Re-Mascoting the Big Ten
Nathan over at Golden Tornado has put together a terrific set of Mascot Rankings based on his own "suck-o-meter" rating scale. Michigan got an incomplete, as no one has had the balls to put a live wolverine on the sidelines in over 50 years. This is not a bad thing.
However, since we can't have a live mascot on the field, is it really a good mascot to have? LSU puts a live bengal tiger out for everyone to see. Colorado runs out a live 900 lbs buffalo every game. Baylor, despite sucking, has a live man-eating bear. No team in The Big Ten sports a mascot as cool or deadly as any of those on-field mascots. Even worse, there isn't a live mascot in the conference. Shouldn't the mascot match the team?
In the case of LSU, the tiger fits. More often than not, the Bayou Bengals stalk and devour their competition (as Miami learned last year). Ralphie, much like the team he represents, spends most of the season leaving steaming piles of crap on the field come game time. The question becomes are the Big Ten mascots representative of the school and the football program they represent? Are there better mascots that would infer the true feeling of the football program, and if so, shouldn't we adopt those mascots?
The more I thought about it the answers were yes, there are, and yes, we should. After 15 seconds' thought, I came up with Michigan's new mascot. Then, with a surplus of time on my hands, I devised new mascots for all the Big Ten's members. In doing so I followed some simple rules:
1. The mascot had to be representative of the school/football team. I didn't take anything else into consideration. If the school was a top five microbiology and womens' crew school, I don't care. These recommendations only provide new mascots for the schools' football programs.
2. No Pederasts! A simple enough rule in life and one that should be applied to mascots.
Therefore, with those simple rules I give you:
The New Big Ten Mascots
University of Michigan
Traditional Mascot: Wolverines
Vicious. Scary. It's kind of like a rabid grizzly bear except the size of carry-on luggage. An adult wolverine consists mostly of teeth, claws, stomach and hair. The teeth and claws make up 90% of its body weight. If you get too close, your right leg will make up the other 10%. Wolverines are well known meat eaters with a reputation of taking on significantly larger animals, beating them and eating them. The tenacity and ferocity of the animal makes it a popular nickname for high school football teams and youth groups rising up against Communist invaders.
Modern Team Mascot: The Ford Explorers
Overpriced. Overhyped. Situated in the heart of Michigan, it guzzles down more than your expectations. The Explorer takes three tanks to get from one end of the field to the other. It will let you down in new, never before fathomed ways. Tends to crap out during the end of the winter or the end of the fourth quarter. Once the crown jewel of college football/auto world, a series of setbacks have shown all of its flaws. Poor design work was exposed in a number of fourth quarter collapses and product recalls. You're never really going to be sure what's wrong with it until the warranty runs out or it hits the third game of the season. At this point your University of Michigan Ford Explorer could be one of two things: 1) A big ass behemoth capable of running over everything in its path; or, sadly, 2) a behemoth that is just as likely to blow a tire/engine/transmission, flip over, and kill everyone inside, taking your hopes, dreams, and football program along with it.
University of Iowa
Traditional Mascot: The Hawkeyes
While the traditional team name is a homage to Donald Sutherland's greatest role in the movie M*A*S*H, it is also a superhero, several TV show characters, and an AWACS plane for the U.S. Military. Dammit it can't be all of those. The University's adaption of "Hawkeye" is kind of a saying, kind of an indian chief's name, kind of confusing. Being "Hawkeyed" implies great vision, something that a 3rd place tie in the Big Ten seems to preclude. If you're hawkeyed, you should be able to see the safety cheating before you throw the ball, Drew. While the Hawkeyes always manage to "look past" a team they shouldn't, the mascot itself doesn't instill awe or confer the true nature of the school. Besides, it kinda looks like a rooster. To wit, I have come up with a more appropriate mascot.
