- The Washington Times - Tuesday, June 16, 2009

PATRIOT GAMES

George Mason mascots through the years:

Mason Maniak: Nice pajamas

Puffy Patriot: Charlie Brown, Class ‘64

Patriot 2 (big jaw): Winnie the Pooh moonlighting?

Patriot 3 (shades and sax): This sure is a complicated bong.

Gunston: Ludicrous fuzzball or Final Four magic?

The Patriot: Braveheart meets Guy Smiley

BEST IN CLASS

These mascots are instantly recognizable brands:

1. Leprechaun (Notre Dame) - Artist Theodore Drake designed the now-famous logo for $40 and the feisty green-suited character replaced a series of Irish terriers in 1965. The angry pugilistic logo easily trumps the live student version, but few brands in sports are as easily recognizable.

2. Blue Devil (Duke) - Legend ties it to a flashy French unit in World War I known as the Chasseurs Alpins and nicknamed “les Diables Bleus.” In reality, the staff of the student paper, the Trinity Chronicle, unilaterally chose the name in 1922, likely selecting a devil to rile up the Baptists at nearby Wake Forest.

3. Otto (Syracuse) - The Orange was one of a crop of mascot candidates to emerge after the school dropped the Saltine Warrior in 1978 at the urging of, among others, Onondagan Chief and Syracuse lacrosse star Oren Lyons. Initially ridiculed as an embarrassment, Otto’s eventual acceptance and rise to iconic status is proof that ludicrous sometimes can be lovable.

4. Sparty (Michigan State) - Though the school’s nickname has been the Spartans since 1925, the brawny, foam rubber incarnation didn’t appear until 1989. Sparty has been a dominant force since, winning best mascot at the Universal Cheer and Dance Association College Nationals three times. EA Sports recently conducted a poll to see which mascot would become the first nonathlete to grace the cover of its NCAA Football 09 edition, and Sparty won by more than 75,000 votes.

5. Chief Osceola (Florida State) - The brainchild of 1965 graduate Bill Durham, Chief Osceola and his pregame football ritual didn’t materialize until the opening game of the 1978 season, when Durham received the blessings of both the Seminole Tribe of Florida and coach Bobby Bowden. In 2005, Florida State successfully won its appeal to the NCAA to keep Chief Osceola intact.

FIRST, THOUGH NOT FOREMOST

The first acknowledged mascot is the Yale bulldog. In 1889, Yale graduate Andrew Graves purchased the bulldog for $5 from a local blacksmith and presented “Handsome Dan” to the school. Yale is now on Handsome Dan XVII, a bulldog that took over in 2007 and already has been photographed with the likes of President George H.W. Bush (1948) and Sir Paul McCartney.

ZOO U.

The top live mascots from the animal kingdom:

1. Ralphie IV/Ralphie V (Colorado) - Since 1934, Colorado students have been awing football audiences by leading their beloved teams onto the field behind these behemoths. Both donated by Ted Turner, Ralphie IV weighs 1,300 pounds, while her successor, Ralphie V, still hasn’t cracked quadruple digits.

2. Mike VI (LSU) - Tigers are almost as trite as bulldogs when it comes to mascots, but we dare you to taunt this 700-pound Bengal-Siberian mix. Mike lives in a habitat between the football stadium and basketball arena.

3. Nova (Auburn) - The war eagle has absolutely no historical connection to Auburn, but raptors rule.

ZOO BOO

Overrated live mascots:

1. UGA (Georgia) - We’re not sure what number they’re on… and we don’t care. What’s cool about yet another bulldog, particularly one that has to spend the entire game panting on a bag of ice to avoid heat exhaustion?

2. Bevo (Texas) - Bevo is a STEER. End of discussion.

3. Joy and Lady (Baylor) - A pair of black bears who almost never make game-day appearances aren’t as inspiring as say… one grizzly staked behind the visiting sideline.

JEWELS D’OBSCURE

Rarely viewed gems:

Furman Paladins - We’ll see your Chief Osceola and raise you one fully armored knight riding a white steed. Now that’s old school cool.

Sweet Briar Vixen - Pearls and all. Perfect.

Radford Highlanders - Get your William Wallace on - right down to the plaited pony tail

NONSENSICALS

Big Al (Alabama) - What gives with the elephant? Yes, we’ve read all about the 1930 season and the use of Rosenberger’s Birmingham Trunk Company to transport the team to Pasadena for the Rose Bowl (The Rosenberger’s logo was a red elephant). That’s awfully flimsy. After all, Alabama isn’t the Crimson Herd.

Jack the Bulldog (Georgetown) - What’s a Hoya? Clearly not an English Bulldog. At least most of the other 39 American universities stuck with these tubby, unintimidating mutts as mascots are actually nicknamed “Bulldogs.”

Blue Blob (Xavier) - What’s up with Cousin It? One perfectly good Musketeer wasn’t enough?

HALL OF FOAM

These college mascots are actually in the Mascot Hall of Fame, an organization started in 2005 by original Phillie Phanatic David Raymond:

Mascot (school) Induction year

Aubie (Auburn)2006

Bucky Badger (Wisconsin)2006

YoUDee (Delaware)2006

Big Red (Western Kentucky)2007

Brutus Buckeye (Ohio State)2007

Lil’ Red (Nebraska)2007

Smokey (Tennessee)2008

WACKY THAT WORKS

Ludicrous can occasionally be lovable, particularly when a school’s nickname gives few if any obvious options:

Big Red (Western Kentucky) - Stuck with a nickname impossible to depict (Hilltoppers), Western Kentucky responded with an over-the-top amorphous design in 1979, making Big Red the pioneer among “what’s that?” college designs.

Stanford Tree - Nothing could be more absurd than a redwood constructed annually by a handful of students. We applaud the entire mascot-mocking genius.

Otto (Syracuse) - Even Syracuse fans have an inexplicable desire to hip-check Otto into oblivion. When the politically correct police gave them lemons, Syracuse made… a juicy orange.

DREADFUL STORM

Just wait until Big East opponents get a look at the new St. John’s mascot, which will be announced later this summer after students voted on these six mostly atrocious candidates:

Thunderbird - You are St. John’s, not St. Joe’s - back off the Hawk.

Red Storm Bear - Meaningless and cliched.

Red Storm Dog - Meaningless and painfully cliched.

Thunder Horse - What if we took the red horse that flopped a few years back… and made him black!

Storm Hero - This says, “My suit, which is impervious to acerbic criticism, was designed by coach Norm Roberts.”

Thunderbolt - Easily the best of an impressively unimaginative lot, Thunderbolt should surge to an easy victory.


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