I guess I just don’t get it.
I’d venture that the reason most schools have animal mascots is because animals have the ability to be ferocious in ways that humans forgot around the time we invented the Snuggie. In addition to all that, though, there’s each animal’s special ability – Bruins (which, apparently, are some stuck up L.A. name for bears) are strong on the ground, while Boston College’s Screaming Eagles are capable of both flight and (reportedly) screaming.
But Purdue’s mascot is a goddamn train.
Trains are not what I’d call ferocious; sure, maybe if I was a Native American seeing one for the first time in the mid 1800s I’d be a bit freaked out at first, but when you strip away all the sentimentality a train is basically a big metal caterpillar that only goes where expensive track has been laid down first.
The primary advantage to an animal-based mascot is that animals seldom become obsolete – they may go extinct, but being dead has never kept anything from being awesome (just ask Obi-Wan). Trains, on the other hand, have been solidly kicked to the curb by airlines and, to some extent, busses for the past 35 years. The fact a Greyhound, which is little more than an unsanitary serial killer factory on wheels, is a more reliable form of transportation than Amtrak is a sure sign that Purdue’s mascot is in need of some serious change.
Well… No, that’s… That’s not really a step in the right direction. That’s just a guy. And frankly, I find it slightly depressing that we’re labeling him as the symbol of Boilermakers everywhere just because he makes boilers for a living. If we identified schools based solely on what their mascots did all the time, Oregon would have just won a match against the Cal Frantic Masturbators.
This girl may be over 18, but only because Oski kept her in his basement for 10 years.
GOOD: Indianapolis Northwest High School Space Pioneers
There's no picture available for the Space Pioneers, so I took the liberty of finding the best one ever.
I’m going to be honest – when I started this list, it was just going to be me making fun of college mascots I thought were silly. But then, by pure divine happenstance, I stumbled upon this gem.
Do I even need to explain what a great mascot the Space Pioneer is? Indianapolis Northwest High School seems to have clued into the fact that by adding “space” to an otherwise ordinary word you can instantly transform it into something that inspires awe in fans and strikes fear into the hearts of one’s enemies.
Of course, the Space Pioneers could well fall victim to the same problems I’ve got with the Boilermaker Express – in 30 years, Space Pioneers could be old hat and nobody will care anymore. But I’ve got to say that the thought of facing down a football team comprised of rough and tumble veterans of the space program is one hell of a lot more intimidating than a train.
Also, if I were the coach for that program, I would make this speech in the locker room before every game.
GOOD: Michigan State University Spartans
MSU can thank the movie 300 for completely revitalizing their choice of mascot, much in the same way that the University of Oregon owes a debt of gratitude to Emilio Estevez and all the fine people who made The Mighty Ducks. Of course, while our movie shot for children who liked hockey (a decidedly narrow margin outside the Midwest), 300 appealed to just about everyone who enjoys violence and testosterone, both of which are abundantly present in college football.
BAD: Glencoe High School Crimson Tide
I first visited Glencoe High several years ago for a speech and debate tournament. This was only a few weeks after the Indian Ocean Tsunami that killed something like 200,000 people. I distinctly remember walking through the front doors of the school and looking at the graphic of a frowning wave with balled up fists and thinking, “Damn – too soon, Glencoe. Too soon.”
A wave is not especially threatening because, all tsunami destruction aside, at the end of the day it’s still just water plus energy, neither of which strikes fear into the hearts of one’s enemies unless they don’t know how to swim. Also, Glencoe’s choice of illustration doesn’t do much to help matters – it makes the wave look more like a character from Dennis the Menace than an intimidating adversary.
The other issue I have – and bear with me here, folks – is that whenever I hear the words Crimson Tide, the only thing that comes to mind is the menstrual cycle. Unlike trains and tsunamis, the menstrual cycle is very frightening to most men, but I feel like it’s almost a cheap shot to play on that sort of fear. It’s like having your mascot be Doubty (“The fightin’, naggin’ suspicion that you’ll never find true love!”) or Blasty (“That mischievous, scrappy specter of global thermonuclear holocaust!”) or Toomie (“That bulbous, lumpy mass you can feel near your lymph node!”).
Truman Capps neglected to mention the Stanford Tree because really, what more can you say about a green felt cone with googly eyes?