February 3, 2004

Just Bear With Me

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There’s a lot going on in the world right now. The Super Bowl. The war in Iraq. WMDs and the PLO. ECACs, Heps, and EIWAs. But up here in the nether-reaches of Central New York, the snow, hills, and hippies insulate us from the big game, Baghdad, and Bush. Our axis of evil has its fulcrum in Harvard Square, not Afghanistan. Ancient Eight rivals, not Al Qaeda, are the enemies around here. And, as fans in our insulated snowglobe, we have one cause to fight for: cheering on our teams and our mascot. So why, then did I hear boos when our beloved bear hit the ice during a hockey game this year? It must be frustration with our representation.

Perhaps I can understand our unenthusiastic support.

Our football team went 1-9 in the fall, and recently hired coach, Jim Knowles ’87, has his work cut out for him as he tries to rebuild a team with a dismal retention rate and a blown recruiting season. It may be a while before our grizzly inspires fear on the gridiron.

The hockey team also finds itself on a slippery slope this winter. The icers hadn’t dropped a shutout at home in six years, but, this season, the men have left two doughnuts on the Lynah scoreboard, and their record stands at 8-6-6. Maybe a polar bear would help.

For many fans, these sports, normally the silver lining on Ithaca’s lake-effect cloud, have turned a darker shade of gray and left us all looking to greener pastures in the spring.

But though Cornell may have witnessed more winless streaks and painful defeats than victories this year, we should still feel lucky to have our hairy bear as a symbol of Cornell sports.

Just look at how good we have it in the mascot department.

Take Stanford, for instance. The Cardinal has won more national championships in more sports over the past 50 years than any other school in the country, but, somehow the school’s mascot, a pine tree, detracts from the national title banners gracing the Palo Alto campus. I mean, honestly, if there’s a mascot less intimidating than a conifer, please let me know.

And Dartmouth, the Big Green, has a keg. I don’t see the connection: the Big Green seems to signify the verdant rolling hills surrounding Hanover, but that keg seems to confer lushness of a different sort. I can see how a combination of the two symbols — drunken mountain men — might inspire fear in opponents, but, separately, Dartmouth’s mascots fail to make me shake in my snow boots.

Yalies have a miniature bulldog named Eli. Harvard has a dark shade of shoe leather. Princeton, well the black and orange spend their time cheering for an animal which may go extinct in the next 25 years. Either way, these places don’t have much in the mascot department. But they do have spirit, and I’m sure the only things you’ll hear coming out of those schools’ student sections are cheers.

So, while Cornell may not have the nation’s flagship sports program, we do have one of the country’s great mascots. Even if the Pats had dug themselves a 50-point trench Sunday night, I know that the Foxborough fanatics would have been cheering their minutemen through the very last snap. Give the bear a hand, and let’s do the same.

Archived article by Everett Hullverson