September 22, 2009
The country's mascot lineup is filled with vague and flatly incongruous characters -- an elephant at Alabama, a turkey at Virginia Tech, a ram at North Carolina, a terrifying kangaroo at Akron, an obscure bird at Miami -- mostly because entities like "Tide," "Hokies," "Tar Heels," "Zips" and "Hurricanes" are tough to boil down into a lovable format that can be embodied by a lone sophomore trying to stave off heat stroke. It's a lesson Tulsa has learned well through years of attempting to depict an actual Golden Hurricane in its mascot, "Captain 'Cane," the result of which was a meteorological compromise (a tornado instead of a hurricane) that bore an unfortunate resemblance to Powdered Toast Man of the old Ren and Stimpy Show. As athletic director Bubba Cunningham noted on Monday, "It's difficult to depict a hurricane or wind."*
So the Captain was more than overdue for a makeover, which was finally unveiled ahead of TU's home opener Saturday against Sam Houston State. The new-look Cane has no time for abstract concepts such as wind or rotating oceanic weather systems: He's very much a flesh-and-blood man ... a man bestowed with superhuman strength by his love of University of Tulsa athletics. Because every good mascot needs a comic book backstory:
Colin Cane, a freshman at The University of Tulsa, worked in IT support at night to help pay his way through college. During an electrical storm one night, Colin was called to the TU sports complex to fix a malfunctioning satellite that was broadcasting a live game. Never again would he watch his favorite team in action as a mere mortal. As he adjusted the satellite, the roar of the crowd coursed through the transmitter just as it was zapped with static electricity from the storm. Colin became entangled in a web of cyber-athletic forces. The atmospheric oddity known as a "binary vortex" mutated Colin over the course of several years. He eventually lost his hair but gained super-human powers. Thus he became Captain ‘Cane, a champion athlete and highly educated zealot of all things TU.
Who kills opposing fans with a sword made of lightning. This is much closer to a real hurricane than the old version, actually.
No other major college mascot I'm aware of has any "official" backstory of this variety, which the university will reinforce by handing out Captain 'Cane comic books to the first 2,000 kids on hand Saturday, no doubt the first of many, many potential marketing avenues for any cartoonish superhero (one of which, hopefully, includes a pay-per-view grudge match with his arch nemesis, Toledo's Rocket Man). Once the lawsuits start rolling in from 'Cane-loving kids who fall off their roofs during lightning storms, they'll need all the cash they can get.
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* - Although it's probably more accurate to say "it's difficult to tastefully depict a hurricane or wind," but you know what he means. Hat tip: Deadspin