The other day I saw a dolphin pushing a penguin around on a trolley.
It was one of those trolleys that delivery men use, in case you’re wondering. But possibly that wasn’t the first query that popped into your head.
Actually, I was trying to figure out what was going on myself. I was at a football game during a trip to Japan. The dolphin was, of course, not real but the mascot character of the football team. The penguin was also some sort of character with a person inside a costume, though I don’t know what he (or she) represented.
I deduce the following: Since penguins aren’t noted for their long legs, when the costume was designed and made it wasn’t given legs. The “body” of the penguin extends almost all the way down to the exaggerated “feet”. When worn, the person inside can only take tiny little steps. Possibly this was tested indoors and was found to be very satisfactory. The penguin mascot would wobble slightly as it moved clumsily and slowly, in rather the manner real penguins do. However, at the stadium when it was necessary to perform a full lap of the track surrounding the pitch, the shortcomings of this costume became obvious. The mascots emerge at half-time to wave to the crowd but not only could the poor penguin not keep up, he was in danger of not finishing the lap in the 15-minute interval. So they mounted him on a trolley and got his pal Fronta the dolphin to wheel him around.
I have always enjoyed stories of the weakness of human foresight. (I have been the author of a few myself.) It may have started when a teacher at school told us about a building somewhere in England with a swimming pool on top that could never be used... because when it was built the weight of all that water had not factored in. (I still wonder if this really happened.)
Seeing the penguin on the trolley reminded me of another incident over 20 years ago. I had the good fortune to be at the very first J. League game of Gamba Osaka (against Urawa Reds). The birth of professional football in Japan was a momentous thing and there were various events to create a festive atmosphere and amuse the crowd. As I remember it, the stadium was full over an hour before the game. An enormous football had been made for the occasion and this was kicked into the crowd in the expectation that they would bat it around. I am sure someone envisaged it magically rolling around the stands a bit like a Mexican wave. Perhaps someone had tested the ball out with people in a field; making sure it was not too heavy or too light for a group of people to collectively move it around. But when it came to the big day, gravity came into the equation. The seats in stadiums are staggered each row a bit above the one in front. The ball, once it reached the fans, basically just rolled down the “slope” of raised hands and back onto the pitch. I think it was punted back into the crowd another three or four times before giving up. At most, it stayed in the crowd for a few seconds.