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REVIEW: FOX SPORTS NFL ARIZONA CARDINALS TEAM CLEATUS ROBOT
By Thomas Wheeler

Several seasons ago, I started watching the NFL on television again. I'd always rather liked football, although I didn't (and don't) regard myself as a die-hard fanatic fan of it. I watch it on Sundays, and usually Monday Night Football. There are some teams I like, and a few I dislike (and don't ask me to state which ones in either case, please), but generally, I'm content if it's a decently exciting game that I'm watching.

Something, however, caught my attention on FOX almost immediately. At the top of the show, and on the way into and back from certain commercial breaks, FOX had this mascot. It was a CGI robot that looked like a robotic version of a football player, that could probably beat up Optimus Prime and Megatron if he wanted to.

This robot could be seen performing any number of actions, especially as lead-ins and returns from commercial breaks. The robot could jump rope, run a football, play a guitar, perform martial arts -- a very versatile robot. In promoting another FOX show at the time, he and a Terminator Endoskeleton squared off one Sunday afternoon during the breaks. On another occasion, he and that creepy Burger King mascot went up against each other -- and it's a darn shame that the robot didn't bury the king for good, really.

Needless to say, given my primary hobby, my first thought when I saw this big robotic bruiser was, "Why in the world hasn't somebody made an action figure of this!?" I mean, the design was not so implausible that it couldn't be rendered as a toy. There's certainly no shortage of football fans in the world. There's probably a lot MORE football fans out there than toy collectors, really, and a fair percentage of them like to have certain NFL collectibles around.

It seemed like a perfect match. Make a really good action figure of this robot, and you get the attention of toy collectors, robot fans, and football fans. That's a heck of a combined crowd!

Well -- somebody did. A little over a year ago, a superb 11" tall action figure of the FOX NFL Robot Mascot came out. I snagged him as soon as I could, and reviewed him for MasterCollector. Right around this time, the robot finally gained a name. The FOX Network had a contest to name their mascot -- which I think is indicative of his popularity. The winning entry gave the robot the name of -- Cleatus. Not bad for a football robot.

I submitted my review, and pretty much figured that was it. It wasn't like there was more than one robot. Cleatus didn't have a sidekick. The only other robot that had ever turned up was a robotic turkey for a Thanksgiving Day football game broadcast on FOX, and I sincerely hoped there WASN'T going to be a toy of that silly thing.

Well, seems I was wrong. No, there's not a toy of the robot turkey. However -- take your average football fan. Now, arguably, said fan is not necessarily a fan of the ENTIRETY of the NFL. That is, he's not going to root for all 32 NFL teams. That would be impossible. He's likely to have his favorite, or a few favorites. This may be based on said fan's geographic location, for starters. If a football fan is in Wisconsin, he's likely to root for the Green Bay Packers. If he's in Chicago, he's likely to root for the Bears. If he's in Montana, he's sort of out of luck locally, but will likely pick a team to root for by some other means.

NFL souvenirs tend to be broken down by teams. I'm sure it's possible to buy a T-shirt or a cap or a mug or whatever, with the NFL logo on it. But most fans are going to want those items with the colors, logos, and names of their favorite team or teams on them.

Cleatus was representative of no specific team. In fact, he was representative of one of the television networks, and FOX, like any other network carrying NFL football games, carries games from many different teams. This made Cleatus something of an oddity as far as football collectibles are concerned.

Somebody at the company that made the Cleatus figure, a company called FoamFanatics LLC, got a brilliant idea, and the Fox Network and the NFL were most agreeable to it.

Say hello to -- TEAM CLEATUS!

That's right, this year, at least in the toy stores (the televised Cleatus is the same as he always was), Cleatus is taking on a sort of multiple personality, and will be available in the colors and logos of every team in the National Football League!

And you realize right now that there's somebody out there who read that sentence who is wondering how in the world he's going to round up all 32 of them.

I'm likely to be a little more modest about it myself. But I would like to acquire and review a few of them along the way, and even provide a little background on their teams. And, since I presently reside in Tucson, Arizona, I suppose it's only appropriate that we start with the Cleatus robot representing the ARIZONA CARDINALS.

