Steve Mullen: At Ole Miss, lions and muppets and bears -- oh my.

June 30, 2010 10:01:00 AM

Steve Mullen - smullen@cdispatch.com

 

The good news: Admiral Ackbar, the fish-faced "Star Wars" character who was a campus favorite for Ole Miss'' new mascot, isn''t on the ballot. 

 

The bad news: He would have been an improvement to many that are. 

 

Monday, Ole Miss released a list of possible replacements for Col. Rebel to students and alumni, including yours truly, who get to vote for their favorite choice. 

 

Ole Miss put Col. Rebel''s foam-filled head on the shelf in 2003. For decades, the school has been distancing itself from Confederate symbols (and its segregated past). One is led to assume the colonel is a plantation-dwelling Civil War veteran, and a particularly ornery one at that. He doesn''t jibe with the Ole Miss of 2010. 

 

I was fine with replacing Col. Reb, mainly because he wasn''t exactly intimidating. He walks with a cane. He looks about 100. He''s divisive. Like it or not, he was on the losing side. Time to retire. 

 

I was excited, then, to see what the alternatives might be (listed online at mascot.olemiss.edu). My initial response as I read through the list: Each idea is worse than the last.  

 

Maybe it''s too soon. Col. Reb might not be on the field, but it still seems that way. Anything else feels forced.  

 

Especially the Rebel Lion. Get it? Rebel-Lion? "Put the two words ''Rebel'' and ''Lion'' together, and our lion could be named ''Rebellion,'' the leader of the Ole Miss Pride," The university says in its description of this and other mascots in its pageant of possibilities. "Strong, courageous and regal, the Rebel Lion would also appeal to children as a playful and entertaining personality." 

 

If the lion doesn''t do it for you, how about a Rebel Horse? Ole Miss and horses go way back. "When the University of Mississippi was formed in 1848, the charter was delivered by horse," the university notes, glossing over the fact that everything was delivered by horse in 1848. The university suggests a live horse could lead the Rebels onto the field, ridden by whom, I don''t know.  

 

Maybe the Rebel Fanatic could ride the horse -- that is, if muppets can ride horses. "Envision a creative and original character (think Jim Henson, muppet-like creation) that embodies the fanaticism of the Ole Miss faithful," the school suggests.  

 

Or, he could ride a live Rebel Black Bear, which would have a horrific outcome for obvious reasons. "In Mississippi, many stories that have been shared for generations center around our native black bear," most of which center around Mississippians hunting them to near extinction. In an odd coincidence, there are about as many black bears in Mississippi as there are Ole Miss football jerseys on the sidelines. "Today, Mississippi''s black bear population is estimated to be only about 75 animals throughout the state," according to the nonprofit Bear Education and Restoration Group''s website.  

 

William Faulkner wrote a short story called "The Bear," the university notes. Some suggested William Faulkner himself as a mascot, but the idea didn''t make it to the final list. 

 

Faulkner enjoyed a good "toddy," or whiskey drink. I''d always assumed -- as have many other alumni -- that the Ole Miss cheer "Hotty Toddy" originated with a hot toddy, but not so. "University historians have searched for the origins of these words and the familiar cheer for years to no avail, but they are as much a part of Ole Miss as the Grove or the Lyceum," the university says, suggesting the duo "Hotty" and "Toddy" could be a tag team on the Rebel sidelines. 

 

As many Ole Miss fans have learned the hard way, no whiskey is allowed inside Vaught-Hemingway Stadium. Luckily, muppets are. Hotty and Toddy would be "animals or original ''muppet-like'' characters, but completely unique to Ole Miss," the school suggests. They might behave as if on whiskey: "They can get as spirited and excited as any Rebel fan, and they love to pump up the crowd," the school says. Think Ernie and Bert, but drunk -- with Rebel spirit! 

 

The Rebel Blues Musician is suggested -- a windfall for writers of sports headlines, especially when Ole Miss loses. ("Rebs sing the blues," "The thrill is gone," etc., etc.) Or, the Rebel Riverboat Pilot could strike fear into his rivals, the school says. "Without any doubt, Rebel foes would know they are in for a fight when they hear the sound of the ''Ole Miss'' steam whistles blowing," implying the university is now named after the river, which is a good 70 miles away. 

 

Most confusing, however, is the Rebel Mojo, which someone dreamed up apparently after watching an Austin Powers movie. "Mojo would work his magic on the field," the school suggests. What does a Mojo look like? Maybe the Atlanta Olympics have an old Whatizit costume lying around.  

 

Other contestants: Rebel Titan (many buildings have Greek columns, work with me here); Rebel the Cardinal (one of Ole Miss'' school colors is cardinal red, work with me here); Rebel Land Shark (the school suggests the band could play the "Jaws" theme after a big play -- instead of a few notes from "Dixie," the former fight song now harder to find on campus than a black bear). 

 

The only thing every Rebel fan might agree on, is serving on the school''s mascot selection committee must be a thankless task. They''re getting pelted with dirt clods by all sides. Many fans still love Col. Reb, and those of us open to change are skeptical with what''s been put before us.  

 

Somebody get them all a toddy ---- please, just not the muppet. 

 

Steve Mullen is Managing Editor of The Dispatch.