In October of 2017, while the Ole Miss football program under the direction of interim head coach Matt Luke was on its way to disappearing from national relevance, there was an actual disappearance on campus.
On October 7th, then-chancellor Jeffrey Vitter (lol remember him?) announced that Rebel the Black Bear, the school’s on-field mascot since 2010, was being sent to the great mascot home in the sky, which is also known as Storage Room C in the Manning Center.
Replacing Rebel was Tony the Landshark, named after former Ole Miss linebacker Tony Fein, who started the landshark hand gesture that is still thrown by Ole Miss athletes across all sports today. While Rebel’s introduction was met with the anger only found when adults act like babies, Tony’s arrival did not generate nearly as many diaper-filling cries.
The lack of reaction can be explained through some combination of the school having a connection to the idea of a landshark, and there were a few, just a few, more important things going on. Like say, Hugh Freeze resigning before he could get fired for bottoming out the program, Matt Luke being the interim head coach, and the product on the field showing the effects of a drop-off in recruiting. You know, small things like that.
By contrast, Rebel the Black Bear, who was too beautiful for this world, was always a stretch for a connection to the school, and his arrival was pre-Jacksonville State loss in 2010, so the beginning of the end of the Houston Nutt era had not started. Meaning, there weren’t more pressing issues.
Rebel was also the first on-field mascot to appear after Colonel Reb was sent to the Lost Cause graveyard in 2003, which upset many of the aforementioned adult babies.
[Timeout for a brief aside]
Let’s recall Houston Nutt’s remarks concerning the need for a mascot in the spring of 2010:
“Thank y’all for getting involved in the mascot.”
“Get us one.”
We always respect the Michael Scott strategy of starting a sentence and trying to figure out where it’s going to land as you speak.
[back to regularly scheduled programing]
After four years of posing for pictures with children and doing the cringe “First Fin” prior to home games in the Luke era, Tony the Landshark, in mafia terminology, got sent for. During a November 2021 interview with Ben Garrett of The Ole Miss Spirit, athletic director Keith Carter said that Tony would be de-emphasized going forward.
Carter noted Tony would be around in pre-game activities outside Vaught-Hemingway Stadium, but he would not be in the stadium:
“We kind of made the decision Tony’s not going to be involved in the game-day (festivities) this year. Nothing official with Tony, but just taking a little bit of a break, and we’re going to see where that ends up.”
Since then, Tony the Landshark has not been seen at Ole Miss games in any sport. In fact, he dropped off the radar entirely. That is until last week, when Tony was spotted in public for the first time in years.
What was Tony doing, you ask? Playing bass in a Chuck E. Cheese animatronic band? Starring in The Bachelor: Discarded Mascots in Paradise? Performing on tour with Katy Perry? Being arraigned for January 6th-related charges? Considering an offer from Hugh Freeze to be yet another former Ole Miss employee to join him at Auburn?
While all solid guesses, none are correct. Instead, Tony was STRUTTING THE RUNWAY AT BERLIN FASHION WEEK TO THE JAWS THEME MUSIC.
As Will Ferrell’s Mugatu would say, “That Tony is so hot right now!”
Congrats to Tony on the career pivot and finding work in the public eye again. However, it is my duty to warn him to never, no matter the circumstances, get in a walk-off with Hansel.