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UConn Controversy Focuses On Wrong Things

In case you missed it, there's a controversy at UConn, where a student wrote an open letter to President Susan Herbst (A Duke grad, incidentally) decrying the new UConn mascot. Carolyn Luby argues that "the new Husky logo may not be capable of frightening small children, but the face of real life UConn athletics is certainly capable of frightening college women...What terrifies me about the admiration of such traits is that I know what it feels like to have a real life Husky look straight through you and to feel powerless, and to wonder if even the administration cannot "mess with them.'"

We assume she means her ex-boyfriend, who she says (elsewhere) abused and raped her, but she might mean a real Husky. Not to be thoughtless, but it's just not clear.

One could reasonably argue that reading that much into a mascot reinforces the recent European critique of Americans as being overly earnest. It's just a drawing of a dog, and logos change over time.

In the '60s, for instance, Duke's mascot was portrayed as a stout, muscular Devil who appeared to be looking for a kegger. That guy was cool. He was on the court for a few years, too.

Later, the devil became leaner; in recent years, it's taken on an unmistakable resemblance to Coach K (we mean the logo, not the mascot you see on TV).

Similarly, the UNC Ram used to be a stout, happy party-hearty sort of Ovis canadensis. Lately, it's projected a much more aggressive image. So has Kentucky's. Well, Michigan too. Even Princeton's has gotten pretty tough.

After a brief adventure into a more lupine appearance mid-Sendek, NC State reverted to the traditional and beloved Tuffy. If it was good enough for David Thompson, it damn well should be good enough for the rest of us.

This is UCLA's old image; their newer one is still fairly cuddly and friendly. A blue-eyed smiling bear: that's not so bad.

The revolution in graphics allows a lot of updates of this sort, and much sharper images, and as always, people want to update their image. Certainly not many Duke fans would want to see this nowadays.

But the focus on the mascot takes away a very valid criticism Luby makes, and that's the sort of behavior UConn indulges in athletes, a criticism we've made at times as well. Under Jim Calhoun, UConn basketball players ran up a long list of offensive and criminal behavior. Discipline was usually "handled internally." In here letter, there's a list of more recent incidents.

Worse than that, though, are the responses to her letter. Luby has received vicious e-mails, really sick stuff, and has spent way too much time talking to the police lately because of it.

This is in sharp contrast to what's happened with the NBA's Jason Collins. Since he came out this week, the reception has been mostly positive, and even those who disagree with him on moral or religious grounds didn't resort to name-calling or sick e-mails (not that we've heard of anyway). The civility is unusual these days and encouraging.

What just kills us is the habit of shouting at each other. Why can't we just debate, disagree and get on with things? Back in the day, people just generally declined to discuss religion and politics, knowing that it would lead to conflict.

Not today. Today we just let it rip and everyone ends up angry. It's a shame.

We don't agree with Luby on the mascot, but we certainly wish her the best and wish the moron patrol would just shut the hell up.