Modern Team Mascot: Corn
The great state of Iowa is rich in farming tradition. It is also ass deep in popcorn crude, Des Moines gold, Iowa City Tee. Ethanol that is. I can't think of a more fitting mascot. Every year we hear how Corn will be the savior, freeing us from our dependence on foreign oil, only to find out it doesn't work out quite as advertised. Yeah, it works, but you've gotta buy a whole new car/truck/thresher to "reap" (har har) the benefits, and even then you're still kinda screwed because you still need real gas to make it work. We buy into Iowa every year, only to end up going back to Michigan or Ohio State when we find out Corn ain't enough. Every year we hear that this year is the breakout for Iowa, every year the kernel pops on us when the heat turns up. It's bland, it's boring, it's supposed to be the end all be all of the Big Ten, it's the Iowa Corn!
University of Wisconsin
Traditional Mascot: The Badgers
This is a tough one because Bucky is one of my favorite mascots in all of college athletics. Even so the badger is basically a big weasel, and no one wants to cheer on an oversized ferret. Badgers are strange creatures that either live in solitude or survive in large badger co-ops, selling their pelts for lake front property in the north woods or running casinos. By nature they are docile creatures which is quite contrary to every experience I've had in Madison. No, to truly represent Madison you must have something that can level an opponent, be loud and offensive, yet still be a damn good time, hence:
Modern Team Mascot: The Limburger Wheel
Much like football in Wisconsin, Limburger only exists in one place in the Cheese State. Well known for its "knock-a-buzzard-off-a-shit-wagon" odor, Limburger can bring the powerful to their knees with a single whiff. This is not meant to imply Madison stinks, is smelly, or that it's students are gassy. No, instead it makes a "powerful" statement about taking this football team lightly. Since Barry Alvarez came to town the wax coating has been peeled off the wheel and the strength of the Wisconsin program has been inhaled by all (especially Auburn). Despite its pungent aroma, be advised that both Limburger and Wisconsin football, when prepared properly are very, very good. All you have to do is look at the succulent creaminess of Wisconsin's three Rose Bowl wins and other bowl game victories. However, when either are done badly, such as Wisconsin's 5-7 2001 season, well, they stink.
Other Mascots Under Consideration: This Guy
Michigan State University
Traditional Mascot: The Spartans
In all honesty, a pretty cool mascot. The Spartans were tough as nails back in the B.C. They knew how to fight, farm, sail, and kick your ass. On the downside, despite being a kick ass military power, the Spartans molested a lot of people. There is a moratorium on naming your football team after pederasts, so the "Spartan" nickname has to go.
Modern Team Mascot: The Little Brothers
Look at me! Don't Ignore Me! I'm big enough to beat you! I swear I will. Our friends to the North are the consumate little brother of college football. Almost every year they have the gumption and the ability to beat their big brother. Almost every year their well laid plans blow up in their face. Usually MSU will pound Michigan pretty well early, then lose their nerve somewhere near the fourth quarter and end up flat on its back wondering what the hell just happened. As in all familial chains there are similarities. A good offense, suspect defense, rabid fanbases, etc. Like all little brothers they somehow manage to do something their older sibling can't, like beat Notre Dame. However, being the younger child of Michigan state schools, MSU is far louder, crass, and attention starved than its older sibbling. It can't understand why it has to stay home after the season ends and Michigan gets to stay up late, go to parties, gets all those conference championship trophies, and gets to play in bowl games. Its not fair Dammit!
Traditional Mascot: The Wildcats
There is nothing remotely "wild" or ferral about Evanston or Northwestern. With it's manicured lawns, gothic architecture, and pampered student body, the "Poodles" would have been a better animal name. The student body consists of grad students, dorks at the top end of their high school classes, pampered rich kids who wanted to live in Chicago (but not really in Chicago, because, like, it's just not safe there, you know, with all the poor people), and students who accepted without knowing what the hell they were getting themselves into. The Greek system has been all but outlawed, tailgating involves quadratic equations, and the students chant about their future jobs at football games. Despite that, this is a scary football program on the rise. Even with Randy Walker's untimely passing, Northwestern was and is on its way back to a mid-1990's type run. Given the social ineptitude of the student body, and the hidden power of the football program, a better mascot is needed, therefore I give you:
Modern Team Mascot: WOPR
Not only can Northwestern play board games, if you don't teach it how to play tic-tac-toe it will destroy the world. The WOPR may lull you into a sense of safety, as it's only a computer or school full of nerds, but it will bombard you with death from above in the form a MX missle barrage or potent passing game. Normally a docile adding machine, Northwestern has laid waste to unsuspecting hackers/defenses who wander into their Tron-like lightcycle of an offense.
