I’ve never been a big fan of political correctness, so if that’s your pinky-raising cup of tea, then consider this your warning to abort this absurd piece of literary fantasy before I hurt your feelings. But if you’re even a little like me and tire quickly of watching male gymnasts hop around in Halloween consumes and needlessly burn the lacquer off a basketball court with their freakishly flexible dancing, then you’ve got no choice but to get creative.
Don’t get me wrong: I don’t mind watching college hoops—especially when games actually mean something, as they do in the NCAA National Tournament. But let’s be real: There’s more basketball on TV right now than a sane outdoorsman can handle.
So, for better or worse, I kick the TV on in my ROD (Room Of Death, otherwise known as a man cave by most), put a pinch between my cheek and gum, and fantasize about going to-to-toe with the mascots—were they actually real adversaries and not male cheerleaders.
So here’s my list, in ascending order of their ability to kill me in return we’re I actually hunting them, of the 2015 NCAA Sweet 16 mascots.
16. Cardinals: Louisville
Seriously—robins don’t have teeth. I mean cardinal. Did I say robin? Wait … is there a difference? Anyway, the threat and challenge a cardinal poses to hunt—with or without teeth—is so low that this would be a great pursuit with which to introduce your son or daughter to hunting. Now, that said, the decadent flavor of cardinal breast rivals that of a bluebird, and the red/blue combination of those two make for a stunning presentation at any Thanksgiving table.
15. Sooners: Oklahoma
WTF is a Sooner? “Sooner” is the slang term assigned to settlers in the late 1800s who migrated to what is now present day Oklahoma. My translation: farmers, ranchers and gatherers. It wouldn’t be a fair fight no matter how you look at it, unless I were packing a slingshot—though taking a spur to the flank would be quite painful. On the flip side, hit up a Google search for “Oklahoma Sooner” and it quickly becomes apparent that the level of beautiful women who choose to wear the sooner garb with pride is skewed so far beyond normal societal ratios that it’s mind-blowing. If you can’t hunt ‘em— join ‘em!
14. Tar Heels: North Carolina
What is with the goat? Despite a handful of prideful speculative opinions about where the nickname originated, no one can put their finger—or toe—where the Tar Heel designation came from. I, however, tend to lean on the local folklore that the term came from the tar, pitch and turpentine produced by the state’s massive pine forests upon which the North Carolina economy was originally founded. If that’s true, then Tar Heels can be considered men in trees, and any whitetail hunter worth his salt knows that an elevated position is a lethal on during any hunt. I’d love to go toe-to-toe with a Tar Heel— but seriously, what’s with the goat? It makes me think of an Adam Sandler bit: “Put up your dukes, goat.” “I got no dukes!”
13. Fighting Irish: Notre Dame
Speaking of dukes, Irish are of course known for their ability to whoop tail in any barroom brawl, and they generally do quite well when the numbers are not in their favor—in a bar brawl, on the basketball court or otherwise. But let’s put the pursuit on a hunter’s turf, out of the boroughs and into the woods. In that situation, the upper hand would be mine because, well, trash talk isn’t much of a defense and that goofy pose makes me feel like you’re offering hors d'oeuvres. Why yes … I love bruschetta. Thank you, little fella.
12. Wildcats: Arizona
I look at this mascot and think immediately of that fat, mean cat on “An American Tail: Fievel Goes West” that tries to eat all the mice. If you’ve got kids, you know what I’m talking about. So, the Barncats of Arizona might be light on their feet, but an animal that hones its hunting skills on mice … well, bring it on. For all you offended Arizona fans: Is that supposed to be a bobcat, and not a barn cat? Well, let me just check in my wallet … yep, I happen to have cat tag right here.
11. Wildcats: Kentucky
What is with all the cats? I despise cats. More appropriate would be the Kentucky Ditch Tigers. Did ya’ll know that house cats kill more game and song birds—nationwide—than any other predator? It’s true, so keep your kitty in the house or the hunt will be on for sure, and the challenge would be minimal. Now, I imagine Kentucky fans would naturally toss out some jab right now about being undefeated. Bring it … just don’t drag any of that litter out of the box and onto the carpet when you step up. Here, kitty, kitty, kitty!
10. Bulldogs: Gonzaga
The unpredictably of a bulldog is what a hunter of said dogs would need to be most wary of. Their ability to snap over seemingly nothing is nerve-wracking I admit, and it does land them in the Top 10 of this list, but a vicious bulldog is merely a wrinkly poodle that someone abused. Besides, have you ever seen one poop? I understand the theory behind the kicking is to cover the steamer with nearby debris, but every one I’ve ever seen always gets too close and ends up flinging processed dog food. That’s playing dirty. Gross.
9. Badgers: Wisconsin
There is nothing about the cocky swagger of Bucky that doesn’t rub me the wrong way, and I’d love nothing more than to add the prime pelt of a Wisconsin badger to my ROD. A steady hand and a .223 Rem would do the trick nicely. As a born and bred Minnesotan, I know first-hand that there isn’t a Sconnie alive who doesn’t like to remind a Gopher fan that the primary staple in a badger’s diet is the striped gopher. However, any Gopher State hunter knows that there are very few badgers that reside in Minnesota—even though the terrain is ideal. Makes a fella think, now doesn’t it? The safest place for Bucky is in his dark, dingy hole.
