PARRISH ALFORD: On the field mascot choice was big news for Rebel fans

By Parrish Alford/NEMS Daily Journal

OXFORD – It seems silly to make Rebel Black Bear the No. 1 Ole Miss sports story for 2010, but sometimes silliness gets going, and you can’t stop it.
Like it or not, Black Bear – and the process leading to his selection as the replacement for Col. Reb as the on the field mascot – could not be stopped. It was news.
When Boss poked his head up from three cubicles away and found me hunkered down in my place on the farm, the assignment was fairly simple. Write about the story that had the greatest impact on Ole Miss athletics, whether positive or negative, over the last year.
A number of other worthy candidates came to mind such as the process that landed Jeremiah Masoli under center, a phenomenal season for baseball pitcher Drew Pomeranz, distance runner Barnabas Kirui, the collapse of the defense during a disappointing football season and others.
Kirui in November was named the SEC’s athlete of the year – for the third time. What other Ole Miss athlete has been a three-time SEC MVP?
Pomeranz was the fifth overall pick in the draft.
Had he not taken the wrong turn at the fork, Masoli would have gotten Heisman buzz as a senior at Oregon.
His whirlwind recruitment and brief eligibility battle with the NCAA, won on appeal, received national coverage.
Impact can be defined in a number of ways, however. Among them are how long a story stays hot and how much people have to say about it.
Anger fuels interest. Many fans were miffed by the mascot process they felt was forced upon them.
It began in February when students voted to pursue and on-field mascot. Outside the student population, three mascot finalists were verbal punching bags, a trend that continued when Black Bear was named the winner over the Land Shark and the faceless human-like character known as Hotty Toddy.
Along the way the process was featured in an ESPN commercial that portrayed the candidacy of Star Wars character Admiral Ackbar, through he was not an official choice by the selection committee.
Black Bear’s crowning generated news coverage from CBS, Time, The Washington Post and the New York Times.
Because of anger or curiosity, people have invested a valuable resource – time – into the process.
Youtube features a concession speech by a tearful Hotty Toddy. Black Bear is on Facebook. He has 1,924 friends, and I’m one of them.
Love him or hate him, Rebel Black Bear and the process that led to his selection was major news at Ole Miss.

Parrish Alford (parrish.alford@djournal.com) covers Ole Miss for the Daily Journal. He blogs daily about Ole Miss athletics at NEMS360.com.