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If you were at the Harvard-Yale game last year, we’ve probably met. But I didn’t give you my standard Harvard introduction. I was too busy skipping through seating sections, taking thousands of pictures with crimson-clad fans, and flapping obnoxiously large polyester wings to the stadium’s music selection.
I piloted Harvard’s first unofficial mascot: a turkey. It was silly. And it was frickin’ awesome.
Honestly, it was a highlight of college. The turkey suit brought huge smiles to toddlers demanding hugs and high fives. Older alumni couldn’t help but chuckle, saying how glad they were that our school finally had a mascot. Hordes of undergraduates in the student section bombarded me on the stairs with selfies and chants: “Turkey! Mr. Turkey!”
After the game, friends texted me photos of their parents ‘meeting the turkey.’ Harvard’s Instagram posted a video with me leading the crowd in a chant. And I later heard that the camera crew was trying to catch me on the national broadcast between commercial breaks.
The reception of the mascot was overwhelmingly, undeniably positive. The pilot made front-page news in the Boston Globe. Then, the cover of the Class of 2023 yearbook was a family of turkeys strutting past Johnston Gate — too apt to be a coincidence. It was the hype that a weird, dumb mascot should get.
Which is why, during the lead-up to The Game, it was so frustrating to see much of the Harvard community turn against it.
Throughout my years here, I’ve been blown away with my fellow Harvard students’ constant creativity and new ideas. I’ve seen classmates stage avant-garde thesis productions, start their own small businesses, and run for political office with new, fresh platforms. As individuals, we are so open to change. But the second we feel like our opinions may go against the tide of what is cool or expected, we find it easier to upvote hate posts on Sidechat than get behind something new.
I’ve read and heard every insult about how the mascot was a stupid idea. A turkey doesn’t represent us! Nobody will take us seriously!
But that’s exactly the point. We take ourselves way too seriously. We’ve found a golden ticket to this shiny Wonka factory of a university, but we too often forget that we’re still kids at heart — college kids who want to have some fun.
In many ways, we are collectively working against the collegiate energy we truly seek. We roast Harvard for having no school spirit, but we leave thousands of seats empty at our varsity athletic games. We grumble about the lack of College-wide events, but we never fail to make fun of the Yardfest headliner.
I’m tired of negativity and complaints being our great unifier.
Instead, for once and for all, let’s rally around a mascot. To clarify, this would not replace the Crimson name or brand — we won’t be saying “Go Turkeys!” I’m talking about a person in a suit at Harvard events, that’s all. Think the tree associated with the Stanford University Cardinal or the elephant with the University of Alabama Crimson Tide.
It can be unofficial. It can be crusty. It can be weird. But it has to be something.
And although I’m personally a fan of the feathered menaces terrorizing the Yard, it doesn’t have to be a turkey. Let’s come together and create a figure that is unique, represents Harvard, and, most importantly, is timeless. As much as Remy the Cat is a unifying symbol for students now, a full-grown adult in an orange tabby catsuit might raise some eyebrows years after our favorite feline has passed on. A mascot that will outlive us shouldn’t be an inside joke only shared between a few classes of undergrads.
I’ve since graduated. I won’t be on campus to carry on this silly mascot crusade. But I truly hope that doesn’t stop someone else from trying. I am not the first person to argue for a mascot, and I have a feeling that I won’t be the last. Generations of Harvard students before me have created initiatives, started popular Facebook events, and written op-eds in The Crimson in favor of a mascot. Some of them, I should say, specifically wanted the turkey too.
It’s up to you all now. Embrace the weird! Take yourselves a little less seriously. And let’s actually make it happen. So that in 20 years, when your own toddlers are posing with a funny mascot at Harvard-Yale, you can say you were there when it all began.
Oh, before I forget. If you only met the turkey and not the guy behind the mask, here’s a proper intro: My name’s Felix, Social Studies alum, and I want a Harvard mascot. You should too.
Felix Bulwa ’23 is a graduate of Currier House.
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