Over the last ten years you've needed some kind of adding machine to keep up with Northwestern's record setting offense and their depthfinding defense. More often than not Northwestern's football team outscores its basketball team. Usually so do Northwestern's opponents. It's the college version of the arena league. If you like lots of one play drives, then Northwestern is for you. Always keep in mind with Northwestern, even when they seem down like this year, "the only winning move is NOT TO PLAY"
Ohio State University
Traditional Mascot: The Buckeyes
A nut. Woop-de-friggin-do. While "nuts" is a good descriptor of our friends to the South, it really doesn't do them or their football team justice. "F*cking crazy" is more like it. Columbus is one of, if not the, most hostile place to play a college football game in the country. On game days, especially against rival teams, it degenerates into a scene from "Escape from LA" or "Lord of the Flies." Styrofoam coolers are filled with vomit or feces at game time. "F*ck [your team/state here]" is the state motto on game day. The team itself is much like its fans. Powerful. Nasty. Liquored up. Successful. More than happy to stick a shiv in your side or kick you in the jewels in order to steal your wallet. This ominous group is headed by Jim Tressel, a man who no one can connect to a single innapropriate action, yet despite that, you look at him the same way you would look at Michael Corleone. You know he can kill you with his own two hands, get away with it, and not give it any more thought than he gives to what color socks to wear. He, and his program, are made of Tephlon. Much like the Corleone family, they are the powerful haves of the Big Ten right now, and will be until they get caught.
Modern Team Mascot: Al Capone
Doug at Hey Jenny Slater put it best, "Thugs. They may wear nice outfits, but they're still thugs."
Other Mascots under consideration: The Escalades; The Inmates; The Grey Geese; Skeete Skeete Skeete!
Traditional Mascot: The Hoosiers
Generally used as a term to describe people from Indiana, Hoosier is used as a slang term for Redneck in other parts of the country. It's also the name of one of the worst basketball movies ever made. That's right. I said it. Hoosiers sucked. Gene Hackman's half-ass line about how he got fired from his previous coaching job, "I hit a boy," is utter crap. Open your eyes people. He was a Pederast! You can't name a team after a movie about a Pederast, even if it is in Indiana. No, if we're naming a football team that accurately their on field accomplishments and the character of their program it must be something far less suspect and far more appropriate.
Modern Team Mascot: The Desperate Ex's
While Indiana's basketball team has enjoyed unparalleled sucess in the Big Ten and can call itself whatever the hell it wants, the football team has not and can not. Like every desperate "ex" you've had they are happy to welcome you into their home, give you free run of their endzone, and make you a cake before you leave. They do so knowing full well it's going to be thrown into the trash with the words "you whore" shortly following. Desperate for attention they play games at strange times, dress up their best despite the mess they live in, and say things like "we're getting better," "we had a great recruiting class," "we were in the mix with some top schools." Usually, they just get kicked in the teeth and suffer through it. However, hell hath no fury like Indiana scorned. Just look back to 2001 when they set Wisconsin's house on fire (scored 63 points on UW in Madison!) and stabbed Northwestern (beating them by 35). Last year they threw all of Illinois' clothes in the woodchipper before getting walked all over by their new flings in the Big Ten. If you date/play them, be careful, one day they might go all Tawny Kitaen on your ass.
Traditional Mascot: The Boilermaker Special V
Surprisingly, Purdue's official mascot isn't the scary, giant-headed, freakshow candidate, Purdue Pete, who roams the sidelines on game day. No, Purdue's mascot is Boilermaker Special V, a pseudo locomotive that drives around the stadium and gives the engineering students something to do with their spare time other than play Warcraft.
