robot has to do warm-ups and stretches. Doesn't seem to be a very good design if A) a robot actually needs to warm up and stretch or 2) it feels nervous before a game.
posted by NoMich at 5:57 AM on January 20 [5 favorites]

From the article:
In 1977, while producing cricket for Channel 9 in Australia, Hill introduced an animated duck named Daddles, who would appear when a batsman was dismissed without scoring. He cried and sulked back to the dugout.

“He got eviscerated in the press,” says Hartley. “They hated him for it.”

And they still use that duck in that same situation.
posted by NoMich at 6:08 AM on January 20 [3 favorites]

I gave up watching football a few years ago but end up watching it at other people's houses and bars and and when I do, I'm always blown away at how weird it is.
posted by octothorpe at 6:26 AM on January 20 [3 favorites]

Cleatus (see also Digger) kind of encapsulates everything I loathe about Fox Sports approach to, well, anything they touch. FS seems to be unable to accept a sport/sporting event on its own terms, preferring to re-cast the sport in FS's apparent need for distractingly high levels of noise and chrome and gimmickry. I suppose it's all down to FS seeing the roles reversed, and the sport being the commercials and the FS broadcast being the actual show.
posted by Thorzdad at 6:30 AM on January 20 [5 favorites]

Also led to a funny line on 30 Rock.
posted by kevinbelt at 7:33 AM on January 20

Then in 2007, Fox threw an online naming contest for the robot. Fans selected “Cleatus,” a wonderfully wretched pun.

Don't blame me, I voted for Robo McFootballface.
posted by peeedro at 7:47 AM on January 20 [7 favorites]

Thorzdad, your link goes to the "edit" function for the article.
posted by Picklegnome at 7:55 AM on January 20

I don't watch football and so yeah, every time I see it it's really jarring and stupid. Like "this is what's wrong with the world" stupid. It's not hurting anyone, I just always think "what kind of people come up with something like this and think it's a good idea?"

"...there wasn’t a lot of what I’d call ‘adult supervision."
"I had what could be categorized as a ninth-grade sense of humor..."
"In 2017, Hill was accused of sexual misconduct toward a fellow Fox employee in 1998 in a case that was settled out of court; he stayed at Fox with no clear repercussions."

posted by bongo_x at 8:47 AM on January 20 [3 favorites]

A professional football motif designed for Fox by an 8-year old, you say?

Sounds like a perfect fit on all counts.
posted by darkstar at 9:01 AM on January 20 [2 favorites]

The fucking robot is one of the reasons I stopped watching sports.
posted by vibrotronica at 10:17 AM on January 20 [2 favorites]

I don't understand the hate Cleatus is getting here.
I always liked the robot. He came along at about the right time when CG was getting decent enough for them to include him as a bumper/filler/interstitial without him being jarringly ugly in terms of graphics.

Like they say in the article, mascots should not be normal, and Cleatus is as out-of-rightfield as you can get, while still being made to look associated with the sport at hand.

For a good counter to the hate that Cleatus is getting, lets look at Gritty. People seemed to love him here on the Blue.
posted by FleetMind at 10:19 AM on January 20 [1 favorite]

That's because gritty is a nightmare incarnation of creative chaos, psychosexual terror, and the turbulent inner strife of human existencial striving, who just happens to pick up a few hours of work at the hockey arena. "Cleatus" is just a stupid anthropomorphic robot subsidiary of Fox Sports Inc. it's like comparing a Chuck e cheese animotronic puppet to HAL9000.
posted by Chrischris at 11:01 AM on January 20 [9 favorites]

hey hey hey now, Chuck E. Cheese robots have been having some luck getting gigs in retirement. Cleatus is unlikely to have the same good fortune when he's retired after a catastrophic injury on a live broadcast.
posted by mwhybark at 11:07 AM on January 20 [1 favorite]

I hate football and am in absolute psychological distress whenever it's on TV and Cleatus, a happy dancing man, is the only thing that makes it bearable.
posted by bleep at 11:14 AM on January 20 [3 favorites]

"Not a man."
posted by Pronoiac at 11:31 AM on January 20 [3 favorites]

"Not a man."

Remember the bush outside your window with the spider in it? One day there was an egg in the web.
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 11:52 AM on January 20

I always saw him as part of the unnatural evolution of bizarre and pointless television animated elements that started with the Whammies in Press Your Luck.
posted by meinvt at 11:58 AM on January 20 [1 favorite]

So, the last time I watched a superbowl was 2002. And that was the year the whole thing was just slathered with militarized bullshit, with all the shout-outs to the armed services and lots of flashy xbox-style robo-titles. To my eye, Cleatus just looks like an evolution of that militarized tech aesthetic. I'm never going to not give that shit the side-eye.
posted by phooky at 12:47 PM on January 20 [2 favorites]

The military-sporting complex is one of the reasons I stopped watching football.

It basically makes me thinkg Robert Downey Jr's character in Back to School was right. "Violent ground-acquisition games, such as football, are a crypto-fascist metaphor for nuclear war."`
posted by fifteen schnitzengruben is my limit at 4:25 PM on January 20 [2 favorites]

the year the whole thing was just slathered with militarized bullshit

Sorry, which year is this again? Can you distinguish it more readily from others?
posted by mwhybark at 5:00 PM on January 20

Maybe the football robot can explain the rules about pass interference and/or helmet-to-helmet contact.
posted by Huffy Puffy at 8:12 PM on January 20

I stopped watching the NFL around the time of the Ray Rice bullshit, but this article and thread inspired me to look up the thing about Fox football broadcasts that always confused me the most; why the theme song sounds like "Sleigh Ride."
posted by The Card Cheat at 7:24 AM on January 21 [2 favorites]

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