So the Alumni Association is raising money for a Matador statue they hope will increase school spirit. I think it’s a noble goal, but misguided.
I don’t have any problem with school spirit, it’s a wonderful thing and we have a lot to be proud of at this university. Unfortunately, the matador is the wrong mascot. If we’re ever going to have school spirit around here, we need a mascot that truly reflects the personality, experience, and spirit of CSUN– the Squirrel.
I know what you just did. First you scoffed. Squirrel? That’s stupid. People would laugh at us. Then you thought about the actual squirrels that rule our campus and you reconsidered. Hmmm. Our squirrels are actually really brave, clever, crafty. Our squirrels never give up without a fight. Our squirrels take advantage of any weakness in an opponent.
Don’t believe me? Leave an open bag of cheese puffs next to you and look the other way. By the time you look back you’ll be lucky to catch a glimpse of a fluffy-tailed thief running away with cheese dust on his whiskers. Your crispy, crunchy snacks will be gone. People underestimate squirrels, but they shouldn’t.
Squirrels aren’t just cute little animals that flick their tails in annoyance. They are strong, determined, dedicated creatures who will use any means necessary to separate you from your lunch. Underestimate a squirrel and before you know it one jumps into your lunchbag and runs away with your granola bar, then sits in the tree over your head dropping crumbs of your granola bar on your head.
Squirrels deserve our respect, and as ubiquitous as they are on campus, they deserve to be our mascot. Besides, how often do you see matadors running across the lawns at CSUN? Have you ever seen a matador at CSUN? A real one? (Am I the only person who finds the Matador mascot costume a little creepy?)
Some of you are thinking that squirrels are a silly mascot. But so what? The UC Santa Cruz campus is covered with yellow banana slugs, so that’s what students chose as their mascot. Santa Cruz students are proud to be the Banana Slugs, and that mascot tells you a lot about the character and personality of the university.
USC alumni are always Trojans, UCLA alumni always remember their days as Bruins, but no one ever talks proudly about their days as a Matador.
People might be proud they attended CSUN, but the Matador is as forgettable as the cold, plastic-wrapped sandwiches at the Arbor Grill.
The CSUN community never really embraced the Matador and has already abandoned the Matador in spirit. No statue is going to change that fact.
The Matador was chosen as part of a Spanish theme for the school then called San Fernando Valley State College. Today, the school’s name has changed and the Spanish theme has been all but abandoned, leaving behind only a red, white, and black residue.
Our newspaper is the Daily Sundial, our yearbook (Yes, we have a yearbook) is the Sunburst. Neither really has anything to do with matadors.
When you think sun, which comes to mind first, a squirrel or a matador?
Our buildings are named after trees, not bulls or matadors or Spanish cities. Do matadors hang out in trees? Not around here.
The university just replaced the parking lot in front of the basketball gym with a landscaped plaza. Did they call it Matador Plaza? No. It’s Spirit Plaza.
Our basketball arena is called the Matadome, a name so uninspiring they didn’t even bother to paint it on the building. And the building is called Redwood Hall. Wouldn’t the Nut House be a more interesting name?
And we could create our own squirrel cheer to intimidate visiting teams: “cheeeee-chee-chee-chee-cheee-chee!” Our opponents would quake.
If the Squirrel was our mascot, the bookstore could sell Squirrel T-shirts and stuffed animals and squirrel-skin hats with the tail hanging off the back like those old Daniel Boone hats. Who wouldn’t want a plush squirrel wearing a CSUN shirt?
The mascot would be something people would want to see on clothing, notebooks and pens. Have you ever heard anyone complain they couldn’t get a binder with the Matador on it? No, and you never will. But fist-fights will erupt over the last squirrel binder in the store. Visitors would want to carry home a CSUN Squirrel. No one cares if they get home without a CSUN Matador.
Finally, a school mascot has a bigger job than just rallying the student body and giving alumni something to remember. The mascot is supposed to bring attention to the school and contribute to its notoriety. In this duty, our Matador has failed miserably. Mention CSUN around town and ask if anyone knows our mascot. You’ll get blank stares. When our men’s basketball team made it into the NCAA championships, no one noticed. But if the CSUN Fightin’ Squirrels had made it to March Madness, reporters would have been tripping all over each other to talk about us. They love a chance to make puns about something other than sports.
CSUN, it is time to adopt a mascot that reflects who we really are: a great but underestimated school that looks harmless but will tear you apart on the soccer field or the volleyball court or in the pool.
The public doesn’t really expect much from CSUN, and people don’t expect much from squirrels, either. But this is a wonderful place with talented and dedicated professors, hard-working students, and gifted athletes. We have nationally recognized programs. Our cafeterias even serve good food. Too bad we don’t have a mascot we can rally around.
It’s time to change that. It’s time to slay the Matador and adopt the Squirrel.
Now everybody say it with me: Power to the Squirrels!
Katherine Gould is a graduate student in Biology who will never admit to feeding squirrels on campus.