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Hilltopper Madness

This is nice.

As I've mentioned before, I grew up in Fredonia, N.Y., home of the high school Hilltoppers, so named because our school used to be located on top of a hill. Eventually, the school expanded and moved to a less-hilly location, and so the nickname was changed, from Hilltoppers to Hillbillies.

I have no idea what the mascot looked like when the team was known as the Hilltoppers, but when I was a youngster the mascot was a man, with beard and pitchfork. It makes for a great t-shirt, but it's not nearly as wonderful as the Western Kentucky Hilltopper mascot, who helped WKU win the greatest game of the tournament thus far, an overtime thriller that was particularly galling for someone who published bracket advice insisting that one should pick against the Missouri Valley, and who then still took Drake. Duh.

Anyhow, WKU's beloved Hilltopper mascot, Big Red, spawned both a foreign imitator and a huge library of Internet greatest hits. The one where he eats jackets, below, is probably the best. Slate mercilessly pilloried the poor red fella this week, like so:

Big Red was born in 1979, the brainchild of one Ralph Carey, a public-relations student at Western Kentucky and future ad executive who, according to one account, fashioned his mascot after various Hanna-Barbera characters. (Hanna-Barbera, it bears noting, was a low-rent, corner-cutting cartoon production company that never drew a tree it didn't repurpose.) The result was the sort of anodyne red blob that might've been fished out of a Sesame Street dumpster and run through three focus groups.

Etc. liberal anti-capitalist rant. But here's the thing: if you discount the 8-9 games and Big Red, which lower seeds have won thus far? The 10th-seeded Davidson Wildcats and the 11th-seeded Kansas State Wildcats. I already watched the Arizona Wildcats lose in person and the Kentucky Wildcats lose on TV, and that's not even counting the Villanova Wildcats or AndyKatz. I mean, is this bland uniformity--one mascot for all!--really best for the consumer? Or should our capitalist masters give us the freedom to choose blobby red jacket-eating monsters? If choice is the thing, I choose Western Kentucky against the San Diego Toreros, and Slate isn't gonna make me feel guilty about that.

By Dan Steinberg  |  March 21, 2008; 4:44 PM ET
Categories:  College Basketball  
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Next: Scalpers, and Gilbert, and Cameron Crazies


Resolution for next year's bracket: Listen to Dan Steinberg instead of Bill Simmons.

Posted by: JDP | March 21, 2008 6:47 PM | Report abuse

That should be the punishment for everyone who brings their varsity jacket to college.

Posted by: BK | March 22, 2008 9:43 AM | Report abuse

Kentucky, Arizona, and Kansas State are public universities, so what does captitalism have to do anything? And do you really think government-controlled institutions give you more choice than the free market?

I know you were just joking, but next time have the joke make sense, please.

Posted by: Joel | March 24, 2008 12:46 AM | Report abuse

Where did that snowglobe come from? I mean, that is really nice.

Posted by: Jon | March 27, 2008 5:42 PM | Report abuse

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