It’s pretty simple, the recipe for a college mascot. Take an overenthusiastic member of the student body, put him or her into a costume depicting a large animal or mythical creature, and have them jump around and wave a lot. There are a few simple rules for the costume: it should look friendly – more like a Saturday morning cartoon character than an actual animal. Stitching an obnoxiously large smile on the creature’s face usually takes care of this. Its upholstery should be soft and furry – anywhere from something resembling wool socks to shag carpeting – for this is what makes mascots lovable. The fuzz factor certainly plays to the hearts of children, but also appeals across age demographics (much like the movie Shrek…and pretty much anything else Disney and/or Pixar put out). Just make the damn thing furry.
These are fairly rudimentary criteria, yet somehow schools still manage to fuck them up. The majority of mascots have at least some endearing factors, but some are just downright atrocious.
Before we go any further, one thing must be clear: any school which employs a live animal as its official mascot is automatically awesome. They’re just better. Most of the time, live mascots are also accompanied by a suited character, but regardless of any flaws the latter might have it is exempt from ridicule. Employing a real animal gives you a free pass in anything else you might do in the mascot realm, for it just shows more proverbial balls. This goes for schools such as Georgia, Florida State, and Colorado, which takes the unquestioned crown of greatest mascot ever: Ralphie.
I will admit I’m biased here; I do work at the University of Colorado. But I’ve yet to meet anyone to argue that a gigantic buffalo thundering across the football field in front of a game is not the most badass tradition in college football. So regal, so majestic – the Ralphie run always motivates Colorado’s football team to win games play well compete with passion.
So Ralphie’s the best. With that squared away, let’s look at those schools that really screwed the pooch: the worst mascots in college sports.
In my opinion, the unquestioned leader of mascot shame. Why on earth would you combine a giant cat head with the body of a skinny white male? Why not just make it a whole cat suit? It’s as if the funding got cut after the head was bought, so instead of scrapping the project they just threw together this mascot Frankenstein. Look at the picture – even the little girl is creeped out by the creature. Repulsive. Combining humans and animals is never a good idea; it’s why centaurs never really took off. Even mermaids have slowly lost traction over the last 25 years or so. And “Willie the Wildcat” is worse than either of these. Plus, this happened:
Again, my bias is showing. I’ve had a strong disdain for the Hawkeyes since I’ve been old enough to say “herpes.” But look at this asshole; he’s a total train wreck. First of all, he’s wearing a helmet without a facemask. Safety hazard. Second, he’s just skinny and awkward – no fuzz factor. And while I realize it’s fairly hypocritical for me to belittle someone else for being a lanky bastard, I more or less gained my stature through natural causes. Herky over here was presumably conceptualized by an overpaid marketing whiz and created by a seamstress. They actually wanted this to happen; the damn thing is designed like a real bird. And it can’t even fly. Failure on all fronts.
I hadn’t seen this one till recently, but the boy-geniuses up in Cambridge must not have saved any of their abundant brain power for the mascot. Holy shit, this thing looks like a hung-over guy who just had a stroke.
The mascot equivalent of Joe Paterno: an exceedingly outdated design that nobody wants to get rid of in fear of messing with history. Seriously…the scarf? And what’s with those fangs? From the neck up it looks more like a dinosaur than a nittany lion, whatever that actually is. Wait…is that even a real thing? Why am I wasting my time on Penn State? This is slightly demoralizing. I feel like Joe Paterno looks. I’m going to spend the second half of this blog up in the press box.
To be honest, I remember Mizzou’s mascot being much uglier than it is. I for some reason had the notion in my head that this stuffed Tiger was kind of haggard and disgusting, when in reality it actually looks pretty normal. Preconceived notions, probably mostly because they had the audacity to name it “Truman.” Is Andy Bernard naming your mascots now? Anyway, I kept it on the list as sort of a protest against the fact that they don’t have a live mascot. I know it’s not practical, but come ON! A live tiger? How f’ing awesome would that be??? Just have the damn thing pace in a cage on the sideline…the other team would piss its collective pants. I’m also petitioning Baylor to have a live bear and Alabama a real elephant. I don’t care what animal rights laws you need to break, just get it done.
Um…what the hell is this? It’s just a guy. There’s no animal element whatsoever. No stuffing. No fur. This blows. Unacceptable. At least make it accurate; they’re supposed to be the Fighting Irish, and this is just a run-of-the-mill college tool. More fitting would be a slurring drunk with an overinflated sense of national identity.
As you can see, this is a live mascot, which I said were above ridicule. Well I’m breaking my rule. This is a matter of principle – I have no direct problem with the mascot per se, but I just despise everything and anything about Texas Tech. The colors, the (former) coaches, the stadium, the town of Lubbock, TX – they’re all terrible, and I can’t even put my finger on why. But everything in that town just seems lopsided and dry. And why the hell can kids play football for four years at a tech school? That’s always bugged me. Aren’t they supposed to stay for two years and then go make cabinets or something? Whatever. Just add it to the Tech list. And give me a little time with this mascot – this female Zorro – and I’m sure I can learn to hate it as well.
Anything from the NFL
Yes, this blog has been about college mascots, but I feel compelled to add this category because any attempt at a mascot in the NFL – or, to a larger extent, any pro sport – usually ends in disaster. I’m not sure why they keep trying; there’s no pageantry in the NFL. It lacks the “school spirit” element of which the mascot plays such a crucial role, so in turn they just end up being weird guys in weird costumes that everyone tries to ignore. Just look at some of these examples – hell, the Patriots guy looks like the main character from “American Dad.” And nobody likes that show, just as they don’t like pro mascots, yet both endure.
Not really a terrible looking mascot, but the creep factor is off the charts. Instead of being rowdy and exuberant like most characters, Pistol Peter here is just the opposite, and it’s weird as hell. His head seems to rotate in slow motion like the girl from “The Exorcist,” and every time he walks it is in slow, measured steps, as if he really needs to take a shit and is afraid of moving too fast lest he might have an accident. Not sure what Pistol Pete’s mannerisms should be, but this isn’t working.