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Steve Mullen: Lessons from Admiral Ackbar


Steve Mullen



Recent events at Ole Miss make me wonder if someone broke into the marijuana farm and is handing out free samples. 


This week, the student body voted to begin the process of coming up with a new school mascot. We''re talking here about the guy with the big foam head that roams the sidelines of sporting events. 


While I''m an Ole Miss graduate and fan, I always wondered about Colonel Rebel, the mascot the university stopped dressing out in 2003.  


The best sports mascots are equal parts intimidation and awe: Bears, Eagles, so on. The Ole Miss guy looks about 80. He''s well past retirement age. We are led to assume he is a Civil War-era colonel, which would mean he was born about 1830, if not earlier. Football wasn''t even around yet. Honestly, if we were dealing with a fourth and long, with two seconds on the clock, would you send him into the huddle? Would you want him calling a play? Plowing a lane through a pack of LSU defenders? Sprinting to get open in the end zone? He can''t even walk without that cane. 


Mr. Burns, Homer''s centenarian boss from "The Simpsons," would bring more skills than this guy. 


We also infer that he is a plantation owner. I don''t remember seeing a plantation on campus during my time there. The closest thing to a farm was -- you guessed it -- that happy little green patch off Highway 6 that I mentioned earlier. 


Yes, there once was a time that a retired Confederate (slave owner?) was intimidating. But in 21st century Mississippi, we''re no longer there, and clearly, the time, and the game, has changed. We''re not comfortable being intimidated in that way anymore, if we ever were.  


Long story short, I''m fine with a mascot change. 


Here''s where the mind-bending drugs kick in. A small band of Ole Miss students has been pushing for the Star Wars film character Admiral Ackbar to be the new mascot. For those readers who don''t know, Admiral Ackbar appeared toward the end of "Return of the Jedi," as the leader of the Rebel fleet. He has the personality of Winston Churchill, but where Winston Churchill''s head should be, is the head of a giant orange squid, with two huge, yellow, bowling-ball eyes protruding from each side. He noisily sucks on air in between sputtering out cliches like "It''s a trap!" 


This whole thing started as a joke, obviously. We''re the Rebels, he''s the head Rebel in "Star Wars," plus he''s funny looking, har har, let''s write about it in the Daily Mississippian. 


Admiral Ackbar ain''t gonna happen. Yet, the fact that a handful of Star Wars geeks is driving this debate speaks volumes. Above all, it appears that few people really care about what shape the foam head on the sidelines might take. That was borne out in that fewer than 20 percent of students voted in the election on Tuesday. (The vote was an overwhelming 75 percent in favor of coming up with a new mascot.) 


It could also be that many students in Colonel Reb''s camp didn''t cast a ballot, figuring that the university will do as it wishes, no matter how they might vote. That''s probably true.  


That said, it''s heartening that the current crop of students can embrace change. Even though a "no" vote wouldn''t have brought back the old colonel, a group of students and alums known as the Colonel Reb Foundation campaigned for students to vote that way. The old mascot should be brought back because he represents "heritage," they argued. With the mascot''s sideline appearances totaling about 30 years, that heritage doesn''t exactly run deep. 


The vote showed that Ole Miss'' recent heritage has not been an attachment to the symbols of the past. Its recent heritage has been the ability, however painful at times, to distance itself from those very symbols. The result is a thriving, dynamic campus, and a strong sports program to boot.  


Some folks harbor strong feelings about the university letting go of things like Confederate flags and colonels. But I think change is a great thing, especially when the goal is to be more inclusive.  


If only we could all agree to come off the farm, and leave the Star Wars toys at home.


Steve Mullen is Managing Editor of The Dispatch.


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Reader Comments

Article Comment JC commented at 2/26/2010 3:46:00 PM:

Admiral Ackbar would be a fantastic mascot. A giant squid-headed alien could be VERY intimidating.


Article Comment Thom Geiger commented at 2/26/2010 4:13:00 PM:

Steve, Steve, Steve, it's no surprise that a big shot at the Dispatch would take a liberal wing-nut view (not my copyright on that moniker, that belongs to The Daily Beast's John Avlon) that any southern colonel image is one of a former slave owner. You're not from here, are you? At least this is one Dispatch article on the topic of political correctness that's not advocating using public tax money to address. What a refreshing change for once.
But really, I don't really care what the students at Ole Miss decide they want as a mascot, but wasn't it your (the Dispatch's) sister news entity (yeah, yeah, we know, it was supposedly sold to Morris Multimedia, Inc., SUPPOSEDLY...but they got Birney's other Steve, didn't they?) that aired the interview with the young African-American man who expressed some displeasure at the administration's politically correctness in deciding to get rid of Colonel Reb, without considering the young man's opinion- that the only thing Colonel Reb represented was an image of a southern gentleman? Obviously, that young man must be one of the ones you're talking about, the pot farm and such. Do 'ya think? Maybe he was just bamboozled. Whatever.
Now that Birney has you chasing the PC efforts to dump all remnants of (as the CD puts it) "Old Southern Symbolism", perhaps we can look forward to your editorial that's sure to come on Colonel Sanders...wink* wink*
Frankly, you're an alumni, you're not a student. If the students want Admiral Ackbar or General Grievous is no concern of mine or yours. Let them be. Personally, if, like that young African-American man who didn't like the summary move by the administration, I *were* an OM student and was similarly displeased at what happened, I might choose a new mascot to show my disdain for the new modern political correctness sweeping the nation, that takes no prisoners and suffers no objections.
I think Admiral Ackbar looks more like a fish head, which would tie in well with the state's robust catfish farming industry. The "Ole Miss Fish Heads", that's nice. I can see the T-shirts now.
What happens happens, what will be will be. In the meantime, I'll be looking for that article on Colonel Sanders.