The second member of the Big Ten from the state of Indiana, Purdue definitely has the conference's most unique mascot. While very cool, having a locomotive for a mascot implies power, speed, and ingenuity. These are things the football team has lacked the last few years. The last bowl game Purdue went to and won was the Sun Bowl in 2002. More troubling is the fact that a team named after a locomotive has only made the transcontinental trip to Pasadena twice in over 100 years of football. That kind of travel history means the monkier just doesn't fit. (As a side note, Purdue Pete scares the hell out of me.)
Modern Team Mascot: The Hobbits
Friendly. Cute. Comfortable. Heavy drinking. Short. Large feet. They really don't stray from the Shire/West Lafayette very often. While you certainly wouldn't want to pick a fight with them, you know that if you did, you'd win. They'll kick you in the shins from time to time, but unless there's a quest of great importance they're happy working in the fields or the computer labs. They'll leave the battles and real bowl games to others.
University of Minnesota
Traditional Mascot: The Golden Gophers
Modern Team Mascot: The Gophers
They nailed it. Wouldn't change a thing. Every now and then they'll level a golf course or ruin someone's season, but otherwise they're happy living below ground or near the bottom of the Big Ten.
University of Illinois
Traditional Mascot: The Fightin' Illini and Chief Illiniwek
With Myles Brand looking to eliminate every cool mascot in the NCAA, Illinois is already up a creek regarding their current mascot, Chief Illiniwek. My help couldn't come at a better time. While the political correctness movement will eventually rob us one of the better mascots in college athletics, until it does let it be known that Chief Illiniwek rocks. Dignified. Respected. It is the epitome of how a Native American tradition should be handled and represented in college athletics. Unfortunately, the Chief is the only one holding up his end of the bargain when it comes to respectability on the football field. Illini football has sullied the Chief's good name in every way possible. Two winning seasons in the last ten years. Three conference championships in the last forty years. And finally, going 1-11 in 2003, 2-9 in 2005 and 0-11 in 1997 is enough to make you cry. If I were the Chief I'd be trying to get myself banned in order to get out of going to the games. It brings a tear to my eye to think of the damage Illini football is doing to the reputation of this once proud symbol.
Modern Team Mascot: The Doormats
The perfect mascot for Illinois football. Just like their defense and offensive line, you're welcome to walk all over them. The Illini invite you to call their endzones and backfields your home as well. The new team motto is "mi casa, su casa."
Penn State University
Traditional Mascot: The Nittany Lion
No one will ever convince me that this is a mascot you can be proud of. Is it a bear, a cat, a rabid monkey? Who knows. The Penn State mascot is the stupidest looking mascot in the Big Ten, and possibly all of college sports. I have nothing against Penn State, their team, their students, but their team mascot, to borrow from Nathan, absolutely sucks. On top of that, being a lion would imply having teeth. Including last year, Penn State has posted just two winning seasons in their last six years. Much like Michigan's steady decline to the rest of the pack, several recent losing seasons make it safe to say no one fears Penn State the way they used to. While the magic isn't entirely back, Penn State showed some fangs rallying to last year's 12-1 record. So long as Paterno has a fresh set of human brains to consume before sunrise every day this will be a competitive team. Still, the luster has faded to the point where a lion just doesn't fit the bill anymore.
PSU was a tough team to re-mascot because all the Grandpa Simpson and zombie joke have already been used. You can compare PSU to United Airlines, Cadillac, and Cigarettes pretty easily as all are American icons of a bygone era that will never go away, but certainly aren't as cool as they used to be. What do you call a program steeped in tradition but a gradually fading image and prognosis? I'll tell you what you call it:
Modern Team Mascot: Buford T. Justice
Madder than hell. Older than dirt. Living in a world that passed him by. Once the King, now forced to chase punks in their fancy horseless carriages or the rest of the Big Ten. Ever since joining the Big Ten, it seems like PSU's always chasing the Bandit or everyone else to the top of the Conference. Invariably, when they finally catch the Bandit something goes wrong and he, or their season, gets away. It doesn't matter, he'll stay west bound and down and tail grabbin your ass as long as there's a pulse beating under his badge.
Well. That's it. Administration officials, you are welcome to adopt any of these suggestions as your new mascot. If you've got some better mascots, I'd love to hear them.