Guesties: Big Ten name game

Posted: August 18, 2011 by terryvandrovec in Uncategorized
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

By Dan Frasier
Guest blogger 

As a Nebraska Cornhuskers fan, I find myself on the eve of watching UNL’s first season as a member of the venerable Big Ten Conference. As part of my preparation for the season, I began amassing the necessary slurs, put-downs, and provocations of other Big Ten teams that will allow me to fully enjoy Season 1 of the “The Cornhuskers take the Big Ten” show.

However, I found myself in a sad situation. I hadn’t fully thought through all of the ways that the mascot names of other schools can be made fun of or perverted to sound even more ridiculous than they already are. It is from this perilously under-prepared stance that I decided to sit down and make a list. For the record, this list is unencumbered by any meaningful research (except to figure out what the hell an Illini is. Seriously, people can remember the Illinois mascot without Google?) or thought process. I wanted to keep it pure and childish; you understand. So here is my assessment:

Ohio State. Ok, so they are the Buckeyes.  I’m pretty sure a Buckeye is some kind of big seed or nut or something, and I vaguely recall that they aren’t good for you to eat. This might be the lamest of all Big Ten mascots. Seriously. A Nut? I mean, I suppose if a Buckeye fired from a slingshot hit someone, it would cause a nasty welt or at least bruise. But I doubt that’s the team motto. And are they poisonous?  If so, does the fight song say, “We are the mighty Buckeyes, if you attempt to eat one of us you may encounter an upset stomach or diarrhea so watch out!”? This is a sad, sad mascot.

It’s an inanimate object. It can’t DO anything to you. It’s not menacing or frightening.  Nobody ever had a nightmare about being attacked by a roving pack of wild seeds. Do Better, Ohio State, and without cheating.

Iowa.  The Hawkeyes.  Now I know what a hawk is, and to small rodents (Gophers, perhaps) they have to be pretty frightening – invisible death from above and all. But what the hell is a Hawkeye? Does it actually mean the eye of a Hawk? That’s the stupidest part of this rodent killer. I mean, the talons could get you, the beak is pretty freaky, but the eye?  It can see you, I guess. I bet it is good at, you know, watching. Sort of like the Iowa defense. Plus, MASH destroyed this mascot. I can’t help thinking about a lanky guy with a 1970s white-guy fro mildly annoying authority and being sexiest in an endearing sort of way. Sadly, neither the ocular organ of a bird of prey nor the best field doctor in Korea strike fear into the hearts of opponents.

Minnesota. This is, fittingly, by far the worst of all mascots in the Big Ten: The Golden Gophers. First, lets dispatch Golden. What the hell is that? Did a group of people sit around and actually have this conversation:

“I know, let’s be the Gophers!”
“Hmm. Yeah, that’s good, but Gophers alone just isn’t scary enough.”
“Ooh, I got it: The Silver Gophers!”
“You are onto something there. Silver is pretty awesome. But you know what metal has even more worth? Gold!”
“That’s it! The Golden Gophers!”
“Now nobody with want to mess with us.  And we won’t get confused will all the other Gopher mascots that are sure to spring up!”

Come on people.  This is just dumb and U of M fans know it. (I know because I went to school there for a while.) They don’t even use the Golden when lamenting how terrible their football team is.
As for the Gopher part … are you serious? You picked a rodent, the only animal mascot that springs to mind that is the prey rather than the predator. Things eat gophers. Snakes, for example, and hawks (and apparently Coyotes – rim shot). The gopher’s greatest defense is its heightened sense of fear that allows it to flee and hide in a hole. Also, the rest of the world calls those things ground squirrels, not gophers. Just sayin’.

Michigan. The Wolverines. I got nothin’. This is a badass mascot. These things are terrifying and the idea is not overused. In fact, I can’t think of any other wolverine mascot in sports.  That does give me pause. It makes me wonder if I’m not missing something. Maybe Wolverines are just dirty scavengers that run from other animals or people; I don’t know. I guess I will just hope that the Michigan defense continues to be so soft and porous that they give this animal a bad name.

