Mascot envy

I do my level best not to be too critical of my institution of higher learning. Take the soon-open Alumni Plaza, the construction of which has bottled up the middle of campus for the past year: I applaud the planners for deciding after much contention to save the Krutch Garden, a small oasis of desert vegetation in the middle of acres of grass, in the middle of the desert. The view through the fences suggests that the historic garden (home to a few boojum trees) has come through construction just fine, and I’ll even admit that pieces of the plaza look sort of cool (though there are some long stripes of concrete that look a little odd).

But, do we really need another goddamn sculpture of wildcats in this place? Look, I’m sure that the artist is very talented; on my ride past the site this morning, I got to see a crane placing the center of the bronze piece—a great big papa bobcat, who will be flanked by his bobcat, er, Wildcat, family. It looks nice, it’s a fine sculpture, and working with bronze is cool.

But it’s another statue of cats. It joins the bronze of wildcats playing on a log that lies one block to the east, the giant “Wildcat” banners on the light posts, and the snarling cat logo stamped into the bricks at various locations around campus. Look, we all get it by now: The Wildcat is the mascot here. Isn’t there a point at which all this poignant symbolism gets a little hackneyed? Something like a “lawn gnome threshhold” at which point the cliche catches up with us?

It’s possible, and a reasonable response to this rant, that I just have mascot envy. After all, I came here from a place where the founder and mascot of the college was killed, along with his family, by the Native Americans who didn’t take kindly to being colonized. Deep down it’s hard to be proud of that history. But before you level that charge, let me remind you of our glorious game-time chant:

Missionaries, missionaries, we’re on top!

You can imagine the variations on the theme there.

Ultimately, another wildcat statue will fit in just fine around here. Still, it would be nice to have public art in this place that’s more than superficially symbolic.