OPINION: College mascots are basically stereotypical dads


Nebraska mascot Herbie Husker looks to the crowd. Tribune News Service

From clumsy dancing to cheesy senses of humor, the line between father and mascot is virtually imperceptible.

To small children, both are larger-than-life figures capable of no fault. Unfortunately, just as we eventually realize a mascot is just a sweaty teenager staving off heat stroke and suffocation, we must accept the superhero we call dad is merely human.

But no matter how goofy they are, there’s no denying the love felt for fathers and mascots everywhere. To commemorate Father's Day, here are four other ways in which your old man is only an oversized foam headpiece away from hyping up crowds on Saturdays. 

They want to be young forever

Something about fatherhood fills men with a mortal fear of death. Look no further than Nebraska’s appropriately corny Herbie Husker, a textbook example of a dad desperately clinging to the glory days.

Herbie would be the sort of father who clocks out of his nine-to-five and floors his Honda Civic straight to the local YMCA. There, he embarks on a personal mission to soak each bench with as much sweat as possible, stopping only to regale high schoolers with stories of his own time as the big man on campus.

For an energetic boy or girl, having a dad who can keep up would be great. However, when pop starts forcing you to play the sports in which he totally could have gone pro and cursing at the T-ball ref, you may worry more blood is circulating to his immense forearms than his brain.

They adopt a certain appearance

Of course, age comes for us all. In the end, many fathers’ quests for the fountain of youth instead brings them to the Gap, a veritable fountain of boxy shoes and loose-fitting khaki shorts.

Mascots have always been on the cutting edge of paternal fashion. The University of Alabama’s Big Al and University of California, Berkeley’s Oski both expertly pull loose sweaters over their ever-expanding waistlines, proving the “dad bod” knows no single species.

Should I ever have kids, I hope to emulate the University of Southern California’s Tommy Trojan. Not only has Tommy managed to stay lean since the Bronze Age, but he is always ready to bust out the leather man sandals given that his calves are as clearly defined as the border between North and South Korea. 

They treat their hobbies very seriously

Fishing. Day drinking. Day drinking while fishing. Every dad has specific hobbies that remind us they are more than a parent, and mascots are no exception.

Take hunting, for instance. West Virginia University's rifle-toting mountaineer, ingeniously dubbed The Mountaineer, has doubtlessly spent myriad afternoons perched in a tree, aiming at a variety of potential Bambi cast members.

Of course, not all activities have to be conventionally masculine. Vanderbilt University’s Mr. C probably spends his weekends on the losing side of Civil War reenactments. 

Then there’s Purdue Pete, the boilerman whose basement certainly contains a garish display of model trains. This dorky but charming pastime might fill a number of Pete’s hours, but nothing can ever fill his soulless, vacant eyes. Stare into those black voids long enough, and you’ll start wishing a locomotive could come speeding out and end the misery.

They have midlife crises

Some mascots have been around since before the Roosevelt administration, so it's understandable they have undergone moments of insecurity.

The Wake Forest University Demon Deacon has been a symbol of temperance and religious discipline since his inception in the 1940s. He can now be seen riding into games on a motorcycle like any hip, relatable youth pastor.

How much do you want to bet he has a cross tattoo on his wrist? Deacon, you absolute rebel, you. 

Still, nothing tops the University of Oregon’s adorably pudgy fowl transforming into muscle-bound abomination known as Mandrake in 2002. I would never frown upon a father for trying to get into stellar shape, but there’s something off-putting about drastically modifying one’s body out of nowhere. 

Mandrake looks like he went to a GNC and bought anything with the word testosterone on it. I’m sure he completely crushes it at CrossFit, but there’s no way I’m trusting that nightmarish creature to watch over children.

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