We came across an article today about the University of Colorado leaving the Big 12 Conference. (That’s a whole can of worms in-and-of-itself, but it isn’t the purpose of this post.) The article, titled “Buffaloes Start College Realignment Stampede,” reminded us of a more literal stampede by a singular Colorado Buffalo many moons ago. (Can one buffalo stampede? Ralphie can!)
While a sophomore in college in 1987, we saw an ad in Mizzou’s student newspaper for Truman the Tiger mascot tryouts. Because we didn’t have a test or anything else important until the next day, we thought we’d give it the ol’ college tryout. Lo and behold, the childish antics we practiced to perfection in high school (which our teachers so wrongly predicted would get us nowhere in life) actually paid off and we were selected to the Spirit Squad as one of the Trumans. Our parents, we are sure, had to be so proud that their tuition money was going to such good use. Actually, though, we did get awarded class credit for it each semester. And, we needed every “A” we could get.
Someday, we’ll write a book (working title: “Tails of a College Mascot”) about the whole experience, so we’ll save some details and skip forward to our first road football game as Truman. It was Nov. 7, 1987 in Boulder, CO. Though it was a long, long bus ride from Columbia, MO, it was worth it. Boulder was a great town, and we had a lot of fun (more on that in “Tails”). So on to the game.
We’re not tough guy, mind you, or we would have put on the pads and been a football player, not put on big feet, a tail and a large head as an animated tiger. But when you put on that Truman suit, it kind of changes you. You’re on stage. You’re tough. You won’t back down from Cornhuskers or Wildcats or Jayhawks or Nittany Lions … nothing. So in the pre-game festivities at Colorado that cool fall day, we marched around Folsom Field like we owned the place, messing with Chip (our Colorado costumed counterpart) and haranguing a university police officer enough to where he peered out over his cool mirrored sunglasses and grumbled, “Better get away from me, Tigger.” But I was tough. He didn’t scare me.
Shortly after we harassed the cop, a gentleman in cowboy boots, chaps and a Stetson come over to tell us to get off the field. Say what … did he know to whom he was speaking? We’d already spent considerable time pestering Colorado’s cheerleaders, mascot, police officers, etc. … we weren’t moving for some urban cowboy.
“Move,” he told us again. Playing to anyone in the crowd who may have been watching, we didn’t budge. We’re tough. So the cowboy came over real close and proceeded to tell us: “Look, we’re fixin’ to unleash a 1000 lb. real, live buffalo here in a moment. Six of us are going to lead her around the field and several of us will help try to keep her headed in the right direction. And, if we can keep control, we’ll bring her right by this spot and into her trailer down yonder. If we can’t control her, she’s liable to go after the biggest, brightest thing she sees, and with that goofy head you’re about 6’5” and very yellow. I suggest you move.”
Did we mention that, underneath that costume, we’re not very tough?
We got off the field right quick and bravely hid behind one of the cheerleaders. Sure enough, shortly thereafter a big ruckus broke out and here comes Ralphie III leading the Colorado Buffaloes onto the field, six guys hanging on to her for dear life (including my new-found cowboy friend). Right by us she ran down the visitors sideline and headed for her awaiting trailer.
We should add that Ralphie III is no name for a lady. Apparently Ralphie I started out as Ralph, but a smart Colorado undergrad discovered that he was a she, so Ralph became Ralphie. They are up to Ralphie V now. Our game actually marked the debut of Ralphie III, as II had just passed. If you are so inclined, you can read all about it on the Ralphie the Buffalo page.
But we digress …
Anyway, Ralphie runs by and, back to full tough guy mode, we pushed the cheerleader who was protecting us aside and ran in hot pursuit of the buffalo. Her handlers ran her into the trailer and, as soon as the gate slammed shut, we jumped on the side rails and “gave Ralphie the business,” flexing our tiger muscles and thumbing our nose at her.
We were having a grand time, playing to the Tiger fans in the crowd and getting a few good laughs. Then the cowboy dudes intervened. “Oh, a tough guy, huh. Well how about you go in there with her.” They sounded very, very serious. Our heart sank. Remembering that the cowboy had said she’ll go after the biggest, yellowest thing she can find, we thought we were dead. Buffalo food. And no one would probably help us, thinking it was some sort of funny mascot routine.
“Look, Mommy. The buffalo is eating Truman.”
“Don’t worry, honey, it’s just pretend. Isn’t Truman funny?”
The cowboys took us to the trailer gate, opened it a little, swung us by our hands and feet like you do a little kid, and counted like they were going to let us go on three. 1 … 2 … 3 …
And they didn’t throw us in. Of course not. They wouldn’t throw a big yellow tiger in with a real live buffalo. But the thing is, we weren’t so sure at the time. They were talking a lot of smack and seemed intent on the guy in the tiger suit taking on the buffalo in the trailer. And we were convinced that our first road football game as Truman was going to be our last appearance ever.
But, as mentioned, they didn’t throw us in and we survived to fight another day, spending the rest of that day being our tough guy self. Except around the cowboys. We shined their boots and made nice. You just never know.
Now, about Colorado leaving the Big 12 ….