Friday, October 15, 2010

The Ole Miss Bear

Posted By on Fri, Oct 15, 2010 at 10:34 AM

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I liked Colonel Rebel, with all his Old South baggage, but the bear is OK.

If your name is Ole Miss and your nickname is the Rebels, I don't see all the fuss over the Colonel, but that's history. As a mascot, the bear beats the Vanderbilt Commodore and some others I could name. The pickings are slim anyway, with most of the good fierce names already taken by rivals — Tigers, Bulldogs, etc. — and so many other ones — Indians, Rebels — suspect on grounds of political correctness. My friend Michael Rubenstein, who lives in Mississippi and knows more about sports than anyone I know, says they could have made Colonel Reb black and solved the problem.

The bear might make more people read the William Faulkner story, which is a good thing and a good story. It's in several anthologies, and the novel "Go Down Moses." On the Faulknerian scale of writing clarity, it's a ten compared to the stream of consciousness in some of his novels. This will help reporters and sportscasters forced to do some literary research before the next Ole Miss game.

I don't hunt but I married into a family of Mississippi hunters, and Faulkner's description of hunting as a rite of passage is still spot on. I think "The Bear" had some influence on my son's decision to become a fishing guide and a serious hunter. Not to mention that it made high school English more interesting to him.

Hunting is a powerful force in Mississippi and the South, and Ole Miss has wisely tapped into it. Of course so is drinking, and there was plenty of support for Hotty Toddy as a mascot, but that had all kinds of problematic overtones, from blasphemy to frat boys to what the hell does a hotty toddy look like.

The bear also validates Bass Pro's decision to make a big move into Memphis and The Pyramid some time in the next century or so. I can see a bear exhibit, from Faulkner to Ole Miss to Teddy Roosevelt's Delta bear hunt, in the works already.

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