By Tim Baffoe-
(CBS) “Go Tornados.”
That’s what my buddy, Brendan, and I say to each other whenever there is a mention of our alma mater, Governors State University. It’s pronounced “tor-NAH-dos,” not “tor-NAY-dos,” because the former sounds way more exotic. And I like to throw a faux emphatic “THE” in front of the school name to make it sarcastically seem like one of those universities that gets mentioned during the radio scoreboard updates and TV highlight shows.
It’s all a joke, though. See, there are or never were any Tornados because GSU has never had an athletic department, let alone a mascot. I didn’t have the typical college experience for most of my undergrad. I spent three semesters at the University of Iowa before that school and I mutually agreed to part ways, and I never retained any loyalty to its sports teams afterward.
GSU was different. It was the school part of college but certainly not the social part.
That’s not to disparage the place or my experience there. I credit (and you can blame) GSU for doing its part to shape me a bit as a writer and a lot as a teacher, and some of the professors I had are the best educators I’ve ever encountered. But there were no dorm parties because there were no dorms. No wild student sections at basketball games. No waking up early for football tailgating. I mean, the average student age is 33.
This is probably a major reason why I favor professional sports so much over collegiate ones. College football is fun and the NCAA tournament is nice for office pool purposes, but neither compares to the NFL or NBA. Rabid college fans just seem so odd to me, and had I experienced that life maybe I’d see their weirdness differently — though probably not.
2014 will mark the first ever freshman class ever at Governors State, as the school becomes a four-year university after forever being one that catered to higher-level undergrads and grad students. And as it has evolved academically, so will it also athletically.
As of the 2013-14 school year, GSU has club sports in women’s volleyball, men’s basketball, golf, bowling, softball and a competitive table tennis team (I was asked to dismantle the last tailgate I had for that last one). The following school year, the school will sport junior varsity teams in women’s volleyball and men’s basketball that will be competing against other schools and will be applying to the NAIA with hopes of being accepted to field teams in that athletic conference for the 2015-16 school year.
So I’m finally going to get to be able to reference my school’s competitive sports teams just like all you normal facepainters and message board conspiracy theorists out there. But what will my fictional Tornados become in reality? GSU has launched a campaign to come up with a school mascot with any and all ideas eligible for submission between now and March 10.
I have to contribute to this, right? After a failed attempt to get the Chicago Cubs to use some of my genius instead of half-naked pedobear Clark, some piece of me has to be part of a sports team I love, even if that team doesn’t exist yet. So I’m doing my duty as the tied-for-sixth-most famous Governors State alum with Doug Glanville and as a current student to help shape the face of its athletics just as its academics has shaped me. So here are my contributions for GSU mascot consideration.
The Lumberjacks: When entering GSU’s campus you will see on your left in a large field off in the distance a massive statue of Paul Bunyan hunched over, no longer able to lift his axe, yet no trees near him anyway. He’s contemplating his situation and so much more. He is all that is crushing about life and is alone, weary, staring into the inevitable earth that will be his grave. What a positive image for a fresh athletics program. And eventually all the cool the kids will start calling them The ‘Jacks.
The Gingers: During my undergrad I noticed the apparel in the bookstore didn’t have any sort of unifying theme or colors. Upon returning to GSU for my Master’s degree, orange had become the dominant color around the school. Know what else is orange? Me and my people. “The GSU Gingers” has a pretty nice ring to it, I think. And in this age of recognizing how racial mascots are insensitive if not offensive, I think I speak for all Gingers when I say that being a mascot would actually be a social step up for us. And if a scholarship or some other deal is involved, I might be willing to be the mascot at games. I have heard several times from people that I’m the only person they know that owns a GSU hoodie and sweatpants.
The Golden Blagos: The very name of the school conjures up Illinois’ wonderful political history, so some sort of reference to an actual governor would make sense. The Fightin’ Ryans strike fear into others, but not really for the right reasons. The Edgars and the Adlais just are not going to work. This state has a former governor that is nationally known already, and if the school really wants to create publicity and put itself on the map, why not go with a Blagojevich homage? Model football helmets after his hair. Baseball uniforms could be styled after Elvis jumpsuits. There’s already a potential fight song the school can buy the rights to. I got this thing…
Even if my suggestions aren’t considered (and why wouldn’t they be?), these are exciting times for a 32-year-old college student, I tell you. I can’t wait to eventually be a full-blown irrational college team fan.
Go Tornados. For now.