Michigan State.  The Spartans.  So cliche. Yeah, yeah, we all saw “300.” Pretty tough dudes. Of course, they did lose that battle. Also, Sparta isn’t exactly known for conquering, well, anything. They were formidable when messed with, but pretty much didn’t do anything else – kind of like Michigan State.
Also, how is this school not getting sued by a band of Greeks tired of having their ancient city states used as mascots? Shouldn’t the people of modern day Sparta (whom I don’t imagine looking anything like the jail-big dudes in “300”) be all hacked off over the bad rap they are getting by? Guess they just want to eat olives and destroy their national economy.

Illinois. The Illini. I think this is a Native American tribe, althought I seem to recall being told once that it was a mythical one. I don’t know what to say about that. So you made up something and then named yourself after it.  Great idea, geniuses. Just because you create a fictional people and then pretend they were really scary, doesn’t mean the rest of us have to play along.
It’s just such a weird concept. It’s like Illinois fans are all 6-year-olds, inventing creatures, assigning them scariness and then being scared of them themselves. For the record, there Mr. Illini, they rest of us adults are going to check under your bed for you, assure you that the Illini are all in your imagination and give you an extra nightlight. Thanks. Now can I have a Bud Light and watch big boy football?

Indiana. The Hosiers. Who knows and who cares?

Purdue. The Boilermakers. Real life boilermakers were probably pretty tough dudes.  I mean, they did work in what I can only imagine were terrible conditions. But by that logic, the best mascot ever would be the settlers wives. Those ladies worked, ran the homestead and had to tended to their husbands and children. Oh, and they did it without having any rights. These ladies had it tough. Yet I venture to guess that they could beat a boilermaker in arm wrestling and then whip up some mean biscuits. So effectively, Purdue picked a mascot that is of above-average toughness, but not on top of the heap. Plus, I think the real boilermakers were pretty passive. I don’t remember reading about the Great Boilermaker Rebellion of 1838 or hearing that the boilermakers were known as a ruthless band of men that could strike fear in less tough brakemakers or trainwheelmakers or even bakers. Maybe this mascot is fitting for Purdue, just sort of there, cognitively appropriate, but viscerally weak.  It’s the smart guys choice of a mascot, and that’s fitting with their recent on-field performance.

Northwestern. The Wildcats. Blah. Total blah. And appropriate. Besides, what does wildcat mean? Are we talking about a mountain lion? If so, what mountains are situated near the Chicago area? Perhaps this is a shout out to the bobcat? Possibly, although bobcats lack tails and are relatively small. They are to mountain lions as coyotes are to wolves. I like to think this name refers to feral cat, domestic kitties gone wild (just like those late-night videos). If that’s the case then the songbirds had better watch out because some of these Northwestern Feral Cats haven’t been declawed.

Penn State.  The Nittany Lions.  I get Lions.  I mean, it’s generic and not related to anything Pennsylvania has to offer, but it is the King of the Jungle. Still, what does Nittany mean? I’m not even sure if that’s an adjective or a noun.  Is a Nittany Lion a Lion from the Nittany Valley? Is it a Lion that shows Nittany-like qualities? Was JoPa involved in the choosing of this mascot? I feel like he probably was in maybe 1749. I don’t think there was a Penn State pre-JoPa. In fact, I’m not sure there was a Pennsylvania pre-JoPa.
Oil was originally discovered in Pennsylvania and those oil rig guys in the early days had it way tougher than any boilermaker ever did. Penn State clearly realized how lame naming a mascot after an occupation is, but didn’t have any good back-up ideas. We’re talking about a college with the creativity to wear all white.

Wisconsin. The Badgers. Alright these things are, let’s say, medium scary. I’ve seen dogs take them on and witnessed one killed by being hit by the roots of a corn stalk. (That bodes well for Nebraska’s season, I think). On the other hand, at least they aren’t gophers. I think this is a fitting mascot for Wisconsin.  I mean, historically its football program has been situated nicely between Minnesota and Michigan. Similarly, its mascot is not quite a Wolverine yet definitely not a Gopher. Interestingly, the geography works out that way too with Wisconsin sitting between Michigan and Minnesota. It’s almost as though a wily gopher unknowingly impregnated a wolverine – perhaps roofies were involved – and created Bucky the Badger.

