Given the length of my own tenure on this campus, and the strong family connections (my father, uncle, and brother are alumni too), you might think that I would be an NU sports superfan, of the purple-bleeding variety, but I am not. This is for two reasons. The first is genetic - I come from a long line of sports-indifferent people, and, try as I might, I just can't get excited about college sports. The second reason, though, is a critical issue which I entreat the University to address for the sake of students past, present, and future: the mascot. Sorry, Willie - the wildcat needs to be replaced, for the following reasons.
First, let's look at the facts. The wildcat became NU's sports mascot completely by accident. Before the wildcat, NU's athletic nicknames included "The Fighting Methodists" and "Purple." I'm not a Methodist, but I'd be willing to be one on the field or in the stands. I don't know if the Wesleys were good at sports, but I'll give them the benefit of the doubt. Eighteenth-century theologians aside, "Wildcat" name comes from a sportswriter's description of a football team's tenacity in a 1924 game. It is indeed the accidental mascot.
Second, I, one who knows nothing about sports, can name three big schools who are also "Wildcats," and probably more fittingly so:
- University of Kentucky
- University of Arizona
- Kansas State University
Moving into the land of opinion, nothing about NU really says "wildcat" to me. Why not pick something that taps into our history? Failing that, why not pick something unique or maybe a little off-the-wall? One needn't look far for inspiration. Consider some of the other school mascots out there. In the Big Ten alone, we have Badgers and Boilermakers. West of the Mississippi, you'll find Jayhawks, Cornhuskers, and Sooners. On the west coast, we have the Oregon Ducks, the Oregon State Beavers, and two gems from the University of California system - the Anteaters (UC Irvine) and, my favorite, the Banana Slugs (UC Santa Cruz). With the notable exception of the Anteaters, all of these tap into local history, culture, legends, or remarkable fauna. UC Irvine gets special dispensation because anteaters are pretty awesome even if they're not native to southern California. The bottom line is that there's no excuse for overusing sports mascots. I'm watching you, Spartans, Eagles, Tigers, Hawks, and Bears.
In the spirit of constructive criticism, I offer some suggestions for a replacement mascot.
- The Purple Monkeys
- The Jaywalkers
- The Flying Frances Willards1
- The McLean Stevensons2
- The Prophets of "See, in 1851, this was considered the northwestern frontier, get it?"
- The Fighting "Steven Colbert is an alumnus and that makes us all a little cooler by extension"-s
1 Founder of the Women's Christian Temperance Union, one of the leading forces behind Prohibition. Probably a real party animal.
2 Alumnus McLean Stevenson played the fictional University of Illinois alumnus Lt. Col. Henry Blake on M*A*S*H.