Friday, July 9, 2010

The Legend of the Fighting Squirrels

Turtles are not exactly what you would consider a ferocious animal. If, in the rare event, you actually do consider them fierce, I'd recommend therapy and/or hard core drugs.

I mention this because the University of Maryland, in their attempt to instill fear into their opponents, have selected the Terrapin to represent their athletic teams in competition. (According the never-wrong Wikipedia, the mascot was selected by the president of the school in 1932. I realize the Great Depression was underway and times were tough and there were other things to worry about, but where was the university's Director of Common Sense to say 'You know, a turtle may not be the best mascot for us. In fact, I'm fairly certain just about anything else might be better.')

To be fair, Maryland isn't the only school with a laughably amusing mascot. There's the UC-Santa Barbara Banana Slugs, the Texas Christian Horned Frogs and a team I actually wouldn't mind playing, the Sweet Briar Vixens (this may shock you, but it's an all girls school) as well as numerous others. But for me, none of them quite capture the essence of the non-threatening mascot quite like a turtle. Making it even more confusing to the outsider is their motto, 'Fear the Turtle,' which I can only assume started as some fraternity joke that caught on.

But even the Terrapin pales in comparison to my favorite mascot of all time, the Fighting Squirrels. My best guess is that someone realized that a squirrel, in and of itself, isn't exactly the most menacing creature on the planet, but by adding 'Fighting' to them, suddenly you're dealing with a force to be reckoned with. (Granted that only works if you assume the Squirrels are working together to fight a common foe and is not a reference to a drunken squirrel brawl.)

I believe it was 2003 when I was first introduced to the Fighting Squirrels. My mom usually gets me a hat for Christmas and over the years, they grew progressively stranger. So when she came across a Fighting Squirrels hat, she had to get it, despite the fact she knew nothing about anything in regards to why there was a hat dedicated to quarreling rodents.

Even though I, too, knew nothing about the Fighting Squirrels and their origins, the name became my team name for all my fantasy sports teams (that currently includes three football leagues and two baseball leagues.) Prior to that, my team had been the named the Steel Rabbits, which obviously makes no sense at all, so you can see the obvious improvement. (The Steel Rabbits name was inspired by this cartoon. It also inspired Official Brother's name for a while, though I forget, exactly what it was. I know it was lobster related. He's since moved on to 'Wal-Mart's Low Prices' because, as he says, 'nobody beats Wal-Mart's Low Prices,' but I digress.) I even adopted Maryland's motto and end all my message board posts with "Fear the Squirrel" which is laughably absurd.

Eventually, my curiosity got the better of me (after killing many a cat -  curiosity, not me. I've never killed any cats), and I had to discover the origins of an absurd name the name that I used to represent what all my fantasy sports teams. And while googling 'Fighting Squirrels' yields some interesting results (and some far more interesting images), it didn't immediately result in what I was looking for. Likewise, wikipedia was no help. In fact, searching for 'fighting squirrels' on wikipedia takes you to results for 'Flying Squirrels.'

After some persistence (and some slow days at work), I eventually stumbled on to Bradford College (no, not the one in Bradford, England, but the one in Haverhill, Massachusetts I know you, my readers and I know you're well versed in the colleges of both the US and the UK and didn't want you to be confused). Ok, not exactly in Haverhill, but more accurately, it was formerly in Haverhill.  Founded in 1803, it didn't quite make it to its bicentennial as it went under in 2000.

Despite it's 197 year existence, the school's enduring legacy is that their athletes competed as Fighting Squirrels. My quest was at an end. I suppose I should be worried, but I'm hoping the Fighting Squirrels (my version) can last 25-percent as long as the school did.

I still have the hat and break it out five times every year - once for each draft of my teams.


Katie said...

Ok, so this if the first time that I've read your blog and it is great! Few comments. 1st I have to say I absolutely love the light saber fighting squirrels! 2nd anyone who has seen Christmas Vacation can truly appreciate the abject terror that squirrels can inflict. Finally, I wanted to mention my favorite mascot, the Presbyterian College Blue Hose - mainly because you yell "Go Hose" as a cheer. Thanks for sharing!

Mary Beth said...

I graduated from Glassboro State College in NJ, now Rowan University. Our mascot is the Rowan Professors or "Profs" for short. When I attended, the mascot, an owl, actually wore a mortarboard, but they have attempted make it look more fierce today.

Steve said...

Just to clarify, it's the UC Santa Cruz Banana Slugs. UC Santa Barbara's (my alma mater) mascot is the Gauchos.

Richard Taylor said...

I have the same hat and have been trying to figure this out for years thanks

David Renaud said...

I attented Bradford College from 1998 until 2000 when it's doors closed shut. Did you know that it was also partly the inspiration for science fiction writer HP Lovecraft's "Miskatonic University"?