The San Jose Earthquakes primary goal in the off-season was to improve the team on the field. Bringing in new Designated Player Simon Dawkins, while also adding Chad Barrett and Andreas Imperiale, went a long way to building depth into the roster. And with the eventual return of the injury Innocent, as well as full seasons from Anibal Godoy and Quincy Amarikwa, Quakes supporters are feeling as hopeful as they have ever been going into a new season.
You could say, their smiles are wider than ever.
Off the field, the club announced a new jersey sponsorship partner in Sutter Health, the Northern California healthcare network that seems the perfect match for the Earthquakes. And this week, the team released both its newly sponsored home jerseys and its redesigned away kits. So much good news in San Jose.
But the debut Wednesday night of the White-and-Red secondary jerseys was not the only treat season ticket holders received. Much less ballyhooed, even to the point that only a few supporters even noticed, was a subtle makeover of mascot Q, that furry blue creature that roams the concourses of Avaya Stadium before, during, and after every Earthquakes game. No doubt, Q had a little work done recently.
Only the day before, at the announcement naming Sutter Health as the new shirt sponsor, Q looked like its old self -- shock of silver hair, ear-to-ear grin, pleasing expression. But 24 hours later, the mascot emerged from the tunnel at Avaya Stadium ahead of the first team's scrimmage with the Quakes Academy squad, beefed up limbs, bluer-than-blue fur, and an expanded grin.
"That's not Q, that's Super-Q," a fan was heard exclaiming. "And all that after one day on the new Sutter Health plan? Sign me up!"
Q, whose full name is Quakesadus Mascotacus, became the Earthquakes mascot in 2004, taking over for the then technologically obsolete Rikter the Cyberdog. He is said to have been born from the great San Francisco earthquake of 1906, son of Andreas, mother unknown. Living off native vegetation -- mostly blueberries -- in the Santa Cruz mountains for almost a hundred years, Q finally wandered down to Silicon Valley and into Spartan Stadium in a quest for something possibly more interesting. Instantly loved by kids, the curious creature was quickly handed an over-sized Quakes banner and instructed to run around the pitch. Q obliged, and the rest is history.
The century-old Q is no softie either, and his beefed up look seems almost unnecessary given his past physical prowess. In 2012, following the Quakes big win against the LA Galaxy at Stanford Stadium, world superstar David Beckham took offense at a sign Q was carrying and came after him. Q was not fazed and brushed off the incident as if nothing happened. Last summer, after a friendly against Club America, Q was more physically proactive as he took out a pitch invader storming in from the LOBINA end of Avaya Stadium. Q -- he's got your back.
Following Wednesday's event, when word quickly spread of the mascot's curious new look, questions arose as to what was behind the sudden transformation. In an infamous incident from 2010, Q tested positive for PEDs, though he was later exonerated after the judge deemed the action too foolhardy for such a creature. Could his tainted past explain his shocking present change?
When reached for comment, Q wouldn't say a word. Instead, He waved his now-sculpted arms around wildly, gesticulated something that couldn't serve as a confirmation or denial, all the while with his newly supersized smile and more closely set eyes staring forward with intent.
Well, if the team can endeavor to improve for 2016, so can the mascot, and a new supercharged Q might be just the thing that puts the Quakes over the top this season. Kudos on the new look, Q!