21
Oct
10

Where the wild things are

Sir Big Spur

A quick glance at mascots of the SEC East shows that Southern fans like their team icons to have animal instincts. While the University of Florida goes the anthropomorphic route with a couple of costumed gators – Albert and Alberta – most of the other schools prefer a combo of costumed and real.

Some PETA members might disagree, but I enjoy getting glimpses of the real thing. The highlight of last year’s Outback Bowl was watching Sir Big Spur – the University of South Carolina’s appropriately garnet and black fighting rooster – fiercely pecking his own image in a sportscaster’s hand-held mirror. Hey, at least he showed fighting spirit, which is more than I can say for our guys on the field (we lost by 21 points).

Then again, Sir Big – whose original name was Cocky Doodle Lou, after former USA coach Lou Holtz – is unusually aggressive. He reportedly lost one of his spurs in a heated battle with a shiny hubcap.

Meanwhile, over at the University of Georgia, they’re on Uga VII, a portly English bulldog. I have to say, Uga’s quite a looker and was an immediate hit with the crowd when he was introduced to Bulldog fans last year. Uga lives in luxury, as befits one of the nation’s more lovable mascots. When he’s not observing the action from the sidelines, he cools down by resting on ice inside his comfy doghouse. Or is that Dawg-house?

Over in Tennessee, the Volunteers have their own dog in the SEC hunt: Smokey, a bluetick coon hound that howls on cue.

The living, breathing version of the University of Kentucky’s Wildcats is a bobcat named Blue. Unlike the school’s costumed mascots, Blue doesn’t attend games, preferring to laze around at the Salato Wildlife Education Center. But don’t dismiss Blue as a snob: Apparently bobcats are quite shy and don’t like large crowds.

Of course, as mascots go, I’m prejudiced in favor of the Cocky/Sir Big Spur combo – and, over in the SEC West, I love the story of Auburn’s War Eagle. As legend goes, a soldier from Alabama who was the sole survivor of a Civil War battle came across a wounded young eagle. He nursed the eagle back to health and, when he joined Auburn’s faculty, brought the bird with him. As Auburn played its first football game against Georgia in 1892, the geriatric eagle circled the field, pumping up the Auburn fans. When the game ended in an Auburn victory, the eagle fell from the air and died. It’s a fanciful tale, but it’s just a myth.

By the way, one of the best things about live animals on the field is the unexpected atmosphere they bring to a game. Uga once stood his ground by jumping up to nip at a charging Auburn player. And last year, a police dog — perhaps a wannabe mascot — bit the hand of an Auburn player hurtling toward him. Maybe something about those Auburn players engenders canine animosity.

Of course, nipping mascots aren’t exclusive to the SEC. Reveille VII, Texas A&M’s collie, was banned from the sidelines for one game for biting. In her defense, it was hot that day and someone stepped on her tail. By the way, her successor, Reveille VIII, receives the royal treatment at A&M. She’s enrolled as a full-time student, goes to class and is addressed as “Miss Rev, ma’am.”

Even more, according to The Battalion, A&M’s student newspaper, if Reveille barks during class, the class is dismissed. And if she falls asleep in a cadet’s bed, the cadet is relegated to sleeping on the floor. What a life!

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