Friends came to visit over the weekend. They came down from Oregon. In preparation for landing in San Francisco, it was decided that another layer would be necessary. A sweatshirt was purchased at the airport in Portland. An Oregon State sweatshirt. With a ferocious orange beaver logo. That was for mom. Her son declined because there wasn't a University of Oregon sweatshirt available. One with a green and yellow ferocious duck logo.
I understand these are beloved mascots. They are emblematic of life in the northwest. I continue to maintain that the state of Oregon must have had last choice when it came time to pick college mascots. I make this assertion as someone who grew up in the presence of one of the all-time great college mascots: A buffalo. The University of Colorado, by my reckoning, must have been up near the top of the list when it came time to choose what beast, mythical or otherwise, would lead the team out on to the field on Saturday afternoons.
This year, Colorado celebrates the fiftieth anniversary of using a live, snorting, galloping bison to fire up the home crowd. The first buffalo used was named "Ralph" because of the sound she made when she ran. That became "Ralphie" as an acknowledgement of her softer side. Females have been used for the past five decades because they are just a bit smaller and easier to handle when running at full tilt down a sideline. And still, Ralphie's handlers have often been Ralphie's draggers as they make that big turn to head back down the field to her trailer.
Brian Bosworth, The Boz, Oklahoma Sooner star linebacker made the mistake of thinking he might stare down Ralphie when he came to town back in his heyday. The Boz made a good choice when he got out of the way, sooner rather than later. There is no forgiveness in a buffalo stampede. Boz or Bozo.
Over the years, there have been a number of different Ralphies. They make their appearances, they make their runs. They get back in the trailer and come back again the next week. For fifty years. Ferocious. Fer real.