- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 13, 2001

It's bad enough our athletes are out of control, our coaches are out of control, our fans are out of control and our ticket prices are out of control. Now, it seems, even our team mascots are out of control. Quick, somebody give Rameses the Ram a tranquilizer before he does something he really regrets.

For the uninformed, Rameses is the University of North Carolina mascot who was ejected from Saturday's game against Maryland. That's right, a mascot got the heave-ho. As the teams were leaving the floor at halftime, Rameses sneaked up behind official Ray Natili and "acted like he was kicking [him] in the rear end," referee Duke Edsall told the Chapel Hill News. "That is not what [mascots] are here for. I then asked for him to be removed."

Just last month, another mascot, one at the University of Miami, behaved badly in the Sugar Bowl. His crime? He came on the field to celebrate a touchdown resulting in an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty. (You should have seen Butch Davis' face when the extra point suddenly became a 35-yard kick. Maybe that's why Butch took the Browns' job.)

It's not that we haven't had these kinds of episodes before. Heck, Hoops, the Wizards' mascot, once got thrown out of a game. And I distinctly remember Oklahoma's Sooner Schooner being ticketed at a crucial point in the '85 Orange Bowl. Earl Strom, the late, great NBA ref, loved to tell the story of the time he tossed Benny the Bull during the '75 playoffs. Benny was making gestures behind his back and riling up the crowd, and Earl finally turned around and said, "If you feel so damn strong about it, why don't you join [Dick] Motta [who had been banished earlier] in the locker room?"

There's no question, though, that mascot malfeasance is on the rise. Consider these other recent incidents:

• November 2000 The monkey mascot for Hartlepool United, a British soccer team, is banned from Scunthorpe's Glanford Park after reportedly harassing a female staffer during a game. (Use your own imagination.)

• July 1998 Before the all-star game for the Northwoods baseball league in Minnesota, Woody Woodchuck, the Wausau (Wis.) team's mascot, is ejected for attacking Slider, the Rochester (Minn.) team's mascot. "Woody tore off Slider's gigantic baseball-sized head before Slider got the better of him," the Brainerd Daily Dispatch reported. "[League President George G. McDonald Jr.] likened Woody's antics … to exposing Santa Claus to a kid who still believes in St. Nick."

• February 1998 Late in a basketball game against St. Joseph's, the Rhode Island mascot causes a fracas by pushing an inner tube over the St. Joe's mascot's arms, preventing the Hawk from flapping his wings. (Wonder what the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals would have to say about this.)

• March 1996 The University of Tennessee mascot gets booted off the court for delaying the start of the NCAA women's basketball championship game between the Lady Vols and Georgia. The mascot had come out before the game with a large stuffed Bulldog and proceeded to inadvertently knock the stuffing out of it. It took a cleaning crew 15 minutes to sweep up the mess, delaying the opening tipoff. "I'm very ashamed of what I did," the mascot, Tim Patnode, said. "I've been ejected from a volleyball game before but never a basketball game."

A volleyball game? What kind of mascot gets ejected from a volleyball game?

I don't know about you, but I think a congressional investigation is in order. (Or, at the very least, spot drug testing for mascots.) These ejections and penalties and "beheadings" and inner-tubings are simply too much. Besides, if we don't crack down on these guys, how long will it be before cheerleaders get into the act and start sabotaging one another's pyramids?

Look, we all know what a hard life mascots have. If the Mavs Man isn't tearing his ACL while performing a trampoline dunk, then the New Orleans Brass mascot Scratchmo is having his foot run over by a zamboni. Fans throw things at them. They never get the girl. And their costumes are hotter than a pizzeria in August.

Yeah, mascots have it tough. But they can't keep crossing the line like this. Perhaps we need to start licensing them or requiring them to do internships with the Phillie Phanatic or San Diego Chicken. Maybe support groups would help. Mascots Anonymous, anyone?

That could be their problem right there anonymity, anomie. Mascots are the unknown soldiers of sports. Which is why Mal Finchman, one-time manager of Boise in the Northwest League, figured he could get away with it. After Finchman got thrown out of a game in 1989, he surreptitiously returned to the field disguised as the team's mascot, Humphrey the Hawk. Unfortunately, the league found out about his little ruse and suspended him.

It could have been worse, though. Somebody could have slipped an inner tube over his arms to prevent him from flapping his wings.

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