SPORTS

Mascots Gone Mad

3/14/2007

For the seven and under set, the game is just a distraction from the main attraction: the loopy, perpetually energized anthropomorphized animal crackers that bound along the sidelines and stadium aisles like Underdog hopped up on androgen.



For the seven and under set, the game is just a distraction from the main attraction: the loopy, perpetually energized anthropomorphized animal crackers that bound along the sidelines and stadium aisles like Underdog hopped up on androgen. With March Madness currently infecting the continent we wave both our hands up in the air in salute to College sports’ cuddliest fuzzballs. If they had a bracket for mascots (and maybe they do, now theres a bracket for everything), these fearsome five would be my contenders to make it to the Big Dance.

Stanford Tree (Stanford) 1975 -Present

With apologies to our dendrophobic readers, mascots don’t get any more er…wooden than the Stanford Tree. After Prince Lightfoot (a dancing Yurok Indian) was retired following a Native American lobbying effort, the Stanford band trotted out possible replacements at a halftime show. The buggy-eyed Tree drew more applause than the other candidates: The Steaming Manhole and The French Fry. Don’t let his pretty foliage fool you because this proud redwood has had a rap sheet as choppy as Greenpeace. During a televised basketball game in ’95 the Tree got into a scuffle with UC Berkley’s Oski the Bear where he beheaded him, nearly exposing Oski’s secret identity. In ‘06 the Tree got axed by the law after the Po Po caught it emptying a flask into its trunk during a basketball game. Later in the year the Tree was slapped with a suspension after refusing to leave the court at halftime during a game against Florida State.

Bucky Badger (Wisconsin) 1949-Present

This hard-bucking badger who regularly scares the bejeesus out of little wee buckeroos was inducted into the mascot hall of fame in 2006. Not only does Bucky’s super-strong hair make for a great shaving brush, but his flexible bristles also help him climb on top of UW cheerleaders to get to the top of a pom pom pyramid. He’s at least as good a meteorologist as Wireton Willie having done the weather on Wisconsin’s local Fox affiliate. And move over Baby Einstein and Baby Barry Bonds. Bucky’s Baby Badger for infants of parents intent on “raising tommorow’s Wisconsin fan today” is the perfect way to brainwash your tots into loving your favourite sports team as much as you do. “Baby Badger will have the toddler set bleeding cardinal and white in no time," boasts an advert for the indocrinating kid vid.

Brutus Buckeye (Ohio State) 1965-Present

“A buckeye? What the hell is that anyway, a gay acorn?" John Stewart quipped during a Daily Show stop at the Ohio State campus. Well, Brutus first hatched onto the scene in 1965 when Ray Bourhis a member of the student group Ohio Staters Inc. convinced the athletic council that going with the state nut really wasn’t such a nutty idea. It was in vogue at the time for teams to trot out actual live mascots to games so going legume was like slapping convention on the face and finishing her off with a purple nurple. A ‘conformity be damned’ attitude would later permeate Ohio State fandom. How else can you explain lighting couches on fire to celebrate victories? During the ‘06 football season you could order the Brutus Buckeye Burger in 174 Wendy's restaurants in Dayton and Central Ohio. A dozen OSU reps including Brutus himself gave the burger their stamp of approval. If you’re still craving some Brutus beefcake you’re in luck, www.horizonburgers.com will ship you a box of 15 beef slabs shaped like the state of Ohio for $29.99.

Big Red (Western Kentucky) 1979-Present

If Sesame Street’s Elmo and McDonald’s Grimace had a er…happy meal this jovial tubby blob could be their lovechild. The Kentucky Hilltopper’s mascot has forged his own legend with a hat trick of Key to Spirit Awards at the Universal Cheerleading competitions in the 80s and a Final Four appearance at ESPN’s Battle of the Mascots in 1996. If imitation is indeed the most sincere form of flattery, then Red had to be tickled pink in 2004 when Western Kentucky filed a $250 million law suit against Mediaset, an Italian Television station controlled by former Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi. The University claimed that Gabibbo, a character on the network’s hit satirical news show "Striscia la Notizia" or "Slithering News" was a carbon copy of Big Red.

Keggy the Keg (Dartmouth College) 2003-present

The unofficial mascot of Dartmouth was created by members of Darmouth’s Jack-O-Lantern humour magazine and in his short tenure as a bringer of cheer, he has become a cult hero to college kids all over the globe. “I've only had two people confront me and say I'm not funny and a bad influence and those people are huge dorks,” Keggy told Playboy Magazine. You’d think the University that inspired “Animal House” (co-writer Chris Miller went to Dartmouth) and has a humongous fraternity footprint wouldn’t be uptight about Keggy but in October 2006, they kicked his can to the curb, banning him from the field at halftime of the Homecoming Football game.

This Article originally ran in the March 2007 Issue of Chill Magazine

Copyright © Mike Dojc 2007

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