An evening conversation: rah, rah, rah

By Stephen Cameron

Kansas State University has a problem.

However popular Willie the Wildcat might be, it just won’t do to have a burly mascot knocking someone to the turf as part of pregame festivities.

Thank goodness the other member of the cheer squad involved in Saturday’s dust-up is OK. Given that we witnessed a head thumping backwards against unforgiving artificial turf, I think everyone realizes it could have been worse.

Quite honestly, I’ve never understood exactly how these mascots — sorry, Willie — have become so entrenched in American college sports, anyhow.

What’s the point?

Several schools, in fact, have gone to great lengths to make fun of the entire mascot idea.

Administrators at the University of California at Santa Cruz originally went with the very logical sea lion as the school’s first mascot — only to have students revolt and, following a campus-wide vote, the mascot was changed to a banana slug.

Now there’s some character in a hideous yellow suit wandering around at athletic events: Slimy Sammy.

The kids love it, naturally.

Ditto the Stanford “tree,” which really belongs to the goofy school band rather than the university itself.

My favorite is the Delta State “Fighting Okra” — the dressed-up mascot is thoroughly disgusting but students have turned the mighty Okra into something of an urban legend.

Around Delta State, they say: “The Okra holds the secrets of the universe in the palm of his hand. But he never unclenches his fist.”

Only college kids could run with that.

By the way, Willie’s overzealous accident last weekend was a teeny bit dangerous, but there have been dumber things happen involving mascots.

The University of New Mexico is still called the Lobos, which is Spanish for wolves, but back in the 1920s, the school actually had a real wolf as its mascot.

However, you won’t see a snarling lobo on the sidelines these days, because…

According to UNM’s official history (circa 2013), the wolf became agitated during a football game and bit a child.

As horrible as that sounds, it actually may be a sanitized version of the truth.

I still have a New Mexico media guide from the late 1980s which says that the live lobo was replaced after killing and EATING a cheerleader during the 1926 season.

UNM may have reworked a slightly gentler wolf tale since that first account was published. Who knows?

But you get the point.

The whole mascot thing is little weird. I mean, have you ever seen that Syracuse University thing, the person waddling around in a costume looking like a big, fat orange?

I have some buddies who attended the ’Cuse, and they used to bump the mascot intentionally, because it was almost impossible for the Orange to get back on its feet.

You’d think universities would learn their lesson from New Mexico about keeping live animals around as mascots, too.

I once attended a University of Colorado football game at which “Ralphie the Buffalo” got loose from his dozen or so handlers and sent people running for their lives.

The moral of the story is pretty clear: Things can go wrong.

I’m sure everyone thought that the skit with Willie knocking over a fake Mountaineer was harmless enough at the time — yet it turned out a little scary.

Maybe K-State would have been better off as the Fighting Okra.

Nah, never mind. EMAW.

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