Let's see what Wikipedia has to say about the team:

The Arizona Cardinals are a professional American Football team based in Glendale, Arizona. The Cardinals are members of the Western Division of the National Football Conference in the National Football League. The Cardinals were founded in 1898, and are the oldest continuously run professional American football club in the United States.

The team was established in Chicago in 1898 and was a charter member of the NFL in 1920. Along the with Chicago Bears, the club is one of two franchises still in operation since the league's founding.

The club moved to St. Louis, Missouri, in 1960 and played in that city through 1987 (sometimes referred to as the "football Cardinals" to avoid confusion with the baseball St. Louis Cardinals).

Before the 1988 NFL season, the team moved to Tempe, Arizona, an eastern suburb of Phoenix, and played their home games for the next 18 years at Arizona State University's Sun Devil Stadium. In 2006 the club began playing all home games at the newly constructed University of Phoenix Stadium in the northwestern suburb of Glendale.

In the six-plus decades since winning the championship in 1947, the Cardinals have qualified for the playoffs only six times and have won only five playoff games, three of which were achieved during their run in the 2008-09 NFL Playoffs in which they reached Super Bowl XLIII. The team has also won only three division titles (1974, 1975, and 2008) since their 1947-1948 NFL championship game appearances. In addition, the club in 2008 became the last NFC team since the 1970 AFL-NFL merger to reach the Conference Championship Game.

In 1988, when the Cardinals moved to Arizona, the Phoenix Cardinals started playing home games in Sun Devil Stadium on the campus of Arizona State University. Before the 1994 season, in order to better market the franchise to a statewide fan base, the name of the team was changed to the Arizona Cardinals.

I'll admit, this has always rankled me just a bit. It took them six years to realize there was another fairly major city in this state!? Whoops! I realize they've been here over twenty years now, but sometimes, I still see them a bit as a St. Louis transplant, and that "Phoenix" thing still bugs me. I don't always root for them.

Let's consider their uniform colors and logos, again with a little help from Wikipedia:

The team has used the cardinal red jerseys since Chris O'Brien bought them for the club in 1901. And for most of its history, the Cardinals have used the same basic uniform design of white helmets, white pants with red stripes on the sides, and either red or white jerseys.

In 2005, the team unveiled its first major changes in a century. The cardinal-head logo was updated to be sleeker and more menacing than its predecessor, which had been derisively called a "parakeet." Black was added as an accent color, while trim lines were added to the outside shoulders and sleeves, and the sides of the jerseys and pants. Both the red and white jerseys have the option of red or white pants.

Obviously, this does have an impact on the Arizona Cardinals Cleatus. So, let's discuss the robot.

The "official" Cleatus is a dark grey in color, pretty much from head to toe, with bright blue, visor-like eyes emanating from inside the helmet. He has stripes of yellow trim on him here and there, mostly on the lower arms, and upper and lower legs, and on his hands. He has two broad white stripes on his shoulder pads, and a futuristic number "34" on his helmet and on the front of his body, along with the Fox Sports logo.

The Arizona Cardinals Cleatus trades all of this in for Cardinals colors. Here, Cleatus is almost entirely red, a very deep cardinal red, at that. His helmet is white. The visor-like eyes are still bright blue. The yellow and white trim markings on the original Cleatus have been switched out for black, in keeping with the black accent color mentioned as being part of the Arizona Cardinals uniform.

The Cardinals logo is on the helmet, although it is somewhat smaller than on a normal football helmet. Then again, Cleatus' head isn't exactly a normal football helmet. It resembles one, but there are differences, and Cleatus' head has some detail ridges on it that doesn't leave as much smooth surface to work with as on a typical football helmet. Some logos are going to work better than others. The Cardinals' logo works quite well. I find myself wondering just a bit how some of the more helmet-encompassing logos like the Rams or the Bengals are going to play out on this.

Fortunately, Cardinals Cleatus also has the Cardinals logo on his chestplate, in place of the former #34, and here is a decently large and smooth surface onto which a team logo can be imprinted with somewhat greater intelligibility.

