The UMR Raptor — a mascot without a team
Over the lunch hour today I wandered into the University of Minnesota merchandise store across from Chester's, just off the Peace Plaza.
Maybe this is old news to some of you, but you can now buy hats, T-shirts and water bottles with our very own branch of the U of M's logo on it. You can still get stuff with Goldy Gopher on it, too, but you now also can buy merchandise with the new UMR name and/or mascot on it.
As you might recall, last summer UMR officials asked students and others to vote on a list of five mascot finalists among the dozens of suggestions it had received from the public.
Raptor, the name that won, was at the bottom of my list. Here's what I wrote in my column about the finalist names back in July:
I'm not quite sure why the university needs a mascot since mascots, for the most part, are associated with sports teams, and we've been told so many times it's impossible to forget that UMR will never ever, ever have sports teams. Or a marching band. Or homecoming games. Or raucous pre-game bonfires.
But OK, I'll play along. Let's declare a name here by process of elimination.
• Raptorsis the easiest one to cross off the list. It's just a general term for birds of prey, and there's a flesh-eating bird that has some specific connection to Rochester, the falcon, on the list. So, goodbye Raptors.
• Trailblazersdoesn't really work for me, either. I realize this name probably made the final five because this is a "trailblazing" institution of higher learning — the first real, full-time, stand-alone, four-year university in Rochester. But we already have the Portland Trailblazers basketball team, which was named after those who forged a 2,000-mile corridor from Missouri across the Rocky Mountains to the Pacific Northwest in search of land and prosperity. Now those were real trailblazers. The name just doesn't say Rochester.
• Nova. Quick, tell me what a nova is (without doing a Google search). I had to look it up, too. It turns out a nova is a white dwarf star in deep space that explodes. Or something. I like this name better than Raptors or Trailblazers because it's unusual. Villanova University, a private college in Philadelphia, is commonly known as 'Nova. But its school nickname is the Wildcats. And since UMR is focused on the sciences, I guess a mascot name that has something to do with an exploding star makes sense. But what would the mascot be — a nuclear reactive Reddy Kilowatt?
• Griffins. A cross between lions and eagles, they are fierce, and sleek and fast and really cool looking. Problem is, they exist only in mythology. Sort of like those stuffed Jack-A-Lopes you see at Wall Drug. I know this was overcome by the creative geniuses who decided on the Wild as the name for Minnesota's National Hockey League team. How do you come up with a mascot for an adjective? It obviously wasn't easy because although the team has a logo that is a wolf's head made of woods and water, it took eight mascot-free years for the team to create "Nordy." Never heard of him? That's because he's not real distinctive. He looks like a cross between Yogi and Funshine Care Bear.
• Falcons. So I guess that leaves the falcon as the best option for the mascot of UMR's non-existent, never-to-be sports teams. But I would make it Peregrine Falcons. That's unique, since many sports teams, including Atlanta's NFL club, are known as the Falcons. And it's specific to Rochester because we have peregrines right here in the med city, where they nest on tall buildings and feast on pigeons and slow sparrows. The mascot name is not unique in Rochester (Friedell Middle School has the peregrine as its mascot), but it's the best option of the bunch.
I have to admit now, though, that I like the raptor logo. I don't know if UMR has a name for it's mascot yet. If not, though, I would suggest Woody, because the raptor looks a lot like Woody Woodpecker with a mean streak.
Woody the mascot looks sharp. Too bad he's got no place to go.