If I were to say that there was only one performer involved in sports, who would your mind go to? I don’t know about you, but I would immediately go to the mascot. If you know anything about BYU sports, you know that Cosmo the Cougar has gotten himself all kinds of recognition as the best college mascot or different stunts he’s pulled ranking him among the best college mascot moments. But what is it about mascots that makes them so interesting (or maybe not so interesting to others) and does it have anything to do with the performance of others on the field?
I want to start with talking about what mascots are in the first place. Merriam-Webster says that a mascot is, “a person, animal, or object adopted by a group as a symbolic figure especially to bring them good luck.” Initially when schools started having mascots they were actual animals, not students dressed up in a costume running around doing wild stunts. While no one is entirely positive, Yale University in New Haven, CT is thought to have had the first college mascot in America, Handsome Dan. Handsome Dan was a prize winning bulldog who would be walked across the field before all sporting events at the university. Today, the role of Handsome Dan is still filled by a real bulldog (Handsome Dan XVIII who will be retiring this spring when Handsome Dan XIX will be announced) as well as someone wearing a costume. While a majority of schools don’t use live animal mascots anymore, there are a handful that still do.
Live animals can definitely be trained to do tricks, but initially the point of mascots was to simply bring good luck to the team prior to their game. These days mascots are doing everything from fighting with each other and getting suspended to killing it on the field with the dance team. As I mentioned in a previous post, the response of the fans is so important to the confidence of the players. The players can’t be responsible for doing all of the hyping up and that is where the mascot comes in. I’m sure if the mascot didn’t exist, fans would still be excited to watch their favorite team play, but mascots get fans just that much more excited to be there.
While halftime shows are a big deal in football, they are a bit of a different experience in basketball. Football halftimes tend to focus on the marching bands (or in championship games a popular performer of some sort). Basketball halftime shows are where the mascot shines. At BYU, basketball halftime shows spotlight the mascot, the dunk team, the dance team, and other similar university performers. Mascots do a lot of work to keep the fans happy (especially if their team may be falling short in that area). Shoutout to those mascots who keep us smiling when we can’t even see theirs.