March 01, 2010
Oversized, cartoonish mascots have three main objectives in college sports: a) Represent the university with humor and the maximum possible dignity a socially awkward sophomore wearing a poorly ventilated fiberglass head can muster; b) Hold their own in fights with opposing mascots; and c) Don't frighten small children. On item a), Purdue's venerable "Purdue Pete" has carried his humongous, black-and-gold head high for more than 50 years; on b), he carries a sledgehammer. But after a quarter-century in the uncanny valley, the shrieking of tykes of Ross-Ade Stadium have spoken -- Purdue Pete needs a new look, pronto:
Time for a makeover, say Purdue officials, who want to update and soften the image of the rugged 70-year-old icon.
"Look, I'm the one who gets the phone calls from parents who say that big face scares their 3-year-old," said Morgan Burke, athletic director.
"It's been 25 to 30 years since he got a makeover. At some point, the poor old guy has to come into the 21st century."
The new-look Pete is tentatively scheduled for unveiling in time for football season this fall. My recommendation? Noted hard hat aficionado Colt McCoy:
If the NFL doesn't work out, there's always a job waiting for you in West Lafayette, big guy.
Other recommendations for "softening" Pete's image include original Beatle Pete Best, fictional Sterling & Cooper accounts manager Pete Campbell, the hard hat-wearing construction worker from the Village People, English pop musician Peter Gabriel, sledgehammer-wielding Berliners toppling the infamous wall, the thermoplastic polymer resin PETE, either of the ginger kids who played identically named brothers on the mid-'90s cult hit The Adventures of Pete & Pete and earnest pop rocker Pete Yorn. (But definitely not legendary Who guitarist Pete Townshend, whose track record with kids is frankly not so good. Although, in a pinch, he can put on a heck of a halftime show ...)