Indiana University Needs No Mascot

by Kent Sterling

This is what IU did with a head cover. Imagine the crazy hell they would raise with a mascot!

What the hell kind of an awful representation of the state of Indiana would prowl the sidelines at Memorial Stadium if Indiana University decided to re-animate the long dormant mascot program at IU?

Terry Hutchens of the Indianapolis Star wrote a piece today quoting several fans, all with very different ideas about how and if a mascot should return.  None agreed with the other, and therein lies the rub.

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Either it would be some some giant hayseed in overalls named Harry Hoosier with straw sticking out of his sleeves, or an enormous gas pump named Ethel Ethanol (pleasing the clients is always job #1).  Maybe “Hoagy Hoosier” a big glitter covered sandwich commemorating both Indiana’s love of food and Hoagy Carmichael, the writer of “Stardust” and “Georgia”.

Regardless of the choice, 80% of the people would hate it.  The response would either be, “What the hell is that awful thing?”, or “Jesus, could we portray ourselves as any more feeble and stupid?”

For a good look at the national image of Indiana, you need look no further than two network sitcoms.  “The Middle” (Wednesdays 8p, ABC) stars Patty Heaton as the mother of a family of idiots who shop at the “Hungry Hoosier”, and Amy Poehler is a civic employee in fictional Pawnee, Indiana, in “Parks and Recreation” (Thursdays 9:30p, NBC).  References to obesity as a source of pride for Pawnee residents are both hilarious and a nightmare for every chamber of commerce in the state.

Sadly, any mascot that accurately conveys the image of people in the state would be a horrifying reflection or a complete fraud.  Best to just let sleeping dogs lie.

No doubt that the amount of goodwill a mascot can generate is a serious inducement to the university to stick a gymnast in a funny suit.  Ask an eight year-old what he or she loves best about going to an Indiana Pacers game, and 90% will respond “Boomer”.  Over the past few years, many adults would have agreed.

As IU tries to engage potential customers, it would be great to be able to send a mascot out to entertain kids and make appearances at client locations.  But when the decision is made as to what this thing looks like, IU folks need to exercise care.

Purdue has “Purdue Pete” – a mascot that appears to be popular among Boilermaker fans, but is terrifying to children and a frowning menace to adults not clued into his heritage.  “Pete” is a huge-headed frowning hulk of a hammer-wielding man, and how that promotes the Purdue image is anyone’s guess.

The university changed Pete’s appearance briefly this year before the outcry from students, alums, and high level staff caused the hurried return to the old Pete.

That will be the reaction Indiana University faces if it unveils a breaded tenderloin in tights.

Better to make no decision than a bad one, and that is the decision IU has made since its 1979 shaggy-haired Fred Flintstone look-a-like “Hoosier Pride” debuted and retired almost simultaneously.

My idea in the late 1980s was rejected out of hand, but I still think it’s the best because it’s already an accepted icon in Bloomington.  It might be a little reminiscent of the bison that failed in the 1950s – in fact, giving it more than five seconds thought, it’s pretty obvious where the idea for the Nick’s English Hut mascot came from – but why not use what’s on the sign at Nick’s, including the Nick’s sweater.

He’s like Purdue Pete only angrier and hairier with horns, and instead of holding a hammer, he’s got a handful of delicious golden ale.  What screams Bloomington more than a beer at Nick’s?

3 thoughts on “Indiana University Needs No Mascot

  1. Neil

    Mascots asside, I have often wondered for years why Indiana is so disparaged by those most especially from the east coast. Certainly Chicago and other “inbetween” states and cities put us down too. I think its just to bolster their own lack of confidence and their sense of possible inferiority. I guess that is the one thing the Colts have given Indiana and that is a successful sports team. As much as they try to put the Indianapolis Colts down it usually doesn’t go too far at least for now. In general though Indiana is an easy target because we don’t have the wealthy “big brother” corporations to help promote us. We are the “branch” office of most companies. What is ridiculous is that they often call us “Hicks” or “Hayseeds” but I guarantee you that you can find just as many hicks and hayseeds in New York City as here in Indy. Same goes for L.A.. The truth is most people that have never been here don’t really know much about us at all. That can be said about us and many other places too. I had the pleasure of flying to New York City once or twice a week for over three years and surprise, surprise… I met some really nice people as well as some I didn’t like. They were surprised too when I actually knew a few things too and didn’t have a “twangy” accent like they thought.
    As for the mascot… until Indiana defines what a “Hoosier” is they can never have a true representation of one.

    1. kentsterling Post author

      I’ve both lived here and in towns like Chicago where people from Indiana are mocked when they are considered at all.

      There are probably sociologists who could answer that question with more authority than I can, but I doubt the crowd shot of ESPN’s coverage of the Indy 500 Festival Parade did us any favors.

  2. Paulie Balst

    The answer lies within this post and the subsequent exchange. How about a large, blank department store mannequin? You know, the ones with no face? It’s not offensive, it’s a little quirky, somewhat bland, it’s ready to help, it’s malleable, asexual, curious, and it can be what you want it to be in your minds eye. Just add red block IU jersey. Perfect represenative of our Hoosier state. Now THAT would be hilarious.

    Its name? Simon Maul, for Simon properties. As a native Hoosier, over the past 25 years I’ve been financing the homogenization of our nation, travelling to 48 states. The fact is, save 2-3 buildings or landmarks or topography or foliage (read: cactus) in each city, most of the united states is indecipherable from the rest.

    Indiana is the United States. 75% white, 12 black, 9 Hispanic, etc. Indiana ranks 49th in tourism for a reason (without the 500 it’d be 50th).

    The fact is, I defy anyone to go into a power center, downtown, mall, etc., and take off the blindfold and tell me where they are. Suburban Indy, Little Rock, St Louis, Oklahoma City,Denver, Cincinnati, omaha, DC, Dallas, Chicago, etc., all look the same. They all have the same stores. They all have the same restaurants. They all drive the
    same cars. Same music, cell phones, clothes, etc.

    Indiana captures it perfectly, and offers a great quality of life for the dollar.


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