NFL Huddles: Rushers' Revenge

A while back I wrote about the NFL Huddles, a line of little figures representing various football teams. I openly wondered why the NFL didn’t revive the idea and market the Rams and Cardinals and Jets as cute characters for children. As it turns out, the NFL brought back the Huddles in concept, if not in name or spirit. And I learned about it through McNuggets.

I went to at a McDonald’s and realized that it’d been about twelve years since I’d bought a Happy Meal. So I asked what kind of toys they had. This particular McDonald’s didn’t have the Hot Wheels sets as advertised; as a substitute they offered NFL Rush Zone Rushers, a promotion apparently from 2012. This piqued my interest, and I bought one. Then I bought another.

The Rushers have the same underlying principle as the Huddles, embodying some NFL mascot in squat form. Design-wise, they’re different. Each of them is a huge helmeted head with arms and legs attached, plus whatever decorations evoke a team. It’s a physique that works well for creatures like Boglins or robots like Gurren Lagann (or the gun-headed things from Keith Courage/Wataru), but it’s a little strange when applied to human characters and humanoid animals.

Much to my disappointment, I couldn’t pick out teams. The Rushers were blind-bagged, and I declined to ask some McDonald’s employee to check the serial numbers. So I rolled the dice and ended up with the Rushers for the Kansas City Chiefs and Indianapolis Colts. They were not my top choices, but I was relieved that I didn’t draw the Cowboys. I never liked the Cowboys.

All of the Rushers have a football-throwing mechanism: press the clenched hand, and the other hand propels a plastic ball through the air. They’re made of lightweight plastic, which pretty much ensures that children will destroy them after a week or so of standard toy abuse.

The designs themselves are largely uninventive. The Chiefs Rusher has no adornments whatsoever, possibly to avoid stereotypical Native American garb—though  that skin tone is an odd choice. The Colts Rusher tries harder, but there’s a problem. He’s not an actual Colt. He’s just an ambulatory Madball in a Colts helmet.


See? This is a disgrace to the Huddles legacy and the good name of Cody Colt.

Some Rushers show greater fidelity, and you can see them all in this video. Most of the bird mascots get beaked visages, the Bengals and Panthers are actual cats, and the Jets mascot wears a combination helmet and pilot mask. Still, most of the choices are either lazy human gnomes or strange chimeras. The Broncos Rusher, which I wanted most, looks more like a bored dinosaur than any sort of horse.

There’s more to the Rushers. All of these characters spawned from a 2012 cartoon called NFL Rush Zone: Guardians Unleashed, in which a focus-grouped assortment of kids transforms into football-outfitted Power Ranger superheroes and battles monsters over energy Mega Cores that look like team footballs. Really. There are three seasons of this.

These cheaply animated CG escapades often pause to introduce NFL players (all clearly voicing themselves) and awkwardly interject trivial about, for example, how many times the Cardinals made the playoffs. The squat NFL mascots appear at times, but the focus is on preteen heroes donning neon football armor and crashing into robotic villains. It’s the perfect cartoon for a sports league dogged by scandals about brain damage.

That aside, the Rushers seem like a decent novelty for devoted NFL collectors or anyone looking to annoy fellow diners by lobbing plastic footballs across the table. I still prefer the Huddles, though, and I don’t think it’s due to nostalgia entirely. The Huddles are cuter, more compact, and sturdier in their rubbery forms. Plus the Broncos and Colts Huddles look like broncos and colts.

So the Rushers won’t become part of my modest toy stockpile. I already gave away the Chiefs one to a coworker, and now I need to find someone who likes the Colts enough to want a little plastic catapult shaped like a angry gridiron gnome. If only I still lived in Ohio.

1 comment:

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