I think the thing I struggle with the most is mascot murder.
My high school, the Beverly Hills High Normans, had a bitter rival: the Santa Monica High Vikings. I played a zillion sports back then, but I observed most of the proceedings from the bench with mild investment at best. As far as I could tell, both teams were mediocre at most of the endeavors in which we clashed. But still the rivalry stayed strong.
When I came to Berkeley, many of my friends ended up being from SaMo (slang for Santa Monica, keep up). We would joke about the rivalry, all in good fun, of course. But one day we were joking around, and my friend let me know about a spirit assembly that had taken place over at Santa Monica High while he was a student there. A spirit assembly in which a Viking mascot was pitted against a Norman mascot in a heated battle to the death.
I was aghast. And a quick Wikipedia perusal revealed the cruelest twist of all: it turns out that the original Normans of days of yore were the descendants of Germanic Franks, Roman Gauls and, most important of all, Vikings.
This wasn’t just mascoticide. This was fratricide.
Why, I ask, why? Why the mascot murder? Why, on the Monday before the Big Game, does Stanford host something called the “Bearial”, at which they celebrate the funeral of our very own Oski Bear? Why do we return the favor Tuesday and chop down the Stanford Tree? Where is our humanity? Vikings and Normans are kin. Bears like trees because, well, nature. What has become of us?
People are reluctant to let go of traditions. I get it — I’ve seen Fiddler on the Roof. But maybe we can move past this violence. Maybe the time has come. Maybe we can pit Bear against Tree in a heated game of Battleship or see who can hold their breath longer under water. The possibilities are quite truly endless.
We could be at the dawning of a new era, of an age in which a mascot can wake up in the morning and only have to worry about running out of extra-strength deodorant. It could be a time when a mascot can walk down the street without fear, when it can hold its head up high, except for the times when that giant head is just too goddamn heavy (who even designed those costumes, anyway?). What a beautiful day that would be.
For now, though, the bonfire crackles, the cannon fires and the murder continues. Oski must live in fear, and the Stanford Tree must sleep with one eye open, always watching for the sinister shadow of a handsaw or the flickering of a match. It is not a perfect world, but it is the world we live in.
I love Berkeley. But would I kill for it? I think not. I will simply do the honorable thing and sneak onto Stanford’s campus in the dead of night and spray-paint giant penises on all of their buildings. Because I have principles. Because I care about the mascots.