Notre Dame. The Fighting Irish. Yeah, I’m including them because I didn’t think this post was long enough yet. Screw you, Notre Dame. You are a Big Ten school and this false pretense about independence isn’t fooling anyone. Jerks. This is clearlythe most offensive mascot of the bunch. As an American of Irish decent, I’m so tired of people thinking we are all just overgrown leprechauns looking to get wasted and fight. Plus, we aren’t even that good at fighting – at least, I’m not. We are totally overrated based on our history. People think we’re still formidable just because we used to be a raucous crowd. But we aren’t. Oh wait, maybe I’m talking about Notre Dame football program.
It is interesting that in our litigious society this mascot remains unchallenged. The schools with Native American mascots have all been challenged and many have folded. Here we’re talking about specifically calling out and assigning a negative stereotype to an ethnic group. With Fighting Sioux at least you can argue that it is a reference to their skilled warrior class, just like the Spartans. You can’t even pretend that with the Fighting Irish. What war have the Irish ever won? Do you read a lot of stories about the potent Irish warrior class?  No. Irish people get drunk and fight, allegedly. And apparently it’s OK to make that your mascot.
As an aside, I think only a real-life Buckeye would have trouble beating up a drunken Irishman in a fight.

Nebraska. The Cornhuskers. OK, this one is going to hurt. At age 3, I cried when Tom Osborne went for two against Miami, but I will try to power through in an indiscriminate fashion.
Let’s get this out of the way: At the beginning of time, the UNL mascot was the Bugeaters. Let’s give them a tiny tiny bit of credit for getting away from that. As for Conhuskers … not really sure what that is. It’s not a profession. It might be a piece of farm equipment. Whatever the case, not scary. My 7-year-old daughter husks sweetcorn that we buy at roadside stands – anyone can do it. On the other hand, picking out all those silk strands is tedious …  Maybe that’s what this refers to. “The Cornhuskers: We will bore you to death.” It used to work in the old two tailback, three yards and a cloud of dust days.
Anyway, Cornhuskers hit all three of the bad notes for mascots.  It’s non-sensical (see Nittany), it’s not intimidating (see Gophers) and it doesn’t even fit the location (See Northwestern). Nebraska doesn’t even grow that much corn – not nearly as much at Iowa, Illinois and Indiana. A Cornhusker has never maimed, killed or scared anyone way. Well, except maybe the Missouri Tigers, but that’s something different.

About the author: Frasier used to be some sort of financier, but now that football season has arrived he’s a full-time Nebraska bobo. Pray for him.

  1. shawnfury says:

    Nice writeup, Dan. Gophers is at least better than one of the school’s in my high school conference. The Awesome Blossoms. The Blooming Prairie Awesome Blossoms. Not just a Blossom. An Awesome one. In their gym, they had this giant banner with a giant, well, blossom, looking really angry. It was always emasculating losing to them in any sport other than, say, cross country.

  2. Nice write up. There are at least no Pine Tree mascots, banana slugs, hard rockers, terrapin or zips.

    We used to sit around in college drunk trying to name the mascot for every South Dakota school. Good times…good times. (Deubrook Divers btw)

  3. Anonymous says:

    yeah, in south dakota we have the coyotes and the jackrabbits for college teams. (i mean, you know, ones that count). on the surface that seems fine, but it is perilously close to the Wiley E Coyotes and Bugs Bunnies.

  4. Anonymous says:

    Yeah, instead of anonymous, that’s Dan. Man I am bad at the interwebs.

  5. Anonymous says:

    Nice write-up! I guess the CornHuskers could pick a more descriptive name. How ’bout:
    Miserable, whiney, the only reason we ever lost was because of the unamerican officiating, only 4% of our fanbase actually attended NU but that’s OK the three players on our team that are actually from Nebraska don’t really attend the “U” either, and come to think of it that 4% is pretty close to the winning percentage we have in games against ranked teams!

    Oh yea, one question. What do you call that mascot?

    • Dan Fasier says:

      Nice to hear from you too, dad. Oh and I did think you should know…Since 90 they’ve won 3 and played for 4 national championships, rest of the big 10.. 2. They are 10 and 5 in bowls since 1995… They are 3 and 0 in bowls against big ten opponents in the last 10 years.. 8 top ten finishes in the last 20 years.. 2001 heisman trophy winner… 2009 ap player of the year… 49 current pros….9 weeks ranked in the top 10 last year, as high as #5… Just sayin’

  6. Anonymous says:

    It is just sad that you have all of that at your fingertips!
    Corney would be proud!

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