It's that time of the year, campers:
School has started, the pools are beginning to close down, amusement parks are scaling down because the kiddies are back in school, and in some parts of this great nation the leaves are glowing with russets and oranges and golds.
It's Football Time.
Of course, you can't have Football Time without politics--meaning that someone is going to get their panties in a twist for some reason--and that reason is team mascots.
I'm not talking about those oversized abominations that patrol the sidelines of every team from Pee-Wee to pro--as the self-appointed Czar of Sensible Mascots, I intend to rid ourselves of said mascots with a very select few:
Bevo--GREAT mascot, even though he's pretty heavily tranked for game times.
TOM--stands for "Tigers of Memphis". He gets to stay in because the folks at the U of Memphis realized that it was folly to have a fully-grown Bengal tiger on the sidelines of a football game where he could mistake the lineup of players for a buffet spread (and the cheerleaders for dessert), and instead installed TOM at the Memphis Zoo, where he lives the life of Reilly.
The Florida State Seminole--Fabulous mascot, rides around bareback on a paint horse and plants a speak in the enemy's endzone. Gotta stay.
Reveille--The pooch that barks his head off at College Station--like so many traditions at A&M, Reveille is filled with pseudo-religious silliness. As one enters the stadium/cathedral, one passes by the burial spots of former Reveilles, all buried specifically so that they can watch A&M play. Ew. Get rid of him.
The Red Raider. Swish. Lose him.
The Sooner Schooner--chaos and really bad craziness waiting to happen: load up a miniature prairie schooner with cheerleaders hanging precariously out, and careen wildly down the field. Oh, yeah, gotta stay. No one at OU has to teach Chaos Theory, they just have to watch the Sooner Schooner. Another fun thing for Chaos Theorists is watching a bunch of Colorado cheerleaders running down the field with Ralphie, a full-grown BISON. It's trample-time in the mountains! One mascot has to stay because he illustrates the creativity of some folks at the University of Georgia; UGA, the bulldog mascot, has his own student name, George Leroy Tirebiter, his student number, and his student ID--this is necessary for travel arrangements. So far, he's never graduated, but he HAS walked during commencements in his own cap and gown. The mortarboard looks a little silly on him, but then they look silly on everybody.
The Billikin--My first Alma Mater, St. Louis U, has a mascot called the Billikin. Very few people at SLU, which was founded in 1818, know what the Hell a billikin is or where he/she/it comes from, but they still bow down. Apparently it means "a good luck charm" and may be Alaskan, but NOBODY KNOWS. Gotta stay, because when you have a mascot that is a bloody mystery it just HAS to stay around.
The Badgers, the Wolverines and the Golden Gophers (oh, for goodness sake!) all look like giant rats and have to go. When you've been to a Wisconsin-Minnesota game and witness a Badger and a Golden Gopher fighting over Paul Bunyan's Axe, you know you're in mascot Hell. You're outa there.
Elegant mascots that have to stay include the Rutgers Scarlet Knights, the Harvard Crimson, and the Coastal Carolina Chanticleers. Classic and unique. Who cares that only Rutgers plays decent football?
Lots of schools have yielded to pressure from various and sundry lobbyists and changed their names; Stanford, which was early in its history a school for Native Americans, called their team the Indians until they were forced to rename themselves the "Cardinal". Lots of minor-league baseball teams are getting on the controversy-neutral bandwagon, leading to some interesting nomenclature such as the Lansing Lugnuts, the Altoona Curve, the Toledo Mud Hens and the Savannah Sand Gnats. I am not making this up. Perhaps the Savannah team would be more fearsome if they named themselves after the actual name of the Sand Gnat, Ceratopogonidae . Get 'em, Pogos!
Of course, pro football is apparently immune to controversy, and continues to feature the Redskins--but I predict that some day in the future our preoccupation with euphemism will feature the Dallas Agribusiness Seasonal Independent Contractors versus the Washington Indigenous Peoples.
Let the games begin! Let's go, Iowa Park Hawks!