October 12, 2005

Syracuse New Times calls Dolphin Best Unknown Mascot

Available on the Internet at http://newtimes.rway.com/2005/best2005/default.shtml

From the Oct. 5, 2005 edition of the Syracuse New Times

Best Unknown Mascot

For the past several years we have used this space to pick on Al the Ice Gorilla, the official mascot of the Syracuse Crunch hockey team. Really, now, what's not to make fun of when we're talking about the world's only ice gorilla, and what does an ape have to do with hockey anyway? But, hey, that doesn't stop Syracuse University from touting an overgrown citrus fruit as its athletic symbol. Well, this year, since Al is running for mayor of Syracuse, we've decided to give him a break and pick on, er, reveal the mascot most everyone has never heard of.

He/she has no name (although this writer remembers him being called "Sammy" in the early 1980s), but Le Moyne College students, faculty and staff embrace him/her as their own mascot in a town dominated by the SkyChiefs' Scooch (which is what, anyway?), Otto the Orange ('nuff said) and Al, the world's only ice gorilla (thank goodness).

It's green, it's tall and it lives in the ocean, but that doesn't stop the Le Moyne College Dolphin from cheering on the Salt City's other college sports teams, including a nationally renowned baseball program and the 2004 Division II national champion men's lacrosse team. "The dolphin made its debut in the mid-1970s," reveals Joe Della Posta, director of communications and public affairs at the East Side hilltop's liberal arts college. "Throughout those 30 years it has been used for a variety of things: basketball games, pep rallies, reunion weekend. And it's been played primarily by students."

In keeping with the laid-back Le Moyne atmosphere--and unlike the cutthroat competition to be Otto (go figure)--the athletic department doesn't hold tryouts. "The Student Development office coordinates the three or four students who wear the costume. They just ask students if they're interested in being the dolphin." One staff member, Patri Welch, staff assistant in Le Moyne's office of Institutional Advancement, dons the fuzzy green suit for non-athletic events. "She's been the dolphin for at least five years," Della Posta says.

Despite the seeming strangeness of having a dolphin as the athletic teams' symbol--although it's really no stranger than the UC Santa Cruz banana slug or Western Kentucky's "Big Red" thing--it actually makes sense for the Jesuit institution. Persecuted early Christians marked their meeting places with a figure of a fish. Also the Greek phrase for "Jesus Christ, Son of God, Savior," spells the Greek word "fish." The dolphin symbolizes friendliness toward men and represents both love and tenderness. And like an athlete the dolphin symbolizes grace and swiftness.

So now you know.

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