By RJ Warner
They're fun. They're cute. They're Criminals (Yuma HS, AZ)! Ah, the life of the sports mascot. Be it high school, college, or the pros, the game just can't go on without an eight foot tall, oversized, stuffed Banana Slug (UC-Santa Cruz).
I want to be a part of the fun, so I'm going to apply at some of our fine institutions of learning for their coveted mascot positions. I hope they overlook the fact that I, like, don't actually attend their school.
Let's see, why be an average Nimrod (Watersweet HS, MI) when I can be a Wooden Shoe (Hurley HS, WI)? Nah, too inanimate, I need to move around and work up a sweat in those 30 pound costumes, so maybe I can be a Grape Picker (North East HS, PA), a Cornjerker (Hoopeston HS, IL and I'm afraid to ask), a Haybaler (San Benito HS, CA) or a Fighting Farmer (Lewisville HS, TX). Maybe I'm jumping the gun on this "working" angle. I'm more of a Sponger (Tarpon Springs HS, FL), or maybe just a Rock (Rock Island HS, IL).
I mean, why should I settle for being a Mule (Newmarket HS, NH), when I can be a Fighting Mule? (Fairfield HS, IL)?
No, mules are too normal for me. Give me a Purple Cow (William College, MD), a Lambkin (Fort Collins HS, CO), a Thunder Chicken (Doane Stewart School, NY) or a Wampus Cat (Itasca HS, TX).
Being an Ichabod (Washburn Univ., KS) sounds a little too uppity for me. I should probably stay away from real English words anyway. Maybe a Chitwin (Tahola HS, WA), a Bonacker (East Hampton HS, NY), a Hodag (Rhinelander HS, WI), or a Zizzer (West Plains HS, MS) is more up my alley. Yes, a Zizzer.
I've finally decided to go with the Criminals. I want to be a Criminal, the coolest mascot name in the history of the world. Come on, what opposing school doesn't get a little, teeny-bit nervous when they see the Criminals on the schedule? It's built-in intimidation, and I want to be a part of that.
I can't wait for the job interview. The first (and only, I hope) question they'll ask will be: "Mr. Warner, why do want to be a Criminal?" I'll thump my chest like a Gorilla (Pittsburg State U., KS) and bellow, "School spirit of course. What are you, a Nimrod?" The job's gotta be mine.
All of these mascots, which have been compiled by Larry Frazier of Baylor University (www.baylor.edu/~Larry_Frazier/mascot), were the first to be inducted into the Mascot Hall of Fame. The Midget (Hurley HS, WI), went first- ballot, I believe.
Somewhere along the line, though, it all started going horribly wrong. Mascots began going too far, thinking that fans came to the game to see them. Abusing teams, fans, women, alcohol and each other, this mascot insanity has become, well insane. I can't even get through a single "Pardon the Interruption" without Tony Kornheiser singing like a Canary (William Allen HS, PA) about another dumb mascot incident.
If you think about it (and believe me I do), there can't be a hall of fame without a hall of shame. Well, there could be, but that wouldn't be any fun, so here are my inductions. A few are personal, but don't we all have our moments of shameful, yet hilariously rewarding mascot interactions? Please don't answer that.
10. San Diego, CA - September, 1978
We can go ahead and hold NFL Films responsible for this entire mascot mess. The football game itself was legendary, with the Oakland Raiders defeating the San Diego Chargers on the infamous "Holy Roller" play. What is more memorable (in my sick mind, at least) is the sight of the San Diego Chicken, one of the first nationally famous mascots, flopping around the stadium in disbelief. He was even interviewed. Seeing this, thousands of younger, impressionable mascots realize that they too, can become famous for looking completely moronic on camera.
9. West View Elementary, PA - October 1986
Our school was privileged (sort of, I guess) to have the Terrible Towel, the Pittsburgh Steelers short-lived (and thankfully quite forgotten) mascot, visit us. He scolded us for booing former quarterback Mark Malone. Imagine, having an eight-foot tall Twinkie, with the face of the Wal-Mart logo, telling you that you're wrong.
8. Billy the Marlin, FL - 1993-2003
Ahh, good ol' Billy, the first badass mascot. The (not-so) beloved giant fish head was let go by the Florida Marlins after a decade of controversy, including some assault charges brought against him by fans attending a game. I think he was just misunderstood.
