Sweet 16 Mascot Breakdown

boilermaker1We’re down to 16 teams.  You know who the favorites are by their seedings.  You can look at individual player and coaching matchups.  Statistics.  Even academic ratings, which I blogged about yesterday if you’re interested.  And you can look at what I think is one of the more important and largely ignored categories – mascots.    I’ve reseeded the Sweet 16 by strength of mascot.  Two teams not even mentioned in the Princeton Review’s compilation of the 368 best colleges in the United States lead the way in mascot power.  From top to bottom, here are the mascot seedings for the 2009 members of the Sweet 16.


  1. Missouri Tigers.  I list Missouri first, even though the Memphis Tigers are a better team.  And I do so partly out of an obligation to give Missouri some props for being a reputable academic institution particularly for its school of journalism which is top notch.  While Missouri was ignored by the Princeton Review, it was listed in the Fiske Guide to the Best Colleges.  And for the record, I am not a Missouri graduate and have no allegiance to the state or the University, though I once went spelunking near the Arkansas border.
  2. Memphis Tigers.  Probably the best team in the tournament.  Ferocious on both offense and defense.  But I have to say I liked John Calipari better as a UMASS Minuteman.  And Memphis a little better as Memphis State.
  3. Pittsburg Panthers – Panthers are tough cats and not to be taken lightly.  I don’t think they’d stand a chance against a tiger, but would have no trouble with any of the other mascots.  Pitt fans must be drooling at the prospect of another championship in 2009.
  4. U Conn Huskies –  I don’t know if a husky could take down a wildcat, but some of the wildcats I’ve seen look little more than stray cats with pointed ears.  Huskies may not be vicious, but they are tough.
  5. Michigan State Spartans – the ancient Greek state of Sparta was a feared military power whose Spartan soldiers were skilled and relentless.  With the right weapon, a Spartan would be no match for a husky, but the point here is that it would take a weapon.
  6. Arizona Wildcats – Some wildcats are wilder than others; that is a wildcat from the West scares me a little more than one from Philly.
  7. Villanova Wildcats.  Wild, but not as wild as found in the Wildjayhawk Wild West.
  8. Kansas Jayhawks.  It’s a helicopter, right?  Or Woody the Woodpecker.
  9. Gonzaga Bulldogs.  Bulldogs look tougher than they are.   Should have gone with a Pit Bull as the mascot, or a Pit Viper.
  10. Xavier Musketeers.  Ok, a little out of date, but armed, so I rank them higher than say a Sooner or a Boilermaker.
  11. Duke Blue Devils.  What is a blue devil anyway?  Beats the devil out of me.
  12. Purdue Boilermakers.  Hard workers no doubt, like basement miners.
  13. Oklahoma Sooners.  What is a Sooner you ask?  I don’t know either and I’m too lazy to google it.
  14. North Carolina Tar Heels.  Something to do with tobacco, but inspires neither fear nor toughness.
  15. Louisville Cardinals.  It’s a bird!
  16. Syracuse Orange.  Used to be the Orangemen and is now simply the Syracuse Orange.  The fruit or color?  Either way, not too intimidating.  Why not add Blood to Orange.  Or adopt a different fruit like a pineapple; now that’s some armor!

2009 Super Bowl Edge Goes To…

Taliesin West, 1937

The Steelers.  They have the best defense.  Or maybe the Cardinals who have the better offense.  I don’t know.  So, I thought I would put the teams to a mostly non-football comparison.  I’ll look at politics, mascots, wine, film and other categories to help me determine which team has the edge.

POLITICS:  Arlen Specter vs. John McCain.  Both Republican Senators.  I used to like Arlen Specter until he went on a crusade to bring down Coach Bill Belichick of the New England Patriots during the infamous Spygate investigation.  Hey Arlen, Eagles fans and players out there still sore over losing to the Pats in Super Bowl 39;  get over it!

