Greco-Roman wrestling competition in the 2016 Rio Olympics began on Sunday and with it came throws, pins, a wrestler getting choked unconscious and … stuffed animals getting thrown into the competition?
Not just any stuffed animals. On multiple occasions in the first day of wrestling, a plush of Vinicius, the official mascot of the Rio Games, was thrown on to the mat. And it wasn’t crazed fans doing the throwing.
Think of the Vinicius plush as wrestling’s equivalent to a challenge flag in the NFL. On the NBC broadcasts, they’ve even taken to calling it “the challenge mascot.”
The international wrestling rulebook states that coaches “must request the challenge by throwing a soft object on the mat.” Usually that’s a foam brick used for coaching challenges, but without much specification, why not use it as an opportunity for some Olympic-themed product placement?
There’s certainly some humor to be found in angry wrestling coaches firing stuffed mascots into the ring when there’s a call they disagree with. And maybe it’s time for the NFL to follow suit.
Instead of a red challenge flag, imagine a disgruntled Bill Belichick pulling a New England Patriots-themed teddy bear out of his back pocket. It’s gold. The Olympics are on to something here.