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“On the mascot/nickname subject [Aug. 2], I wanted to pass on some info on the grass-roots campaign by ASU alumni and fans to install the Hellbender as the new A-State mascot. The Hellbender is an endangered large aquatic salamander indigenous to the area, and the name won a recent KAIT-8 online poll. A bare-bones website is at www.hellbenders.info … With its unique, fearsome name and regional ties, we think the Hellbender is the obvious choice to represent A-State.” — Stephen Koch.

Sounds good to me. I stand ready to assist on new yells, too: “Dent their fenders, break their blenders, something something, HELLBEN—DERS! Rah.”

Speaking of the mascot/nickname subject, I find myself changing directions like Crazylegs Hirsch. (One of the all-time great player nicknames, incidentally.) First, I referred to Arkansas State seeking a new nickname for its athletic teams, to replace “Indians.” When a reader called me down and said that “Indians” and “Razorbacks” and such are mascots, not nicknames, I was easily persuaded. Now another reader says that nickname was right all along, and chides me for folding so easily:

“I believe the term nickname is appropriate in the athletics context because it is a substitute, informal name for the institution when used in reference to athletic competition. Thus, instead of the University of Arkansas vs. Arkansas State University, the public's reference would be Razorbacks vs. Indians.

“A mascot, according to Webster's New World, is ‘a person, animal or thing adopted, as by a sports team, as a symbol.' So, not every nickname constitutes a mascot, and not every mascot serves as a nickname. … I believe one would find, upon further research, that the mascot often has no resemblance to the stated nickname.”

Now that he mentions it, I suppose the barking collie on the sideline at Texas A&M games is the mascot of the Aggies, and the eagle at Auburn games is the mascot of the Tigers. Army has a mule and Navy has a goat, but the teams aren't called Mules and Goats.

Indians may be a mascot, but it's also a nickname. I'm returning to my original position, until somebody else writes in.

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