February 25, 2010
When the grassroots Web campaign to replace Ole Miss' retired Confederate mascot, Colonel Reb, with Rebel Alliance leader Admiral Ackbar of Star Wars fame first began to make the rounds last week, it still seemed more like a clever Photoshop job and Facebook page than any sort of movement. With the students' overwhelming decision earlier this week to take the lead in the Rebels' upcoming mascot search, though, Wednesday was the clear tipping point for taking "Ackbar for Ole Miss" to the masses: The meme went regional via the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, national via an Associated Press story that was picked up by the New York Times and Washington Post and viral via TMZ. (America's No. 1 gossip peddlers also featured "Ackbar for Ole Miss" on its daily television show.) The campaign was mentioned on ESPN's "Around the Horn," lit up Twitter with dorky Return of the Jedi references and at one point was one of the top 10 search terms on Google.
The idea apparently caught on with so many people so quickly that the school felt compelled to remind them, if there was any doubt, that yes, this is a trap:
Officials say there's virtually no chance the fish-faced leader of the Rebel Alliance in the movie could become the on-field mascot for the Rebels of Ole Miss.
The Associated Student Body president dismisses it as "comic relief."
I'm not sure the student body president is speaking for his constituency on campus, but he certainly is speaking for the alumni network that dominates state politics in Mississippi, very few of whom I can imagine appreciating the desperate and heroic struggle against the tyranny of the Galactic Empire. The spacesuit hasn't achieved the cherished status of the seersucker just yet.
Note, though, that officials said there was virtually no chance the Ackbar movement could succeed, which (as Lloyd Christmas would note) means there is technically a chance. There are no other options on the table to date, and none to come that will make national headlines. None will make more creative -- or, considering the controversial territory, frankly progressive -- use of the Rebel motif. Superficially, Ole Miss may eventually embrace the inoffensive result of the upcoming committee process, but given time, only Admiral Ackbar might have finally detonated the Colonel Reb Death Star in their hearts.