Mascot Madness 2012: Final Four

March-Madness-2012-Jayhawks-Mascot

It’s back to the basics for Mascot Madness this year. Final Four. Mascot versus mascot. For all the marbles. Here’s how they’ll finish:

#1 Jayhawks
According to their website, “The origin of the Jayhawk is rooted in the historic struggles of Kansas settlers. The term “Jayhawk” was probably coined around 1848. Accounts of its use appeared from Illinois to Texas and in that year, a party of pioneers crossing what is now Nebraska, called themselves “The Jayhawkers of ’49″. The name combines two birds – the blue jay, a noisy, quarrelsome thing known to rob other nests, and the sparrow hawk, a quiet, stealthy hunter. The message here: Don’t turn your back on this bird.”

March-Madness-2012-Jayhawks-CartoonsNoisy but stealthy, quarrelsome yet sly. The Jayhawk gets big points for its unique combination of two unrelated, but complementary species, and the harrowing story of the Kansas settlers that it commemorates. Deduct points for the overly-friendly grin and the can’t-make-heads-or-tails-of-it feathery blue body.

March-Madness-2012-Jayhawks-Bird-Drawing

However, the thing that puts it over the top in the winners bracket is…wait for it… the footwear. Except for a brief lapse of focus from 1920 to 1923, the Jayhawk has a long history of sporting some serious kicks. Look closely and you’ll see a slight modification in the heel section for its talon. Brilliant.

#2 Wildcats
The Wildcat turns in a pathetic performance, but still manage to beat the Cardinals, who end up fourth. But what do you expect from a mascot that looks like a steroid popping Henrietta Pussycat from Mr. Rogers Neighborhood?

March-Madness-2012-Wildcats-Mascot

March-Madness-Wildcats-Mr-Rogers

Not only that, but according to the Widcats website, a few years after the original mascot was introduced “he was joined by another Cat – walking on stilts.” I’m sorry, stilts? Could there be anything more ridiculous than a cat on stilts? The mascot brand was further diminished when a child-friendly version named Scratch was introduced. Finally, the Wildcats get a technical foul for the fact that it is one of the most common mascots in the athletic industry.

#3 Buckeyes
It’s hard to beat Brutus the Buckeye. The lovable mascot, named after a brown nut, was introduced in 1965, and would have easily taken the second spot, had they not been paired with the Jayhawks. However, there is a chink in the armor. According to the Buckeye website, “…the first recorded use of the term Buckeye to refer to a resident of the area was in 1788, some 15 years before Ohio became a state. Col. Ebenezer Sproat, a 6’4″ man of large girth and swashbuckling mannerisms, led the legal delegation at the first court session of the Northwest Territory in Marietta. The Indians in attendance greeted him with shouts of “Hetuck, Hetuck” (the Indian word for buckeye), it is said because they were impressed by his stature and manner.”

March-Madness-2012-Buckeyes-Mascot

March-Madness-2012-Buckeyes-Ebenezer-Sproat

Sooo… The Buckeye, despite being a quirky local nut, was actually first used as a descriptive nickname for a fat military man. Deduct 20 points.

#4 Cardinals
At first glance you’d expect the Cardinal to do some damage. It’s flashy, it’s got attitude, it’s got good colors. Unfortunately it’s story just falls a little flat.

March-Madness-2012-Cardinals-Cartoon

The first ever costumed mascot, the Cardinals explain, “They introduced me to Mrs. Gold, whose name was Mrs. Goldsmith, I think,” Adams recalled. “They told her they wanted her to make a Cardinal head for me. She looked at me and said, ‘You must be a total extrovert to do this.’ And I said, ‘Yeah I am, kinda.’ “

After agreeing on a pattern, Mrs. Gold created a cloth Cardinal head. “It was really more of a black head with a yellowish beak,” Adams said. “There was hardly any red on the head at all. And then I had my red cheerleader sweater.”

But it didn’t take too long for Adams’ extroversion to wear off.

“I used it for the rest of the football season and one or two basketball games at the Armory,” said the retired dentist. “And then I quit because I got teased so much. They would just harass and aggravate me.”

Excuse me? You QUIT? Because you got TEASED? You’re the mascot! The Cardinal fouls out. Game, set, match!

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