All Fur Naught
People either love mascots or hate mascots. But there’s one thing you can’t do: ignore mascots. Here’s the best and the worst from the place where athletics meets community theatre and puts on a costume.
5. St. Joseph’s University – The Hawk (view)
A school as over-priced as SJU should be able to pay for an actual mascot costume instead of getting the equipment manager’s mom to sew something together in her free time. The fuzzy sweatpants and Down Syndrome eyes and non-stop arm-flapping and delusions of immortality (The Hawk Will Never Die) inspire involuntary hospitalization as opposed to school pride. It’s telling when people find out you’re an alumnus and immediately ask “What’s the deal with that hawk?”
4. University of Southern Illinois – Grey Dog (yeah, that’s the official name of the mascot) (view)
Good old-fashioned nightmare fuel.
People are ugly and scary. Mascots that look like giant plastic people are even uglier and scarier. The clever names are telling of the laziness involved in opting for these cop-out mascots. Two of these horrid things are from Massachusetts. Go figure.
2. Notre Dame – The Leprechaun (view)
Short, bearded, red-headed guys in green vests are made to be ridiculed and hated so it kinda makes sense that Notre Dame chose one to be the face of their school.
1. Philadelphia 76ers – Hip Hop (view)
Hip-Hop is the mascot equivalent of Poochie the Rockin’ Dog meets Chester Cheetah meets The Worst Attempt at Urban Youth-Focused Marketing Since Boost Mobile Phones.
5. UC Santa Cruz – Sammy the Slug (view)
Look at how hard he’s chillin’. That kind of easy unflappability can’t be bought. It can only be earned. Insect mascots are difficult to pull off. Where Buzz the Georgia Tech Yellowjacket goes so wrong with it’s translucent fish bowl eyes, Sammy goes so right. He looks like a less creepy Gelfling from the Dark Crystal. Plus he’s a slug.
4. Western Kentucky – Big Red (view)
The Hilltoppers didn’t get too fancy with their mascot concept. They didn’t have a rationale or a theme. They didn’t need one. Big Red is a creation born of stream-of-consciousness, Dadaist, free-form freedom. Don’t question Big Red, just let Big Red be Big Red as only Big Red knows how to be Big Red.
These mascots get points for sticking with a classic mascot sartorial formula: a turtleneck with no pants. You can have slime mold as your mascot, but if you throw it in a turtleneck with no pants, you’ve got a winner.
2. Orioles – The Bird (view)
This pick isn’t just a matter of mascot homerism. From a completely objective viewpoint it’s difficult to find a better mascot in baseball. The San Diego Chicken was over exposed thanks to The Baseball Bunch. The Philly Phanatic is pretty cool with his proboscis with protruding forked tongue, but his lewd pelvic thrusting is kinda off-putting. The Bird doesn’t have to stoop to those levels. He’s a bird with a baseball hat as well as stirrups and spikes. He’s not just there to be wacky; he’s game-ready. During tense moments of the game, he paces anxiously. He’s a fan. He’s like you, but he’s a giant anthropomorphic bird.
1. Stanford – The Tree (view)
It’s a tree called THE TREE. It looks like something Sid and Marty Krofft came up with after they took the brown acid. It’s got googly eyes and a big smile and no arms and human legs. It’s divine and demonic, an abomination and a miracle. It’s all things in anthro-arborial form. It’s THE TREE and it makes no goddamn sense.