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.


Amanda said...

I'm going to be thinking about poor Furpaw all day!

Jon Uhart said...

I'd like to see a review on K-State's Willie the Wildcat. Who was first, Northwestern or K-State? We catch a lot of flak for having a un-original mascot...basically just a football player with a big head. Oh, he changes it up for basketball I guess. But, he does a lot of pushups at football games (when we're scoring), and he makes wedding appearances (mine). Also, it's always a closely guarded secret who Willie actually is. Like it's the Skulls or something.