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My Thoughts on the Whole Mascot Incident

Shortly after the Houston game, I posted a video of this incident between the Duck and the Cougar:

Most of us weren't really sure what to make of it.  After all, we've all seen mascot fights before.  They're often planned before a game or series.  I've been to Civil War basketball games in Eugene where the Duck beats up the Beaver, and then in Corvallis seen vice versa.  They always clearly planned out beforehand.  With the Houston incident, most of us thought that it was planned out, except that it was much more violent than anything we've ever seen before, so you had to wonder if there was something there.

Well, it turns out that there was something there.  Apparently, there were two separate incidents involving two separate students in the Duck costume.  They took exception to the Cougar doing pushups--a Duck trademark, and proceeded to beat his ass.  Twice.  

Pat Kilkenny obviously wasn't pleased with this, especially in light of recent fan incidents at Autzen.  He suspended both students involved, and will not allow the Duck mascot to appear at all this weekend against Fresno State.

This is old news.  I saw this on Tuesday or so, and didn't think I was really going to post anything about it.  But then something interesting happened:  this video has become an internet phenomenon.  Its been the subject of stories around the blogosphere, and even appeared on Yahoo's main page today.

The immediate reaction from the Autzen crowd was a cheering roar.  Even now, I've heard reactions from Duck fans ranging anywhere to "That's the funniest thing I've ever seen" to "The cougar got what it deserved."  Me, I'm not quite sure what to make of it.  There is an element of humor to the video.  Two people in giant oversized animal costumes is hilarious.  I just wish I was watching this video and it was another school's mascot instead of my own.

There is the thought that any publicity is good publicity.  While Oregon has gotten plenty of publicity this week with the Michigan win, this video will catch the eyes of a lot of people who aren't college football fans and don't have any knowledge about the University of Oregon.  And this is my concern.

The mascot is a representation of our University.  There are several roles that he must play.  The Duck is certainly a cheerleader.  But, most importantly, the person in the Duck costume is an ambassador.  Not only of our athletic programs, but our University as a whole.

I know children who are too young to understand football who go to Autzen and watch the Duck all day.  On television, the Duck is the single most recognizable figure, more so than any of the coaches or players.  The Duck set a very bad example for those children, and reflected a very poor image on the University.  Through negligence on the part of the people in the costume, the Duck did not do its job.  In my opinion, the people in the costume gave up their right to wear it when they crossed that line.

Few dispute that these people should have been suspended.  The more contentous issue among Duck fans is that the mascot itself was suspended for the Fresno State game.  Most people assume that suspending the students was enough, why in the world was our beloved mascot taken away for a whole game?

The answer, again, lies with image.  Most people, as dumb as it may sound, cannot separate the Duck as a character from the person inside the costume. To some, its not the person inside the costume that did this, its the Duck that did this.  And while that sounds completely crazy, think about it for a second, and given the idiots that we have in this world, it really shouldn't surprise you at all.  There is also the issue of children making that disctinction as well.  For that reason alone, Kilkenny had to do this.

We know that our Duck is the coolest mascot in all of sports.  Its not even close.  But we want to make sure that our mascot is known for fun things, not for being a thug.  Within a few weeks, this whole thing will pass and no one will remember it.  If you're going to the game this weekend, by the end of the season you won't even remember that the Duck wasn't there.

But Kilkenny had to send a clear message that this can never happen again.  And that's what he did.  After all, we don't want our school and our fans to be known as the school that takes sports too far.  Save that for Sooner Nation.  As we learned last year, they'll do more than enough to make themselves look like the most ridiculous fans in football.