Dartmouth's Mascot Void

by Nathan Bruschi | 11/13/06 6:00am

Dartmouth's situation is unique among the schools of the Ivy League in that we lack a coherent mascot. Yale has "Handsome Dan" the bulldog: short, ferocious, and horribly ugly. Columbia's teams are the Lions, which, for some strange reason, are blue. Princeton has the Tigers, which works well with their school colors: orange and black. The University of Pennsylvania has the Quakers, which I would imagine is an odd name for the football, hockey and wrestling teams considering the Quakers' commitment to non-violence. Brown tastefully chose the Bears after the logistics involved ruled out their first choice, the Protesting Anarchists. Cornell, like Dartmouth, lacks an official mascot, but they all seem partial to "Snuggles," the fabric-softener teddy bear from the TV commercials (they renamed it "Touchdown"). Their nickname is "Big Red," which is also the name of a cheap chewing gum you often find stuck to the floor of a movie theater. Harvard's nickname is "Crimson" and their mascot is John Harvard, both of which are very, very stupid.

But what about us? We were at one point -- and depending on whom you ask, still are -- "the Indians," before the College rescinded its official endorsement in 1971. Since then, our sports teams have been left mascot-less and our sports fans uninspired. Our athletic rivals have been searching endlessly to find some symbol of ours to burn in effigy, but to no avail.

In 2003, Student Assembly surveyed the student body to find a new mascot. The "Dartmoose" won out, but it mysteriously disappeared as a new dynamic figure came to the forefront. Interested in creating a mascot that "wasn't racist, biased or sexist, yet [was] entirely unacceptable," the Dartmouth Jack-O-Lantern invented Keggy the Keg, the anthropomorphic beer keg whom we have all grown to know and love. Keggy has gained acceptance among the student body because, well... he's been there. He goes to the games, is very visible, and has a popular following. Don't get me wrong, I like him as much as the next guy and hope that he outlives my time here, but is Keggy the face we want to put on Dartmouth at home and abroad? I think we can do better.

What we need is an official, relevant mascot who can embody Dartmouth and be our ambassador to the rest of the Ivy League. Keggy, an intended joke that almost celebrates the school's contentious drinking culture, does not fill this need. The Indian, though perhaps the most relevant choice considering the school's history, is offensive to many on campus and has become too divisive to be used effectively. Our unofficial nickname, Big Green, would be near impossible to turn into a mascot (what would it be, a green blob?). Unless we would like to follow Harvard's lead and have Eleazar Wheelock dancing around on the field, the best option for us would be the Dartmoose.

The Dartmoose would be the heaviest mascot in the Ivy League, weighing in at about 1,100 pounds. The average male tiger peaks out at about 500 pounds, bears at 600, lions at 500, bulldogs at 50, Quakers at 190, and John Harvards at 160. Unlike tigers and lions, neither of which is native to Princeton, New Jersey or New York City, Dartmouth is deep in moose country and they have been known to wander onto campus now and again. While bears, lions and tigers have sharp teeth and claws, moose have antlers, enabling them to maul and impale other mascots from a safe distance (that would make a cool T-shirt, wouldn't it?). The moose could easily pass our swim test: they can swim for up to two hours, as far as 12 miles, at a speed of six mph. The Army at one point wanted to create a moose cavalry unit, but scrapped the project because it would have been way too awesome. And don't think they can't party; Tycho Brahe, the famous astronomer, had a pet moose that he used to entertain guests before it got drunk one day, fell down the stairs of his castle and died. The moose is also ingrained with the culture of the school. Mount Moosilauke, Moose Mountain and the Moosilauke Ravine Lodge all exist as endearing icons of the Dartmouth Outing Club and the Dartmouth experience.

But why haven't we adopted such an obvious and popular choice? It seems that the problem stems from the alumni who are generally still partial to the Indian. They write the checks that financially endow the institution, giving them sway over the administration. Our alumni are also unusually attached to and involved with the school, allowing them to better influence events on campus and express their opinions.

But if the student body can unite around a single mascot and create a popular movement, the alumni will be unable to resist. We, like the alumni that have come before us, will always be sons and daughters of Dartmouth, but the school will always truly belong to its current students. The mascot should be our decision.

So let Student Assembly take the issue up again. This time let's work to a resolution. The longer we leave this issue unresolved, the more it will divide us. The Seattle Mariners and the Manitoba Moose use the moose as their mascot, so why not us? How much longer are we willing to be the only Ivy League school that has no idea exactly who we are cheering?

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