I’m here to tell you a story. It’s a story about nothing, but not in the way Seinfeld was able to do so. It’s a story about a sprinting mascot, way too much popcorn, and the subsequent fallout of publishing a GIF of a sprinting mascot and way too much popcorn.
Two years ago this March, the Chicago Bulls mascot, Benny the Bull, engaged in one of his many popcorn-related incidents. You see, Benny has a thing for popcorn, taking part in various in-game stunts that typically end with popcorn being sprayed upon the United Center. Popcorn is perfect for this type of event as, for starters, it’s a commonly consumed snack within arenas and stadiums throughout the country, and it’s the type of snack that, when blasted into the air, makes a mess of hilarious proportions while being much easier to clean up than, say, a beer.
But two years ago this March, Benny took part in an in-game stunt where he was purported to be blindfolded. The trick, you see, was that a blindfolded Benny would run across the full length of the court, jump on the mini-tramp, and dunk a basketball. The rub, of course, is Benny being blindfolded which would make such a feat terribly difficult. The results are—as could be best described—unexpected.
Funny, right? It checks all the boxes. Sports. Mascots. Popcorn. In fact, that’s a shit ton of popcorn, and unsuspecting collisions are the things that keep America’s Funniest Home Videos on air after decades of other unsuspecting collisions.
Nevertheless, on Friday, I posted this two-year-old GIF on Twitter with a simple and innocuous and honest caption.
I've watched this no fewer than 30 times. pic.twitter.com/4LcVgsifxs
— Scott @ WFNY (@WFNYScott) January 6, 2017
Now the term “viral” is always a moving target. It’s relative and subjective and is oftentimes in the eye of the beholder. Those of us at WFNY have a wide ranging target for when a post we publish does well, though “viral” is rarely in our wheelhouse. Similarly, we have targets of success for pieces doing well on Facebook and other referral sources. On Twitter, as I’m a fan of round numbers, 1,000 RTs is sort of my benchmark for when something does well. A couple hundred is cool, but seeing that “K” on the stats is just so much better. As of this column, however, that Benny the Bull GIF has been retweeted upwards of 28,000 times. Twenty. Eight. Thousand.
More than three million impressions. Over one million media views. Four-hundred thousand engagements—the number of people who replied to me, retweeted the post, or quoted the tweet in their own post. To put this in perspective, my sticky tweet has a little over 1,000 retweets and has been up since May, yet has fewer than three-hundred thousand impressions—ten percent of the Benny the Bull GIF. This is insane.
Lest anyone think that this is a #humblebrag of any sort, know that I benefit in no way whatsoever from this happening, nor was it my goal. I saw a GIF. I thought said GIF was funny. I shared said GIF with my followers. At some point along the way, however, things spiraled into a firestorm of replies and mentions that have been actively flooding my Twitter feed late into Sunday night.
These mentions, however, while not necessarily benefiting me in any capacity, were quite fun to watch unfold. The first run of replies/retweets came in the way of skull emojis (web speak for “dead” which is web speak for “died laughing.”) and laughing tears. Behold, the “Emojispeak” category.
My sides hurt I've laughed so hard. https://t.co/6se29Kz54G
— RollyJoger (@RollyJodger322) January 8, 2017
Then came the variety of “life comes at you fast” and other social media memes. Let’s call this the “Meta Meme” category.
Life comin at me like https://t.co/Q6TFfKSOfJ
— jackie frost (@boziewankenobi) January 8, 2017
Me going into next semester https://t.co/eETYd6EYAp
— Dani Phantom (@_wolferine_) January 8, 2017
When you finally find the guy that slept with your girl friend. https://t.co/KobkBicCbQ
— Andrew McCann (@AndyMac212) January 8, 2017
Guy carrying popcorn: me https://t.co/0wgeGlloWZ
— Hannah Stuecker (@HannahStuecker) January 8, 2017
And some chatter about the basketball and competition, specifically the Bulls and their franchise. We’ll call this the “Close to Home” category.
Condensed version of Arkansas trying to defeat Kentucky last night https://t.co/5i62s1DjMk
— Mark Collier (@mark_collier22) January 8, 2017
— Brendan Dunlop (@Brendan_Dunlop) January 8, 2017
Bulls franchise since Jordan left https://t.co/AzVXTASUY2
— rharrold (@RyanHarrold1) January 8, 2017
The most common non-Emojispeak replies came in the way of inquisition. The have So. Many. Question. We’ll call these the “Curious” crowd.
So many questions, was this on purpose? Was it an accident? Did he not see the guy? https://t.co/QdQOyEeRNz
— stace (@stasheex) January 8, 2017
— Dan (@Sk8j) January 7, 2017
— Michael Steinberg (@milkizff) January 6, 2017
The weirdest turn came when others blatantly took what was obviously catching some traction, and attempted to replicate it themselves in what I’d call the “Broken RT Button” category.
Cannot stop watching and laughing pic.twitter.com/glLteb2Nkf
— Will Brinson (@WillBrinson) January 7, 2017
This is art pic.twitter.com/MTyfXscaQI
— Colin Jones (@colinjones) January 8, 2017
Special shout out to the now suspended account which didn’t even bother to change the caption.
Originality is hard. pic.twitter.com/eMiYfgPpLY
— Scott @ WFNY (@WFNYScott) January 7, 2017
Replies like those above would encompass what I would consider to be 95 percent of the tone—most of which were that of enjoyment. The saddest turn, however, came with the five percent or replies who were most determined to make sure the rest of the world knew that Benny the Bull never truly intended to dunk the basketball and that the entire scene was—wait for it…—staged!
— Hurt Angle (@NatefromdaTrap) January 8, 2017
THERES NO WAY THIS ISNT FAKE https://t.co/yeqJhFjRhx
— Jake Hayden (@jakayden11) January 8, 2017
You do realize these are set up https://t.co/PV3qtnDwCL
— Flags Fly Forever (@NotNotTad) January 8, 2017
Can you believe it? DO YOU REALIZE?
My favorite, you ask? The Popcorn Truther.
— Bill Hazelett (@dolfan88bh) January 7, 2017
Bill, a Dolphins fan, has studied in-arena packaging to a level at which he felt compelled to let me know that the loose nature of the popcorn should have been my first clue. You know, not the countless other stunts Benny has pulled over the years, or the fact that Benny isn’t truly blindfolded as the guy inside isn’t looking through the bull’s plastic eyes. But hey—popcorn packaging.
I suspect that it will reach a point where the interactions with this Benny the Bull GIF slow down. Replies are still trickling in, some asking about the state or overall cost of the popcorn while the rest fall into the categories above.
If you ask me, this pretentious winter runner tweet, which got an infinitesimal amount of traction, was much better. But hey—numbers don’t lie.
The internet is weird, you guys.