7. Three Rivers Stadium, PA - Apr. 1994
Why do I keep getting involved in these things? I was bored at a Pirates game when the Parrot visited our section. I've always had a great affection for the old bird (even knew him in his 'skinny" days), so I showed my appreciation of his work by fastballing peanuts into his perpetually open giant maw. He, in turn, thanked me by giving me his patented "Parrot Kiss," in which he swallowed my head with his beak. What he really did was curse at me like a pirate through his face shield.
6. Calgary, Alberta, Canada - Nov. 2002
Coach Craig Mactavish's Edmonton Oilers were getting it handed to them by their foulest rival, the Calgary Flames, and he was hearing it from the crowd behind the bench. Surely, he wanted to rip all of their toungues out, but had to settle for Harvey the Hounds', an eight-foot tall (yes, they're all at least eight feet tall) fur bag who stuck his head (and tongue) over the glass and a little too close to the ornery coach.
5. Atlanta, GA - Oct. 1995
With the Cleveland Indians set to meet the Atlanta Braves in the World Series, Native American groups used the stage to protest the use of what they felt was a derogatory representation of their heritage. Later that year, St. Johns University gives in and switches from the Redmen to the Red Storm. They haven't sniffed a Final Four since, but the Tomahawk Chop, sadly continues, unabated and unashamedly.
4. Back to Pittsburgh, PA - Summer 1999
The Pirates decide to give the Parrot a sidekick, a young man who is dressed like a real pirate. I think they called him Pirate Guy. Around the time the team was eliminated, so too, was the mascot, after being caught swashbuckling with a few wenches at a hotel swimming pool. He had nothing on except possibly his eye patch. Arrrrrrr, you're fired.
The top three can be summed up simply by saying, "Did I really just SEE that?
3. Denver, CO - November, 2003
A lovely young lady is celebrating her birthday at a Nuggets game. Rocky, Denver's mascot, is bringing her a cake up the aisle, while the crowd sings "Happy Birthday." He then "trips," and, harder than any Rockies pitcher could ever dream of throwing, creams her with the cake, shoving vanilla icing as far back as her cerebellum. Maybe it was Elway under the mask. Good thing for her, the air is a little thinner in Denver, or she might have been killed. I'm not a huge fan of litigation, but lawsuits better have been won by this lady. Mascots have been abusing fans in this manner for way too long. I also remember hearing that the guy (not really Elway) under the costume was arrested on unrelated charges.
2. Milwaukee, WI - July 2003
A top 5 within a top 10. The top 5 most incredibly strange occurrences on a warm summer's eve in Old Milwaukee: 5. The Pirates wearing those awful, 70's throwback mustard uniforms. 4. Four giant sausages racing towards a finish line, for no apparent reason. 3. Pirates' player Randall Simon whacking the bratwurst (a college girl) over the cap with a Louisville Slugger, knocking her down and scraping her knee. 2. Simon later being charged with battery and fined. 1. The girl not suing Simon, the Pirates, the Brewers, Miller Park, Miller Brewing, Bernie the Brewer and even Tony Kornheiser, just for laughs. Talk about not cashing in a winning lottery ticket.
1. Palo Alto, CA, Always and Forever, apparently
I know it's probably against any news outlets' policy to refer to the use of hallucinogenic drugs, but I swear I did not take any on the evening of February 23, 1996. Didn't need any. The Stanford Cardinal and California Golden Bears, two of the finest educational institutions in the country - and bitter rivals - were playing a basketball game. There isn't a soul alive who could tell you who won, but everyone who witnessed it will remember the brawl that broke out. Was it between the players? A few rowdy fans? Nope. It was the mascots. The Stanford Tree (what's up with that anyway?) vs. the Cal Bear. Now, bears have been tormenting trees for eons, if you know what I mean. Maybe it was about stinkin' time a tree defended itself. That's the only possible explanation I can think of for a TREE TO BE IN A FIST-FIGHT WITH A BEAR ON NATIONAL TELEVISION! Don't forget the hilarious shot of the tree being led away in handcuffs, either. Lord (or someone in this community), please tell me this was staged. Just recently, a Tree was fired and suspended for being drunk during a game, and another Tree was fired for dancing in an inappropriate area.
My mind has been altered forever, no substances needed. By the way, I didn't get the job as the Yuma Criminal. I finished a distant fourth to Rocky, Billy, and Pirate Guy. They had the "experience" the school was looking for. I hear they're just going to use their old costumes.
Wed 03/29/06, 11:01 am EST