Toon Musings: Death to Sparty!
I am recently returned from visiting my excellent son, who is currently doing battle with the curriculum at Case Western Reserve University, in the rockin’ town of Cleveland. He is a board game nerd, and does not participate in sports; at least not in those sports that utilize uniforms, and cheerleaders, and team spirit, and marching band accompaniment. Spectators do not attend his competitions— at least not as far as he’s admitted to me— and I believe him. Honestly, I do.
I did not attend the football game this year; that stuff’s for the parents of freshmen, for hell’s sake. But I did last year, and it got me to thinking about team mascots. I graduated from a school that didn’t have a cartoon mascot. I just couldn’t get too excited about a big blue “M”. As a fan of cartoons I’ve felt a… a terrible void in my psyche, vast yawning emptiness threatening to engulf my very soul. Or perhaps it’s just incipient lactose intolerance. Well, CWRU has a mascot, and one that has at times been depicted in a cartoony fashion; but while I try to live vicariously through my son, I can’t really get enthused. A school should have a cartoon mascot. It gives otherwise apathetic students a symbol… an icon… to rally around.
CWRU’s mascot is a Spartan; specifically, a Spartan named ’Sparty’. Sounds like it was picked straight out of the Mascot Catalog, no revisions. Well, I’ve seen the new Tinkham Veale Student Center; you can call it a lot of things, but “Spartan” ain’t one of ‘em. And isn’t there a school somewhat nearby also called the ‘Spartans’? A state school? A Michigan state school? Just sayin’.
Separated at Birth?
Western Reserve College was founded in 1826, and Case School of Applied Science in 1880. By 1885, they each occupied adjacent properties on the east side of Cleveland. The Western Reserve mascot was first the Pioneers, then the Redcats. Case was known first as the Scientists, then the Rough Riders. All fairly unique choices (especially the Scientists— in fact, I’ve got a character I might’ve let them borrow).
Then, in 1967 or so, the two schools merged to become Case Western Reserve University. A contest was held to choose a mascot. There was no response. The football team chose the present mascot, which… actually explains a lot, stereotype-reinforcement-wise.
A previous column of mine attempted to teach French satirists how to do satire, so in that same toweringly arrogant, gratuitously meddlin’ spirit, I mean to help Case Western Reserve University choose a better mascot. And, as always… you’re welcome.
So what would exemplify a good, unique, inspiring mascot whose presence virtually shouts “Cleveland”? For the answer, we must delve into a bit of history.
Once upon a time, the Cuyahoga River caught fire. In truth, it was many times upon a time, and in many cities. But this case proved to be legendary. Contrary to the popular conception, river fires were rather common in many cities for sixty years before the fabled 1969 Cuyahoga fire in Cleveland. But that fire and the media attention it received provided a shocking reminder of how bad things had gotten, and helped galvanize an environmental revolution nationwide. The first Earth Day was the very next year. The Clean Water Act was signed in 1972. Consequently, that fire was one of the last river fires, not one of the first.
Cleveland has a reputation of being a hardscrabble, industrial town, and a Cleveland school should have a Cleveland mascot; one that embodies indomitable spirit, toughness, tenacity, but with a uniquely local flavor. I nominate the humble carp.
Often derided as a bottom-feeder and a “trash fish”, the tough carp thrives in water other species cannot tolerate, such as the polluted waterways of urban areas. But carp can be found in any city with a navigable body of water, you could say. How can we make our carp mascot unique to Cleveland? Simple. Set it on fire. I present to you my proposed new mascot for Case Western Reserve University: the Flaming Carp! How’s this image to strike fear into the hearts of visiting sportsball teams?
Call him/her Michelmore (hello, Macklemore fans!), after the famous Case physicist Albert Michelson and likewise famous Western Reserve chemist Edward Morley. Or, if one wants to appeal to the dimmer lights in the firmament, I suppose something more prosaic like “Casey” will do. All I ask in return is a Case Western Flaming Carp baseball shirt (embroidered, please—none of this silkscreen stuff). And maybe a cut of the spiritwear sales. Daddy needs a new version of Adobe Creative Suite.
Phil Maish is a freelance cartoonist of no repute. His modest efforts may be viewed at myth-fits.com. He has worked for the Government, the Press, the Opera, and a Soulless Corporation. Self-taught and beholden only to his formidable wife and amazing son, he spends his free time gadding about in his vintage autogyro and, with his faithful manservant Nicopol, exploring untrammeled wildernesses, discovering hitherto unknown animal species, smashing spy rings, and regaling fellow members of the League of Intrepid Adventurers with tales of his intrepid adventures.
Toon Musings: Charlie and Aylan (wherein I try to teach the French a thing or two about satire)