Sports Opinion & Analysis

Arizona State Just Barfed Cheap Anime Onto A Fiberglass Costume

In College on March 4, 2013 at 11:46 am

By Jonathan Danielson

For a few decades now, Arizona State University has been referred to as a “sleeping giant.” It’s one of the biggest universities in the nation, and it’s located in one of the larger media markets in the country. The area is well documented for its beautiful weather (although not during months classified as “summer”) and the same can be said about the student body of the ASU’s Tempe campus. Critics argue there’s really no reason why 18-year-olds aren’t lining up to commit to play in maroon and gold while still in junior high. There’s no reason, they argue, why the school’s sports programs aren’t competing for national titles, season-in and season-out.

Instead, the last school championship was Women's Softball in 2011. Before that, it was Men's and Women's Track & Field in 2008.

The last championship was Softball in 2011. Before that, it was Men’s and Women’s Track & Field in 2008.

But despite everything the school has going for it, ASU usually finds itself in Ms. Congeniality Bowls, NIT appearances, or slapped with sanctions, rather than playing for championships and titles. It’s as if the Sun Devils have never seemed to be able to finally wake up from its giant’s slumber.

To change all of that, in 2011 the school tried to “Oregonianify” themselves, and rebranded their struggling athletic department. Gone was Sparky the Sun Devil from the school’s marketing campaign, and in his place was a scary looking, flaming cocktail fork. Uniforms went from only maroon, gold and white, to maroon, gold, white and black, which makes perfect sense for teams who play outside, in the sun, in 115 degree weather.

While the University of Arizona had "Desert Swarm," ASU now has "Heat Stroke."

While the University of Arizona had “Desert Swarm,” ASU now has “Heat Stroke.”

It wasn’t great, but at least they were trying. Now, two years after the rebranding began, the school has upped the ante and redesigned the most beloved part of ASU; the mascot, Sparky the Sun Devil.

Throughout its history, ASU has had its share of mascots before Sparky finally became the face of the university. Since the school’s founding in 1885, when ASU was just Tempe Normal School, until it was Arizona State Teachers College at Tempe, the school was known as the Owls, the Normals (whatever that was), and the Bulldogs, before “Sun Devils” was finally voted in by the student body in 1946. Then Sparky came around two years later, when alumnus and former Disney illustrator Bert Anthony drew up the little guy, supposedly in the image of his former boss, Walt Disney himself.

Now you see it?

See it?

But apparently, original Sparky is old, outdated, and not part of the school’s new, Oregon-like direction. So, for the last two years, since the first redesign was introduced, the university has been secretly working with Walt Disney Co. on a new, and supposedly improved vision of Sparky. Out is 65 years of tradition, and in his place is this anime-inspired Pokemon with Mickey Mouse eyes, and Aquaman boots.

"Tetsuo!"

“Tetsuo!”

It looks more like Disney Co’s final sweet revenge for the original logo than anything else. To be clear, the original Sparky is not completely gone. From my understanding, Sparky is the logo of the university, and “New” Sparky is just a character. A character who is the base for the new and horrible mascot design. A character who will appear on merchandise geared toward children, in order to try to gain future student allegiance at an early age.

Which doesn't make any sense, because they already seem to be doing a fine job with the youth movement.

Which doesn’t make any sense, because ASU already seems to be doing fine with the youth movement.

If ASU President Michael Crowe or Athletic Director Steve Patterson ever tells anybody they focus grouped this new design, they have to be lying. From online polls, to a Change.Org petition to bring back the original mascot, nobody seems to approve of any aspect of this new direction. And let’s be blunt, this is one of the worst cartoon characters, let alone Division I Collegiate Athletic mascots I have ever seen. Even Scottsdale Community’s  Fighting Artichoke is better. As a Sun Devil alumni, I am naturally predisposed to hate everything associated with the UofA, but this new Sparky almost (almost) makes me wish I would have wasted my undergraduate drinking years in Tucson, rather than be associated with this Yu-Gi-Oh! as the new label of my education.

While the new physical mascot costume is bad, it is not nearly as horrible as offering an alternative character to become the new brand of the university. It’s unnecessary, it cheapens the school, its history, and its fans. ASU already rebranded themselves once. Now its time to focus on the product on the field or court than poorly executed cartoons. Otherwise, this “New” Sparky (like “New” Coke, in that it’s just as bad) won’t just be the worst joke in Tempe.

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