While covering Game 4 of the Eastern Conference finals in May, an Indiana Pacers employee loaded up a t-shirt into a long cannon, and fired it in my direction. I caught the yellow shirt, not so much because I wanted the free souvenir or root for the Pacers, but mostly to keep it from hitting my wonky laptop that is already missing a few working keys. A young Pacers fan then went over my back to push the shirt out of my hands, spilling someone’s bottle of cheap domestic lager all over my sportcoat along the way. On the drive home, it occurred to me, were I to be pulled over I would immediately be at risk of an impairment test due to the awful, rice-brewed, smell.
I now know who to blame for this entire incident. Not the kid, or the good folks at Anheuser-Busch, nor the Pacers. Blame the Coyote, dangit. Go ahead and blame the Coyote.
Because the Coyote – San Antonio’s longtime mascot, portrayed by Tim Derk – helped design the t-shirt cannon as we know it today. The New York Times revealed as much over the weekend. Read:
The first bazooka was powered by a CO2 canister that Derk wore, backpack style, over his Coyote pelt. Today he marvels at how far the technology has come. Some T-shirt cannons now weigh just a few pounds.
And with the new technology came new opportunities. “Some of us mascots went very avant-garde,” Derk says. “We started putting other things down the barrel. Now you could do hot dogs and popcorn and confetti. I even shot Coyote dolls for a while.” He explains that mascots take pride in strafing as many fans as possible, and the cannon has been a game changer. “Nowadays you can load 16 T-shirts at a time; the gun has a magazine that rotates, and it just shoots them out — boom boom boom!”
(“Some of us mascots went very avant-garde.” He then talks about firing hot dogs out of a cannon as an example of such. That was the Coyote’s John Cage-period.)
Snark aside, I think we all can agree that the t-shirt cannon, while a bit dramatic, is a pretty fun time out for all involved, unless some punk kid decides to knock over his father’s Bud Light onto you, on his way toward grabbing something you were just going to give him anyway. And while it’s true that one of these machines once felled Maude Flanders, t-shirt cannons don’t kill fictional animated characters; fictional animated characters kill fictional animated characters.
All thanks to the Coyote. Who wants to send you a hot dog in the quickest, most efficient way possible.