BATON ROUGE, La. — When traditions end, fingers are pointed.
So naturally, LSU’s announcement that its next live mascot will not be wheeled into Tiger Stadium before football games has been met with hostility. This officially brings an end to a tradition that dates to 1936. Nothing that lasts 80 years dies easily.
Many fans see Mike’s trek around the stadium no differently than Ohio State fans view their band “Dotting the i” or Chicago Cubs fans view singing “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” during the seventh-inning stretch. It’s an integral part of the game-day experience. And there are few traditions in sports that are cooler. Everyone talks about creating a hostile environment for opponents, but no other stadium had an animal capable of eating humans parked outside the visiting locker room.
No one who saw Mike roll around the field and roar will soon forget the majesty of it.
However, it’s now clear that in order to keep the most important tradition alive — that of Mike living on LSU’s campus — the ritual of bringing him into the stadium would have to be sacrificed. The writing has long been on the wall. Mike VI only rolled into the stadium once since 2013, so it had gotten to the point where seeing him was a very unexpected bonus.
Based on LSU’s statement on the search for Mike VII, it would not be viable to treat the new cat as a true mascot. The university is looking to become accredited as a tiger sanctuary, and wheeling a tiger in front of a crowd of 100,000 people probably doesn’t bring a ton of merit in the scientific community.
As stated in the school’s official release, “Becoming an accredited sanctuary means that LSU has met high standards of excellence in animal care and is operating ethically and responsibly. LSU believes that these changes are in the best interest of longevity and ethical management of the LSU tiger mascot program.”
Translation: If we don’t keep Mike in his sanctuary at all times, we can’t get another Mike.
Misplacing the blame
Frustrated fans are projecting their ire at organizations like People For the Ethical Treatment of Animals, saying the university caved to make a concession to those folks. That’s not the case. PETA people aren’t the kind of people who accept concessions in any form. They’d steal our hot dogs from under our noses by cover of night if they could.
This concession is to scientific study, which is at this point the only justification for having a live tiger on campus.
Whichever animal sanctuary the young, yet-to-be discovered Mike is currently living at, you can bet it won’t fork him over unless his quality of life is guaranteed to be the same at LSU. Since none of them have stadiums to roll their tigers into, it’s pretty hard for LSU to make that guarantee if it continues the established tradition. The sanctuaries hold the cards here, and LSU has to abide by their rules.
Does it stink? Of course, from an entertainment perspective. Every time Ralphie the Buffalo rumbles out onto the field before Colorado games, LSU fans will undoubtedly cry out “Well how come they get to do it?”
But again, that’s part science. Each animal species behaves differently. Anyone who has a house cat knows that felines are indifferent, at best, to human demands. Schools with equine, canine and bovine mascots will have a better go of it because those animals don’t need much prodding to amuse us.
At least we can still like Mike
Once the disappointment wears off, LSU fans should be thankful there will be a Mike VII. Not all traditions can live on forever. Just ask any Ole Miss fan stuck looking at a giant teddy bear as a mascot.
Something will always be better than nothing. Watered-down is better than dry. And LSU will still have one of the coolest things on any college campus in America: a living, breathing tiger. He’ll remain mighty no matter where he roars.