Article Comment SD commented at 2/26/2010 5:24:00 PM:

Thank you, GiveMeABreak. I was about to write the same thing. I didn't realize that the search for a modern mascot for a modern university = crazy, leftist, politically correct socialism. I also didn't realize that Mr. Imes had his hands in all things and was the root of all evil. Gosh, he must be super busy.


Article Comment citizen commented at 2/26/2010 5:24:00 PM:

Well said GiveMeABreak!


Article Comment Bubba Gump commented at 2/26/2010 10:10:00 PM:

Very amusing Steve. I too found the mascot thing funny, but not for the same reasons you did.

Everyone (well, everyone except the few on here and the Dispatch in general) knows this mascot thing was started by a group who, at heart, hates anything having to do with Southern Heritage. Sure they operate under the idea "it reminds them of slavery", but this is a slick cover used to hide what is really at hand: a racist minority.

One would think if things remind them of slavery, and just can't be tolerated, you'd think this group would also find other things "at fault" about which they could cry foul.

Starting with the American flag. Although it wasn't exactly as it is now, the theme hasn't changed much from those dreaded slave days so I guess we'll be needing a new national flag.

And I guess this will mean we will all have to be wearing synthetic clothes as cotton would surely remind them of those days as well.

And we'll have to do away with all those African names those poor children are cursed with and doomed to end up spelling to everyone who ever asks them their name throughout their life.

And then there is Kentucky Fried Chicken. Probably the worse offender of them all as it was started by yet another Colonel who seems to be the spitting image of the one they just couldn't stand at Ole Miss.

And I guess we'll be doing away with all those spirituals, especially the ones that might have ever been sung by a slave as this would most certainly remind one of slavery yet again.

But the thing that puzzles me the most is this. We never hear anyone from this poor suffering group complain about any of the points I have mentioned: just a cartoon character figurehead that happens to be the mascot of what is, in their opinion, some sort of fortress of slavery.

I have one more question to ask. Just when was it Mississippi, and for that matter, this country, was neutered?


Article Comment Bubba Gump commented at 2/27/2010 7:24:00 AM:


That the mascot was fashioned after a black man makes this all the more funny. Now they don't even like their own. Reminds me of a dog that growls at its own foot for being too close to the food bowl as it eats.


Article Comment JC commented at 2/28/2010 7:30:00 AM:

If Colonel Reb was "fashioned after a black man" then why was it necessary to turn him white?


Article Comment Bubba Gump commented at 2/28/2010 9:59:00 PM:

Who turned him white?


Article Comment JC commented at 3/1/2010 7:46:00 AM:

That's a good question, Bubba. People say that Col. Reb was modeled after a real-life local character who was black. One wonders why the designer of Col. Reb felt it necessary to change the race of this beloved local character from black to white. Ideas?


Article Comment Bubba Gump commented at 3/4/2010 2:43:00 AM:

I'm still trying to figure out how you see that mascot as white. Maybe I just don't remember it, but I can't say I've ever seen him have a skin color.


Article Comment JC commented at 3/4/2010 7:03:00 AM:

He has a skin color, Bubba. He's a white guy.

Now that I've cleared that up for you, why do you think he was changed from black to white?


Article Comment monica commented at 3/4/2010 11:57:00 AM:

just did some research online... he is based on a guy named blind jim ivy.. google him.. thats what i did.. nothing comes right out and says why they made him white.. but im lead to believe.. the school didnt think a black mascot in 1938 would have been too apealing!!


Article Comment Reb must go commented at 3/4/2010 7:13:00 PM:

Geiger...Reb has to go due to the racism he represents.


Article Comment reb must go2 commented at 3/16/2010 2:07:00 PM:

i second that! has to go!


Article Comment Thom Geiger commented at 3/29/2010 7:59:00 AM:

But we're still dancing around the Colonel Sanders issue, eh? Too bad. I would have thought somebody on the side of nuking all Old South Symbolism would have come up with an intelligent plausible answer as to the different treatment of the two icons.
I don't care what the students at Ol Miss choose for a mascot. What I DON'T like is hypocrisy and deception, outright lying and deceit. If that is the only way someone can win an argument, then the argument is not really won, as the outcome is not really settled until the truth finally comes out.
That's what is happening in this ongoing fight to remove all Old South Symbolism. Lies, deception, misinformation, misdirection. People pretending that being disingenuous is close enough to being honest to further their arguments. Strange isn't it, how somebody can use lies and hypocrisy to try and win an argument about the "right" thing to do?
Monica, if the students choose to use the actual person, the real Jim Ivy as their mascot, what do you think would be the response from the group that thinks Col Reb has to go but Col Sanders is okay?


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