Surprisingly, or maybe not so, according to Rachel Maddow of MSNBC, as posted by John Christopher of the Political Machine,  John McCain ditched Barack Obama’s Super Bowl party declining a White House invitation, but I’ll cut him some slack, because, unlike Specter, he’s not a sore loser.  I didn’t vote for McCain, but I like him – he’s a class act.  By the way, Specter will be at the party even though he’s not a Steelers fan.  Check out the guest list.  Edge – Cardinals

CITY:  Pittsburgh is, Arizona isn’t.  In fact, no team named after a state has ever won a Super Bowl with the exception of New York, which in my view is a dual reference to the city and state, and Washington, which of course is a reference to DC and not the state.  Minnesota, Tennessee and Carolina have all been on the losing end.   Edge – Steelers

MASCOT:  Unless a flock of Cardinals were to rain down on a group of Steelers as in Hitchcock’s classic, The Birds, I’d have to say a Steeler is a bit more imposing.  Edge – Steelers

WINE:   Pennsylvania has over 100 wineries and 14,000 acres of grapes to Arizona’s 35 Wineries and 500 acres of wine grape production.  To be fair, a good chunk of Pennsylvania acreage is devoted to the production of grape juice, not wine.  I can’t attest to the quality of wines produced in these states,  but I would guess (and I’m sure I’ll get some flack for saying this) that wines from Arizona are of superior quality given 1) the proximity to California and 2) that Gary Vaynerchuck featured 4 wines from the state on episode #536 of his Internet wine tasting show.  Edge – Cardinals

FILM:  There have been some great films either set or shot in Pittsburgh including The Deer Hunter and Ground Hog Day.  And the same is true of Arizona with Little Miss Sunshine and Psycho.  If I were to compare these films, I don’t think I could determine a winner.  They are all brilliant.  After the two Arizona based films, there’s not much going on in the state by way of film tradition, ok – Raising Arizona and Bad Santa, if you must.  Whereas, in addition to the two films mentioned, there is a long list of Pittsburgh based films including, Lorenzo’s Oil, All The Right Moves and the Wonderboys.  Edge – Steelers

ARCHITECT:  Frank Lloyd Wright.  America’s greatest architect.  Born in Wisconsin, Wright lived in Arizona for the last 20 years of his life.  Two of his most notable designs are situated in Arizona and Pennsylvania respectively: Taliesin West, pictured at the top of this post, which became his winter home, and Fallingwater, Fallingwater, 1935a stunning house of incomparable beauty.  One of my favorites is the Gammage Auditorium Gammage Auditorium, 1964on the campus of Arizona State University. Edge – Arizona

MUSICIANS:  On the AZ side, Charles Mingus, Linda Ronstadt and 2007 American Idol winner Jordin Sparks.  On the PA side, Marian Anderson, Perry Como, Hall and Oates, The Dorsey brothers, Earl “Fatha” Hines, Stan Getz and Keith Jarrett.  Edge – Pittsburgh

QUARTERBACKS:  Both Roethlisberger and Warner have won a Super Bowl: Warner with the St. Louis Rams in 2000 and Roethlisberger with the Steelers in 2006.  Warner also guided the Rams to a loss in the 2003 Super Bowl against the New England Patriots.  Warner has the luxury of throwing to the best receiver in the game in Larry Fitzgerald, who, incidentally, attended college at Pitt.  Roethlisberger is tough and unflappable, and has some decent receivers, but can’t be expected to bring the team back from a early deficit.  Pittsburgh is 20th in the league in scoring; Arizona, 3rd best. True, Pittsburgh has the best defense in the league, but can they contain Fitzgerald? If they can’t – Edge:  Cardinals

Arizona CardinalsPittsburg Steelers

KEYS TO THE GAME:  If the Steeler defense can rough up the Cardinal receivers a la the New England Patriots strategy in their 2003 Super Bowl win over the Warner led Rams, they could win the game in a low scoring defensive battle.  Arizona needs to get out to a big lead early and try to hang on, keeping relentless pressure on Roethlisberger.

SUMMARY/PREDICTION:  While Arizona has a political, architectural, winemaking and offensive advantage, Pittsburgh is the favorite based on film production, musicality, mascot, city comparison and defense.  Super Bowl 44 won’t be the most exciting game ever played, but should be a good game.  I predict a low scoring affair in which the Steeler defense dominates.  Pittsburgh wins 17-10.