Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Northwestern's Willie the Wildcat

Northwestern University

Mascot: Willie the Wildcat

Resembles: Tom of “Tom and Jerry” – and now a homeless cat

Known for: Being a boring, cookie-cutter costume, duplicated by high schools all over the country

Willie the Wildcat is so lame. I mean, this mascot is just so… vanilla. Kind of like the university it represents. Why the heck is Northwestern in the Big Ten anyway? I don’t suppose Chicago being the third largest media market in the country has anything to do with it…

Northwestern should have kept their original mascot used back in 1923, which was a live, caged bear cub from Lincoln Park Zoo. He had an awesome name – “Furpaw”. On the morn of each game day, Furpaw was driven up Lake Shore Drive (in a Model-T Ford or something?) to greet and inspire Northwestern fans. But after a losing season, poor Furpaw was sent to the glue factory, after being deemed a bad luck charm.

The school gleamed the name “Wildcats” from a Chicago Tribune article that reported, “The Northwestern football team fought like Wildcats yesterday…” Northwestern decided it perfectly expressed the team’s fighting spirit and thus they became the Wildcats.

Willie the Wildcat was created as a logo in 1933, and in 1947 brought to life by the Alpha Delt fraternity during a homecoming parade. Some members of the frat designed the head, while their mothers sewed the rear section of the costume (i.e. Willie’s ass). The first Willie required two people to fill the costume; one for Willie's front and one for Willie's rear end. Was this the birth of the two-person horse costume? I've always thought that was a little creepy...like, what's going on in there?

The next year, in 1948, Willie discovered his feminine side when two chicks donned the cat costume. This posed a problem when Northwestern played Notre Dame. The conservative Catholic school had a standing rule that no females were allowed on the field. Therefore, two-girl Willie was stopped at the gates of the South Bend stadium. After lengthy negotiations, and some dirty looks from the judgmental Touchdown Jesus, officials gave the women special permission to appear – a major victory for women everywhere!

In 1949, the chick version of Willie ran into some trouble again – this time with the cheerleaders of the mighty Purdue Boilermakers. Not realizing there were two Northwestern babes in the cat suit, some male Purdue cheerleaders picked up the wildcat and threw the feline into their Boilermaker mascot (not sure if we're talking the Boilermaker Special or Purdue Pete.) After hearing feminine “shrieks” the Boilermakers apologized - such class!

In 2007, Willie got a makeover - or actually, a makeunder. I think Willie just let himself go. He stopped shaving his cat beard, his fur/pants/whatever got all baggy, and he accumulated stains all over his "00" purple jersey. I think he's living in the hard streets of Evanston. But my biggest question is this...where the heck did his eyes go? And his fangs fell out!? Give that cat some kitty dentures! Poor blind, fangless Willie. I could suggest a good no-kill shelter in Lincoln Park.

Now I think Northwestern should have taken cues from the other Willie the Wildcat - from Kansas State University. He scores major points for his OUTRAGEOUSLY huge cat head. I mean, that's REALLY disproportionate. And don't you think K-State Willie's head looks more like a shark? Maybe there was a sale for shark heads at the costume shop and K-State just glued on some whiskers.

Overall rating: 4 out of 10
Willie is freaking generic. It was even hard to find info about him on the Internet, because no one cares. And the updated Willie just got worse. However, he does get some points for not wearing pants. Really disappointing - Northwestern is an elite school– can’t they use some of that brain power to come up with a cool, more clever mascot? What a sad, sad cat.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Ohio State's Brutus Buckeye

THE Ohio State University

Mascot: Brutus the Buckeye

Resembles: A neckless nut boy

Known for: His fear of squirrels, and promoting marijuana

Et tu, Brutus! Brutus the Buckeye is another favorite of mine, I have to say. After all, it is an incredibly stupid idea to stick a nut on top of a human body. And that’s why I like him. In 1965, Ohio State students Ray Bourhis and Sally Huber decided Ohio State needed a mascot. At the time, many schools brought live animal versions of their mascots to games. The initial idea was a buck deer, but that was thought impossible to use – maybe it would have gotten lose and gored some kids in the horseshoe or something. So instead, the buckeye nut was chosen, since the Buckeye is the official tree of the state of Ohio.

The road to the modern Brutus is as rough as potholes on I-71. He started out as some 2nd grader’s paper-mache project, making his grand entrance at the Minnesota vs. Ohio State homecoming game on October 30, 1965. (Coincidence that this scary thing appeared the day before Halloween?) Shockingly enough, the piƱata consistency lasted a whopping two weeks in Ohio’s crappy weather, and it was replaced with a fiberglass shell.

Then something went REALLY wrong – in 1975, Brutus just got all CREEPY. It was like a California Raisin mated with the guy from “Mask”. Sweet Jesus. Who the hell thought this would look good?

So, let's review this:

In 1977, Ohioans couldn’t stand the creepiness any longer, so they went back to the first Brutus nut, only this time he gained 60 additional pounds – 80 pounds total – to now cover the waist of the schlep wearing the nut body. He also gained a baseball cap… and apparently became a mute (no mouth) and cross-eyed. He also looks like he got roughed up a bit (probably from Pete's hammer), or perhaps he had some bad acne scars. Poor nut.

Finally in 1981, Brutus went back to being just a nut head, and with several facelifts and a scarlet and grey rugby shirt, we have Brutus as he is today. But I have to ask, why does Brutus wear that little towel over his nutty parts? Ohio State’s lack of balls? Hmmmmmmm.

And while we’re asking questions, here are a few more I have:

1. What’s with the “THE” of “THE Ohio State University”? As opposed to “AN Ohio State University”? or “HIS” or “HER” or “OUR” Ohio State University? Listen guys – it doesn’t make you sound more prestigious. In fact, it’s just annoying. Valiant effort, however.

2. What’s with the buckeye leaves on the helmets? Are those really the leaves of a “Buckeye tree,” or are they another type of earthy, organic, groovy kind of leaf? Check out this Ohio State player once he took his helmet off...

3. Why are Ohio State fans such cry babies? Like, whoa – it’s going to be OK. I think we’re being a little too dramatic here – although this touching piece on You Tube did make me feel a bit sorry for Brutus, as he wept from last year’s national championship loss to Florida… Alas, poor Brutus...

After that loss – actually two national championship losses to Florida - Brutus’ mental state took a serious hit. He became especially violent to his rivals, by fatally beating the Michigan Wolverine (once again Michigan – it’s pretty sad when other schools have to make a mascot for you. The Wolverine clearly deserves to wear a tutu.)

And by ripping off the Florida Gator’s tail, (thoroughly upsetting Albert Gator’s wife, Alberta Gator.)

Brutus also reported vicious night terrors of his greatest fears…

Here's a video of Brutus' worst fear, as he's relentlessly chased and mauled by an angry pack of blood-thirsty squirrels. I love it.


But, Brutus is a tough nut to crack, and he’s up and at ‘em again this year. Although, he doesn’t realize this Saturday he’s about to meet the toughest nut cracker of them all…

Overall Rating: 8 out of 10
Brutus scores high for a lot of reasons, I mean - he’s a freaking nut with a human body. Inanimate objects always score higher than boring animal mascots. He has that stupid, frozen goofy grin (botox Brutus?) and notice that Brutus is one of the few fully dressed mascots – I might have given him a few extra points if he was missing pants, like the Wisconsin Badger, or bearing his chest like Smokey the Bear. But, he’s darn cute with a disproportionate head - so high scores from me, Brutus!