The secret life of Cleatus the FOX Sports robot

November 28, 2011

For several seasons now I’ve been intrigued by Cleatus, the FOX football robot. If you watch football, I probably don’t need to explain who he is, but I will for those who don’t. When the NFL on FOX gets introduced or kicks out to a commercial, an animated robot pops up on the side of the screen, typically exhibiting some football-player-ish behavior. He’d jump up and down to get pumped up or would stride in place, pointing to the audience in a “Yeah, what’s up, we’re all awesome!” manner. Sometimes he’d play the electric guitar (although, suspiciously, there was no strap and it wasn’t plugged in.)

Originally I found Cleatus annoying. What does a robot have to do with football? And if he’s a robot, why does he need to get loosened up or showboat to the crowd? Sometimes he even nurses a hangover, on New Years Day. That doesn’t seem like robot-ish behavior. Who would build a robot that can drink alcohol, much less get a hangover?

But eventually I found myself fascinated by Cleatus, especially when he would dance (we all know this is the main purpose of robots.) Whenever he’d do something new, I’d call to my husband, “That FOX NFL robot is at it again!” I’d take his silence to mean he found this incredibly interesting.

Things seem a bit darker for Cleatus this season, however. He appears to have undergone a makeover and now his eyes glow menacingly as he flexes his robot muscles. I rarely see him dance or play guitar anymore.

What happened to Cleatus? Did he experience something sad in the off-season? Is the economy getting him down? Is he secretly a Decepticon? For the record, I asked Cleatus, via Twitter, what’s up, and he protests that he still does the Electric Slide. Maybe I’ve got it all wrong. Maybe Cleatus is the same as ever and it’s I who have changed. Anyway.

I was talking about this with a football-loving friend the other day and he wondered whether there is any Cleatus fan fiction. I don’t think there is, but there should be. Cleatus is so fascinating yet such a mystery that I think it’s time for his fans (or detractors) to start putting together some stories about him. And so once again it’s time for me to ask you, the readers, to help me out.

Please send me your Cleatus fan fiction (it doesn’t have to be longer than just a paragraph or two.) Some topic matter to consider is: Does Cleatus have a family? Does he have a speaking voice, and what does it sound like? Who made him, and why? Is he different this season, and if so, what caused that to happen? Who is his favorite team? Does he actually enjoy football or was he just engineered to do so? When the robot uprising inevitably occurs, will Cleatus be a benevolent or a tyrannical overlord? And how can he be destroyed?

I realize you may need to watch Cleatus in action before sending in your stories so please send them in by next Monday. The best stories will be published next week and the winner will receive a Car Talk mug (why Car Talk? Because cars are robots. And that’s also the only thing apparently that’s available as a prize. But you’re getting NPR swag without donating! And that’s beating the system.).