This week’s Mascot Monday takes us to the deep south of the Big 12 and the Baylor Bears. We’ll go over what keeps the weakest team in the South going spirit wise while taking a peek back at the history of the mascots. It’s not B.J. and the Bear or Hardcastle and McCormick, but Judge and Bruiser! Not really as seen on TV but close enough. Just don’t sit too close to the screen or you’ll ruin your eyes.
Way back before black and white TVs, 1914 to be more specific, Baylor University president Samuel Palmer Brooks handled a vote for a new mascot name that included buffalo and ferrets. The bear won out in landslide and the first appearance of a live bear happened in 1917 when a local yokel won a bear in a poker game against some union guys. Now that’s Texas style mascotting. In 1974 the student body voted to slap “Judge” in front of the current live bear mascot name in honor of the university’s namesake, Judge R.E.B. Baylor. Right now there’s two: Judge Joy and Judge Lady.
Bruiser is the counterpart to the judges. I really couldn’t find much history on Bruiser although my guess is that he showed up sometime after the judging bears. That said, the mascot is a typical setup. There’s a big ole head, some fur, and a football uniform. The feet are pretty huge too. The design is crisp and isn’t too off the wall. Bruiser even had a shot at the Mascot of the Year for the Capital One Bowl back in 2005, losing out to Herbie the Husker from Nebraska.
One interesting note about the Judges is how they are cared for in captivity. According to Shark, a non for profit dedicated to animal rights, Eugene Baker’s book, ‘Here Come the Bears: The Story of the Baylor University Mascots,’ details how some of the bears in captivity may have been treated poorly. The also went as far as to produce a partial historical list of all of the bear deaths and how they happened. On the flip side, Baylor finished renovation on the bear habitat in 2005. After about $1 million dollars of work, the bears now enjoy a waterfall, 2 dens, grass, and eye-level viewing. It’s also licensed as a Class C Zoo.
Live mascots in captivity and mascot management is important part of a university’s responsibility when they decide to have live mascots at games. Part of the tradition of a school is the mascot and if the mascot keeps kicking the bucket or turns on their trainers then the tradition will weaken. The proper treatment of animals is important as well. I hope that schools with live mascots have a good policy toward live mascot management. The story of the Baylor Bears shows what can happen when a school invests in that management and if I ever get the chance to go down there, the bear habitat is on my list of things to see.
Switching channels, Judge and Bruiser provide a nice tapestry of in game entertainment for Baylor University. Nothing jumps out of the screen when checking them out, but at least they don’t do anything over the top. If anything, Judge and Bruiser helped me learn more about some of the back end work it takes to support mascots at a university. One day when we have a bazillion channels on the internet-television, maybe we can see one dedicated to mascots. It would surely beat the tar out another year of America Idol.