I interrupt my self-imposed mascot silence to bring you this:
When friend of the Cup and NAFOOM'er EtOHReb asked whether I thought he could be on the mascot selection committee, my response was "I'm sure, but why?" It seemed like an unnecessary headache to me. Careful never to cross too far off into breaking confidences, he would later talk about how arduous and frustrating it has been trying to come up with the best options around which to build some new tradition.
"I'm excited about the possibilities of the final three," he told me recently. Ah, the tender innocense of being naive. I told him I thought that no matter how cool the renderings were, almost everyone would profess to hating them. Ole Miss Rebels, many of us with at least a subconcious iconography that was forged 150 years ago, instinctively hate new things. Add to that our youthful tendency to rebel against all things having the imprimatur of officiality to them - "face it Dr. Mao Tse Dan has done made this decision" - and you have an instant brew of disastrous response to anything, even your own personal Astronaut Mike Dexter.
Not surprisingly, Beezy Kyle Veazey (think about how he blogs more than Brandt and then say it like Count Dracula), tweeted "I expected the mascot ideas to get lampooned, but not totally crushed like what's happening tonight. This is brutal." That being said, I would like to temper my instincts to crush all things new and offer some feedback on these options.
See them here, I won't repost them. And I won't rehash arguments about why this concept is or is not a good idea. Let's just talk design.
LANDSHARK: Some have joked that it looks like a dinosaur with a fin. Were they expecting a realistic-looking shark with legs? I think the hat looks a little more European than coastal, but I am not much of a hat guy. Overall the shark is precisely what I was expecting - a good mix of athletic ferocity and cartoonish kid-appeal. As far as something to build on, I would love to hear from the university about the feasibility of (one day) having a shark tank in the stadium. Lastly, that fin is going to knock somebody's drink of the table. Do not invite Rebel Land Shark to your dinner parties, unless you want a huge mess to clean up.
BLACK BEAR: BimBam nailed one criticism: the bear ain't black. And it's not just color; it's the shape and features on his face. Black bears have black fur all over their whole face including their longer snouts. The knock on having a bear is that lots of teams have bears. The retort is that the black bear is a distinct sub-group with distinctive features. I want our bear mascot to evoke those distinctive features. I hope the final product looks more real than cartoony. Putting Houston's hat on him was a nice allusion to the era in which this mascot will have (potentially) been inaugurated. I prefer the gray pants to the Shark's red pants. As Ghost mentioned yesterday (and, consistent with my notes above) I want to know whether an on-campus habitat for a live version of this mascot is feasible. Finally, I am all over the Grove attire. This was an outstanding idea by the committee.
HOTTY TODDY: The non-descript super fan has one great advantage: it is a canvas. You can add to it and take away from game-to-game and era-to-era. Want to put a hat on him that looks sort of like the Colonel's? We can do that for a game. In this era where we call ourselves the landshark, give him a head-piece that has a fin on it. What if he had left the Tennessee game last year for a few minutes and returned in the 4th quarter in a "RUN DMC" shirt? That would have been cool. Or in 2006 he had come to a game with a Patrick Willis-esque ball cast on his arm? Whatever is cool for us that day, he can be it that day and discard it the next.
In essence, I think these are pretty good starts. They need some feedback. But, remember, just as the cartoon logo version of Colonel Reb looks different than the on-the-field version, so too will the foam head Land Shark look different than this rendering. These things are more like logos than renderings of what the physical mascot will be, and that is less than I was expecting. But if I was a five-year-old, I would totally watch a television show starring any of them.
I do have a confession to make, though. My opinions are not unbiased or perfectly objective. In some ways I think I've already picked a side. One part of the general Southern persona is stubborn resistance to "the new." The other part of Old South ethos is fighting for the sake of it.
I got my blog handle because a few years ago I was conscripted into playing a minor and unsuccessful role in persuading students to stop chaning ... well, you know. My friends and future blog-migos sarcastically accused me of "stealing their traditions" from high in my "ivory tower." Other less-than-friends weren't sarcastic, and this life-long Mississippian felt like he was being branded a carpet-bagger. And, so, even though I identify with every bit of our passing Ole Miss iconography from every incarnation of the Colonel to every variation of Dixie, I do not identify with "the Colonel Reb people" or their foundation. Last weekend in Oxford I offered a waitress ten extra bucks if she would snatch down the Colonel Reb Foundation schedule poster on the wall of their establishment, which brands Chancellor Jones as "Wanted" for "Tradition Treason." She declined to be a party to my vandalism, but my brother did not. And when I left, I left that garbage in a dozen pieces on the table.
So, take my "sober" view of these depictions with a grain of salt because I am, admittedly, biased. I want to win. And winning for me will happen in a few years when children start growing up with these characters. They will beg their parents, some of whom unreasonbly said they were "embarrassed" by this process, to take a picture with the foam creature. And the digital camera will call up the sound bite evocative of old cameras (that sound which people have grown accustomed to but would never think of defaming Canon if they decided to just drop it). Those parents will see their children wildly clinging to that anthropomorphic "embarrassment," and they will have to admit to themselves that it NEVER MATTERED, at least not so much as would have been commensurate with their passion. This was never Waterloo; it was a windmill.
I now re-impose my personal mascot silence.