8. Wolfpack: N.C. State
Wolf packs are indeed a worthy opponent, and hunting wolves is at the top of my bucket list right next to brown bears (sit tight UCLA, you’re next). And let me be more specific: I want a black wolf accented with visually stunning silver tips. One would work, but I’d smoke the whole pack if opportunity presented itself. Hunting them would be a challenge, because wolves and at the top of the food chain due to their pack-hunting tactic, and they often kill for the pure enjoyment of it. But I’d start with the alpha and pick them off one … by … one. They’d need more than federal protection if I had it my way.
7. Bruins: UCLA
It pains me to put bruins this far down the list, but let’s be serious: The smile on BooBoo’s face gives him the demeanor of a carnival toy rather than a man-eater. Still, bears are smart and they hold a special place in my heart and in my ROD … I’ve got eight. I think a knife-to-claw fight would be one for the bragging board, and I’m always interested in adding another bear tooth to the one that already hangs around my neck. Besides, So Cal likely makes the bears there soft, as it does the people who live there. Author’s Note: This comment certainly does not apply to the Navy SEAL population of San Diego. Also noteworthy is the fact that, were I building a new college, I’d make the mascot the SEALs.
6. Shockers: Wichita State
This wouldn’t even be a challenge, but I can already read your mind: Luke, if a Shocker wouldn’t be a challenge to hunt, then why is it No. 6? Well, for all you citiots out there, a shocker is the noun form of the verb “shocking,” which refers to the early farming technique of gathering wheat into bundles—or shocks—for drying and easy transport. And the go-to tool of the shocking trade is a scythe (thing Grim Reaper), which could quickly be the demise of any foe in hand-to-hand combat with a Shocker, at which point you’d meet the Reaper and get a first-hand look at yet another scythe. But without that deadly tool, a Shocker ain’t nothin’, though I suppose it’s better to be called a Shocker than a Wheatie.
5. Musketeers: Xavier
Alas, the Top 5 of worthy foes for a hunter, and there’s are some freaky characters in this lot, both figuratively and literally. Generally speaking, a dude in tights and an over-manicured fumanchu would make me giggle, but underestimating the skill a musketeer possesses with that skinny sword could be fatal. Bringing a bow to a sword fight is never a bad idea, but don’t expect a musketeer to ever back down—it’s simply too difficult to run in slippers. I don’t know how anyone plays basketball against these guys without picturing Kiefer Sutherland and Charlie Sheen. Flashback, anyone?
4. Blue Devils: Duke
I would take on a Blue Devil with nothing less than a .300 Win. Mag. These tiny shoulder-squatters have been known to scramble the cognition of even the most rational man, persuading many a hunter to listen to them rather than the lovely White Angel sitting on the other shoulder. The trick to victory is to lead ‘em, because a Blue Devil is always in motion and they’re much faster than they look. Their downfall: vanity. You can distract them with a mirror and anything shiny.
3. Runnin’ Utes: Utah
The Utes were nomadic warriors, often engaging in battle to improve prestige. Their weapon of choice: horses. Utes were exceptionally skilled horsemen, so my plan of attack would be to shoot the horse first, thusly turning a Ute into a Sooner and allowing for a blowout victory. Shoot the horse? Totally. The only thing better than venison in chili is gelding backstrap. Anyway, the interesting thing about Utah is that it’s the only collegiate program where the women’s basketball program is stronger than the men’s simply because sister wives make an impenetrable team.
2. Mountaineers: West Virginia
I’ve often said that I believe I was born 150 years too late, and I would’ve made one hell of a mountaineer … fringe and all. But any sportsman knows that a true mountain man has a beard that could smuggle a pony keg, and the lack of beard is the only thing that kept me from giving the West Virginia Mountaineer the No. 1 seat. Seriously, who drew that thing? The trick to hunting a mountaineer is always staying upwind (bathing creeks can be few and far between in the mountains) and forcing him to miss on the first shot, because it would take him as long to spell the word “reloading” as it would to actually complete the task.
1. Spartans: Michigan State
Do I really need to go into this one at all? Granted, a Spartan doesn’t have the teeth of a cardinal, but they are the reigning champions of bad-assery throughout history. Their Achilles heel, however, is their inability to evolve to the use of gunpowder, which would seriously give me the upper hand. And for those who love David vs. Goliath stories, Gophers have been known to occasionally scurry under the armor of the Spartans and bite them right in the chastity belt. But then again, this is men’s basketball we’re talking about, so no one knows who the Gophers are. And come to think of it, no one comes to Minnesota to hunt, either. Anyone know if land is cheap in Montana? I could tolerate being a Grizzly.
Here’s to hoping your March Madness is a bit more tolerable when viewed from this angle … and that your son isn’t one of those male cheerleaders jumping around in tights.