The other side of the chestplate still bears the logo of FOX Sports. Let's not forget where this big boy came from in the first place. The back of the box features a couple of shots of the original Cleatus from his TV appearances, and some background information.

Cardinals Cleatus is holding a football in his right hand. This is not removable. The original Cleatus has one, as well, but there is a difference. In keeping with the futuristic motif of Cleatus, the original Cleatus' football was half-brown and half-yellow. The Cardinals Cleatus, probably to be more in keeping with NFL appearances, has an all-brown football.

Cleatus is extremely well made. He's also one very heavy and very solid action figure. Standing slightly under 11 inches in height, he weighs well over a pound and a half. By means of comparison, a 12" Star Wars Boba Fett figure weighed in at somewhat less than a pound -- and that was with his jet pack. A 12" G.I. Joe Cobra Commander figure weighed 10 ounces, less than half of Cleatus' weight.

I'm not putting down those other toys, by the way. Merely a comparative observation on weight only.

Cleatus is a fairly complicated design. His largest solid, smooth sections are his massive shoulder pads -- which are removable, by the way. Even here, though are a few "bells and whistles", including clasps, a secondary section, and some little doo-dads hanging underneath the pads themselves.

Cleatus' face is the football helmet front, which is designed to look like the protective guard mask of a football helmet. He has the visor-like eyes, but there is no visible nose or mouth. His upper torso has somewhat smooth chestplates, but here also, are sculpted clasps and platings, also visible on the back.

The upper torso ends in what looks to have been designed as perforated metal, and his mid-torso region seems to be designed to look like visible cables and internal structure. This may be somewhat deceptive, though. On the original Cleatus, this was all painted entirely dark grey. On Cardinal Cleatus, it's all painted dark red.

Cleatus' arms and legs are very detailed, and are designed to afford both mobility and protection. "Mobile armor" would be a good description here. He has these areas on his lower arms that jut out rather considerably. One would not want to be a defender coming up against something like that.

Figure-wise, Cleatus is just as well articulated as he is well made. The Cleatus on the FOX Network is an extremely mobile and active fellow, as one would expect. Should not the toy be similar? Fortunately, it is. Cleatus is fully poseable at the head, arms, an upper arm swivel, elbows wrists, mid-torso, legs, an upper leg swivel, knees, feet, and even the front of the feet (it's not exactly accurate to call them "toes").

Because of the robotic design of the character, the articulation points all work exceptionally well into the design of the figure. It does sort of look as though the fingers should be articulated, but they're not. That's just part of the robotic design of the character. They are very well-made though.

Paint detailing is excellent. Granted, the paint detailing is somewhat limited. Nevertheless, some of it is fairly intricate, especially around the smaller little gizmos and whatayacallems, and either real or simulated articulation points. See my previous reference about the hands and fingers. At first look, Cardinals Cleatus looks like a big dark red robot with a white helmet. Look closer at all the intricate black trim. Then you'll be impressed.

So, what's my final word here? Hey, I was very impressed with Cleatus even before he had a name or a toy. A robot football player is a great mascot. Why would I not be impressed with the action figure of him? And I certainly was. And the Team Cleatus idea is a great one. Cleatus, on his own, is not specific to any team. But if you can take this very cool robot, and integrate him into your favorite team or teams, why not?

Now, I have no real idea what the distribution of these Team Cleatus figures is going to be,. Suffice to say I would be thoroughly stunned to see any store, whether it's a toy store or a sports collectibles store, get all 32 in stock at the same time. With that in mind, I am presenting a couple of Web Sites that are mentioned on the package. Obviously, there's NFL.Com -- but you can get souvenirs through them. I would think that might well include the Cleatus of your choice. (I'd try to figure out what the plural of "Cleatus" is, but we don't have all day...). Another Web Site listed on the package, which I imagine is affiliated with the company, is www.actionheads.com.

Even if you're NOT that much of a football fan, this is still an extremely cool robot action figure, just on his own. And you must know someone who does watch football. Show them that your hobby as a toy collector can mix with theirs. The ARIZONA CARDINALS edition of the TEAM CLEATUS ROBOT (or any of the other teams) definitely has my highest recommendation!