By Shea Stevenson
From the mid-nineties to 2010, Brooklyn College’s mascot was the Brooklyn Bridge. We were the Brooklyn Bridges. That’s better than Bulldogs and it’s not even close.
Aside from the stated reason that the athletics department was undergoing large-scale changes and wanted a new name to reflect that, there are obvious advantages to Buster the Bulldog. For one, you can dress someone up like him and they can run around at your sports games. I admit, this is hard for a suspension bridge, and I would be fascinated to see what they came up with back when that was us. Dogs are also cute, which makes for good marketing; we have Buster the Brooklyn Bulldog stuffed animals and that’s my favorite thing about him.
All that being said, what do bulldogs have to do with Brooklyn? (Don’t tell me it’s the alliteration, because the alliteration is stronger with “bridges.”) It seems as if we’ve traded a rare and valuable if obtuse, vintage sports car for a 2018 Toyota Camry. There are about 40 different U.S. colleges with a bulldog as their mascot, and one of them is Yale, so no one is going to leap to Brooklyn when they hear “the Bulldogs.” On the other hand, when you look up “list of bridge mascots,” the search engine thinks you don’t know what you’re looking for, because there are none. When I tell someone about the “Brooklyn Bulldogs,” they go: “Ok.” But when I say we used to be the Brooklyn Bridges, they go: “hm!”
Note that this is not always a positive “hm!” But it’s certainly always curious. People want to know more. “How might that work at sports games,” they wonder. Maybe they’ll go to one game and find out.
It’s not just that Buster the Brooklyn Bulldog is bad, it’s that the Brooklyn Bridge is better. Not only is it already iconic in design, but it speaks to what I imagine people like about Brooklyn. It was built so long ago that the lead architect wanted to use steel even though the wider consensus about steel at the time was that it hadn’t really been seen in action. It’s bold, it’s pretty, it’s famous, it’s classic, it’s stately, it’s overrun with tourists but pretty from the promenade, plus the bike lane is decent.
Before we were the Bridges, we were the Kingsman. The Vanguard, this paper you’re reading now, was also (half) the Kingsman before it was renamed in 2019. A sign in our office still says “Kingsman” and you can find that label on some paper stands around campus. Because I’m not a monarchist, Kingsman does not appeal to me; though I do appreciate the nod to Kings County, the technical county name for Brooklyn. The fact that the original Vanguard was dissolved for being “lefty” by the college’s then-president Dr. Harry D. Gideonse (who turned out to be an FBI informant) and was replaced by the Kingsman leaves a sour taste in my mouth. The declarative appeal to power seems unBrooklynian.
Not to mention, if we wanted to go back to the Kingsman, try saying “Brooklyn Kingsman.” Almost works, right? But there’s a stiffness to it, it’s just short of being difficult to say. It has going for it that you could get someone dressed as a knight to run around sports games. Easy enough, evocative, perhaps the knights could joust the opposing mascot or something. I wouldn’t mind a stuffed knight plushie instead of a bulldog. But again: it’s lame.
I propose that to sort out the biggest problems with the Brooklyn Bridges, we should do the following:
- If you need someone to run around sports games, dress up three to four people in 19th-century surveyor’s outfits and have them – unhurriedly – survey the court with compasses and pitons and devise a course for a bridge. This would do nothing to hype people for a sports game, and in fact, would probably have a dampening effect, but if done properly it could amount to avant-garde performance art or at least lead the crowd in some sort of signature “bridge” crowd move a la wave.
- Make a stuffed bridge or keep the stuffed animal bulldog and give him a shirt with a bridge on it. Honestly, do that for the last one too if it’s not in the budget.
That being done, it’s pure profit to return to the clunky and unique Brooklyn Bridges.