Bear With Me

Rebel Black Bear

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.

4 Responses

  1. Ha!

    Hey, look on the bright side. At least your alma mater has a vaguely intimidating mascot. My college years were spent rooting for the Lee University Flames.

    Yes, the Flames. 50 years ago, they were the Vikings, then someone got religion and decided to go all Upper Room/Pentecost on the whole mascot thing. I think it had something to do with the football team being so small in stature. When they met in the upper room, they were all in one Accord.

    Thank you, goodnight!

  2. My favorite is Buckhorn High School out in Madison County. Their mascot, presumably derived from the Buckhorn name, is the Bucks. Now, for a lot of folks out in the county, a buck is primarily something you go shoot on the weekends. Who, exactly, picks for their mascot, prey? Why would you choose to associate yourself with the bottom of the food chain?

  3. Or that ends up getting hit by cars on dark county roads because it’s immobilized by fear.

  4. It’s interesting when talking about our traditions vs. the traditions of the generations to come. During one of the rehearsals for alumni band, we started off with playing the forbidden “From Dixie with Love.” It was a thrill for us, not only taking a walk down memory lane, but extending a middle finger to the administration. But it was interesting seeing the reaction of the current band kids, many of whom have never played it. They went nuts. Even later in the day, after the ball game, one of the band members was talking to me and said how cool he thought that moment was. I neither completely agree or disagree with the changes the university has made over the years (except that the “Battle M” flag was a horrible idea), but I do feel a lot is being lost where Ole Miss’s identity is concerned. Some of what’s being lost is good for the university, some is not. I wish there was a way to just shed the bad with out shedding the good.

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