The Furry, Fluffy and Sort of French World of College Mascots (via NCAA Champion)

(NCAA Champion Magazine)

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NCAA Champion — To explore the history of the college sports mascot, to genuinely investigate how we’ve evolved into a culture that can rally tens of thousands of stadium-goers with live buffaloes, flaming spears and dancing anthropomorphic ducks, we must start at the very beginning and reach back to … uh, early 1880s France, apparently.

That’s when the French debuted an opera named “La Mascotte,” a title that translates loosely into “lucky charm.” Mostly obscure now, “La Mascotte” concerns a poor Italian farmer whose crops refuse to grow until he’s visited by a mysterious and lovely stranger named Bettina. His crops thrive, his luck turns, and his life shines. By the 1900s, the term had jumped the Atlantic and become known as a talisman that brought good fortune; by the 1970s, it had come to mean a grown man in a chicken suit. But the centurylong history of the mascot can be described in one very 2017 term: branding. “A mascot is the personification of a school’s brand,” says Michael Lewis, a marketing professor at Emory. “They work because they give something for the community to rally around, something for everyone to have in common. Everyone at the University of Florida knows about the Gators. Everyone at Texas A&M knows the collie. It’s a social point for the university and the community.”

Here’s what mascots mean in 2017. 

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About Jeff Vrabel

My writing has appeared in GQ, Men’s Health, Success, the Washington Post, the official BruceSpringsteen.net, Indianapolis Monthly, Billboard, Modern Bride and more. View all posts by Jeff Vrabel

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