Mike the Tiger’s cancer diagnosis has affected many around the SEC. Mascots hold a special place for fans. They are symbols for the team and often targeted to children and so become a nostalgic holdover for longtime fans.
They are part of what makes college football and sports unique.
The live action mascots like Mike the Tiger, Uga, Big Tusk and Reveille are even more special because of their physical tangibleness. So when Mike the Tiger VI was diagnosed with cancer suddenly there was a fair amount of sadness and gratitude that it was caught and he would be given a chance to survive.
How the cancer was caught so early is a heartbreaking story in itself.
The caretakers for the live-action Mike the Tiger are veterinarian students at LSU who are selected for two-year terms taking care of the tiger.
On Lindsey Clemones final visit with Mike, she noticed something wrong. It was Clemones in this final goodbye with the animal she had bonded with — she told Rebekah Allen of The New Orleans Advocate that Mike would recognize her car pulling up and become excited — she discovered the ailment which would threaten Mike’s life.
“I was talking to him and looking at him, and I noticed he had a slight swelling that I hadn’t noticed before,” Clemones told The Advocate. “I called Dr. (David) Baker that night and said this was something we were really concerned about, and he took it seriously.
“We’re so close to him and he’s such a big part of our lives. I knew my time at some point would come to an end with him, but it’s hard to hand that key over to the next caretaker and say, ‘Here’s a key to the most important tiger in the world, and by the way, something is wrong with him.'”
It must have been crushing to discover this terrible news at the same time she was saying good bye.
The discovery saved Mike’s life. The cancer, if undetected, could have killed the mascot within months. Instead, with treatment, Mike should live for a few more years.
Enough time for the next caretakers to gain a relationship with him and for a new crop of fans to stay connected with their mascot, their team and their school.