originally published August 26, 2012
This is the article that might get me some hate mail. Well, it wouldn’t be the first time – my exposé on Pac-Man clone games caused a ripple of fury among devoted fans of Munch Man. But this is different. Today I’m having a look at college mascots.
People get protective over their schools. I don’t really understand this; my college mascot is a Golden Bear, and I don’t even know if that’s a thing. A Google search for the animal indicates that it’s a sportswear company, the highest prize at the Berlin Film Festival, and a prominent gay bar in Amsterdam. I guess what I’m saying is that I’m hardly writing from a perspective of perceived superiority here.
This is Handsome Dan, the pride of Yale University. Dan is, according to legend, the first live mascot in US history. The first Dan was crowned in 1889. Why the good folks at Yale opted for a bulldog mascot for their athletic teams, I don’t entirely understand. I own four bulldogs, and they hardly evoke notions of physical prowess and feats of athletic conquest.
Yale has moved on to the seventeenth incarnation of Dan. His Wikipedia page makes for fascinating reading, until you realize that each paragraph about a Dan from history ends with a dead bulldog. A bit of a downer. Also, there’s a legend that Harvard coach Percy Haughton strangled a bulldog to death in the locker room before the 1908 Harvard-Yale game. I’m trying to find an analogous story of someone ‘choking the chicken’ before playing a game against the San Diego Padres, but so far the internet has let me down.
Boo Hoo the Bear does his best to inspire the teams at Queens University in Kingston, Ontario. The original Boo Hoo was an actual living bear who was brought to the school by boxing trainer Bill Hughes. As far as bears go, the guy has style, though his cartoonish eyes seem a little mellow for a sports mascot. In fact, he kind of makes me yearn for the comfort, convenience, and affordable prices of Travelodge.
So far I’ve been looking at some pretty decent mascots. Where’s the weirdness? Where’s the controversy?
Here we go. This anthropomorphic lager dispenser is known as Keggy the Keg, the mascot for Dartmouth College. Okay, he’s an ‘unofficial’ mascot. He won’t show up on school letterhead, and an ivy league school like Dartmouth wouldn’t allow a mascot like this on their official webpage.
I’m joking of course – Keggy actually has a blog on the official Dartmouth website.
Keggy was born out of an attempt at political correctness. After having retired their Indian mascot in 1971, the school subsisted on whatever pride could be mustered without someone in a claustrophobic suit jumping around the stands. In 2003, the Student Assembly launched a poll to find a new mascot. They almost selected a moose, but most students agreed it would be better to have no mascot than a moose. Not sure why they hate moose at Dartmouth – that’s a story for another article.
It was courtesy of the Jack-O-Lantern, the Dartmouth humor magazine, that Keggy was brought forward. Symbolizing the stereotype of “beer-swilling Animal House fraternity culture,” Keggy was the logical choice to represent the school.
Purdue University in Indiana played a huge part in the development of railroad technology. To that end, when the school went looking for a mascot in 1939, they decided to forego sticking some unlucky student in a stuffy costume, and instead they built a train.
Built on an automobile chassis, the Boilermaker Special had a six-cylinder engine and a three-speed manual transmission. There have been seven Boilermaker Specials over the years, including a bus-chassis version and a golf-cart-chassis version still in use today. When the older trains were retired, their dismantling into scrap was witnessed and photographed by representatives from the school, in order to prevent any future claims of ownership. I guess that’s to keep some group of students from the University of Iowa from claiming they had an old Boilermaker Special and were humping it repeatedly in hopes of making a viral Youtube video.
No, that’s not some fuzzy-eyebrowed, perpetually discontented distant relative of Donald Duck. That’s Sebastian the Ibis, mascot of the University of Miami. Apparently they chose the ibis because of the bird’s bravery; it’s said that other birds look to the ibis for leadership when a hurricane approaches.
As an ibis, Sebastian shares a lot of commonalities with University of Miami students. He is a tactile, non-visual forger, with black wing tips that are only visible in flight. Also, he likes crawfish.
The more I think about it, the more I like the ibis as a mascot for this school, especially given that the football team is known as the Hurricanes. It’s a good choice. What I don’t understand, however, is the mascot for the school’s baseball team, the Miami Maniac:
This monstrosity looks like an anteater had sex with a tribble and left the offspring to die in the sun. It looks like the Phillie Phanatic’s institutionalized half-brother. A product of some of the best drugs to come out of the early 80s, the Maniac was married live on ESPN during the 1985 College World Series. The ceremony took fourteen minutes, and while Sebastian the Ibis had the honor of standing up as the Maniac’s best man, Budweiser’s Bud Man, famous large purple globule Grimace, and McGruff the Crime Dog were all in attendance.
This is one of those times where I hope somebody was having some fun by inserting fake stuff into a Wikipedia article.
Colonel Ebirt, once the (albeit unofficial) pride of the College of William & Mary in Virginia, looks like an enemy creature in a Mario game. Though he may appear to be a talking watermelon, he is actually a frog. Colonel Ebirt was originally a mascot for Colonial Williamsburg, because the Amish are crazy about happy frogs that don’t look at all like frogs.
The name was chosen because the school was proud of its historical and geographical connections with Williamsburg (hence the ‘Colonel’ part), and because ‘Ebirt’ is ‘Tribe’ spelled backwards, and it kind of sounds like ‘ribbit.’ I’m not sure why having ‘tribe’ spelled backwards is important, but then I’ve never attended the school.
After penning this kilograph, I’ve decided the Golden Bear makes for a fine mascot. It has never tried to marry, no one has ever strangled a bear in order to motivate players to defeat us, and it’s not particularly funny-looking.
Plus it beats our other local college’s mascot by a mile. I’d rather be represented by a Golden Bear than by the Northern Alberta Institute of Technology’s Ookpik.