I wrote once before, briefly, about the new Ole Miss mascot Rebel Black Bear, but I’ve been meaning to revisit it since.
First, I feel a certain amount of obligation to support the decision. I wrote a while back, and have ranted at length on various occasions about how much it bothers me that Ole Miss has been gradually losing any unique identity. For the first time in over a decade, since the ill-fated “M Flag,” something that was taken away has been replaced. The bear isn’t Colonel Reb, but at least we have something that’s “ours” that we can put on shirts.
Second, my generation, and those before me, aren’t going to embrace the Black Bear, at least not any time soon. I grew up with Colonel Reb. I wore shirts with him on it. He was very Ole Miss to me. He was our mascot, and we love him. No matter how good an idea they come up with, it’s not going to have the history and established affection of Colonel Reb. So I have to acknowledge to myself that I couldn’t have that be an expectation for the mascot selection.
Third, yes, I cast my vote, and, yes, I voted for the Black Bear. As I said, I didn’t love it, but I didn’t love any of the options. So I asked Heather what she thought her boys would like. Because, like I said, the new mascot isn’t for my generation, or the ones before me. It’s for the students yet to come. There are kids today in first or second grade in Mississippi that have never seen an Ole Miss mascot on the field. For them, the Black Bear will be their Ole Miss mascot, the same way Colonel Reb was mine. When they’re at Ole Miss, they’re going to love the Black Bear the same way I loved Colonel Reb. So the question I asked in casting my vote was, which choice is most likely to inspire those feelings in kids that are children now, and will grow up with whatever we vote on.
There’s some irony to the Black Bear. In tying it to Ole Miss, the mascot committee cited two bears with Mississippi connections, the one in William Faulkner’s “The Bear,” and the Teddy Bear, which has its origins in Onward, Mississippi. Scratch the surface, and not only are these both two stories of bears in Mississippi, they’re two stories of bears that got slaughtered brutally.
Perhaps it’s a decent choice for an Ole Miss mascot after all.