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Xavier Magazine | April 24, 2014

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Drawn to Xavier: It was Blob at First Sight

Drawn to Xavier: It was Blob at First Sight
Michael Shaw

Drawn to Xavier is an historically accurate* account of life at Xavier. It is quite possibly the world’s only cartoon blog that is both dedicated to a venerable Jesuit university and to the proposition that humor is not quite as close to godliness as cleanliness, but it is a lot funnier.

(*Well…mostly.)

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For we mere mortals, a great nickname is an enduring handle that carries on long after our mortal coil has sprung. But trying to hang a nickname on an institution can be problematic.  From Aggies to Banana Slugs, Artichokes to Zips, every nickname also carries with it the obligation that a costumed mascot personifies that nickname.

For a Tiger, there’s a Truman, for a Buckeye there’s a Brutus. And for a Musketeer? At first, it was a shoe; specifically a jaunty brogue featured in The Xavierian News:

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Hello boys! The copy breathlessly informs us that “Like the players it’s named after it’s a real winner…Comfortably feeling the first day as a touchdown in the first quarter and full of endurance like a 200-pound linebacker…No interference from us as we only signal for 6 bucks.”

The Musketeers were born in 1925 from the fertile mind and benevolent soul of Father Finn. He even equipped Xavier’s new identity with a rousing fight song, first appearing in an October 1926 edition of The Xaverian News:

THE XAVIER MUSKETEERS CHORUS:
Three rousing cheers
For the Musketeers,
“All for one and one for all,”
For they have the Xavier spirit
Ever ready at her call.
For the blue and white
They will fight, fight, fight—
So back them with your cheers.
Give a rah! rah! rah!
And a Tiger, ah! (shout “RAH”)
For the Xavier Musketeers.

A tiger? Why this sudden retreat back into the mascot jungle? A letter to the editor in the same newspaper, fairly frothed with excitement over the birth of the Musketeer: “Colleges all over the country have adopted titles for the favorites. The animal kingdom has been ransacked for inspiration, yes, mythical beasts have been invented to typify the spirit of this and that school! Yet how paltry they appear in comparison to our new chosen name! Here are no zoological specimens! Here are valiant gentlemen, sporting bloods, keen blades. Here are the Musketeers—all for one, one for all!”

Ironically, Xavier’s first living mascot was not a Musketeer, but a mutt. A spirited terrier named Hooks prowled the football sidelines for a single season in 1940. Legend has it his early retirement was precipitated by an onset of canine gout exacerbated by the abundance of hotdogs offered to him by the adoring home side.

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So what is it about a Musketeer that made this mascot more palatable as concept rather than a living personality? A historical review of D’Artagnan sightings at sporting events down through the years proves to be more mysterious, and just as dyspeptic, as the ingredients of a hot dog.

For decades, Xavier was a Musketeer in spirit, but not in the flesh. Perhaps D’Artagnan’s cavalier character was a bit too flamboyant for der Cincinnati.  D’Artagnan’s backstory can be traced to Xavier’s earliest beginnings. Finn found his inspiration in the real person of Baron Louis Paul Drualt, a relative of Xavier’s first president John Elet. Alexandre Dumas fashioned his D’Artagnan character by repurposing the real life (and rather roguish) escapades of Charles de Batz-Castelmore. On paper D’Artagnan was the cat’s meow. The real problems began when D’Artagnan became real.

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Few would have guessed that dressing up like a spirited swashbuckler and prowling the sidelines of a football game would be fraught with dangers far beyond a self-inflicted sword wound.

But there’s no keeping a good Musketeer down. In a Frankensteinian attempt to create new life, D’Artagnan rose again in the early 1980’s, eventually morphing into a mammoth-headed variant. This version of the Musketeer exuded undeniable power and élan vital, but unfortunately frightened children and even the occasional doe-eyed cheerleader.

fallen dartagnan

Though probably apocryphal, Xaverian legend has it that the top-heavy proportions made this mighty musketeer somewhat unsteady, and one night he toppled to the floor, his Mount Rushmore-like noggin barely missing a cheerleader.

Which brings us to peeling back the blue fur of myth and revealing the joyous mysteries of the Blob.

Tantalizing clues behind what brought this mysterious mascot to life remains scant. One narrative that gains and loses traction on a regular basis is that a super-secret subcommittee named The Super Secret Subcommittee for Reasserting Musketeer Mascot Mojo quietly reached out to various departments for suggestions on an alternative mascot.

So unsettling were theses suggestions, they’ve never been revealed to the public, and were probably destroyed. We shall never know. But that doesn’t stop us from speculating. Through extensive research and conjecture, Drawn To Xavier now presents what might actually have been some of those suggestions, plus the committee’s reaction. Readers are invited to draw their own conclusions.

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Here are the factoids: On a warm September morning in 1985, the Blob was not born, but arrived, in a handcrafted wooden crate featuring distinctive cabriole legs and festooned with international shipping labels indicating a Viennese origin. Two immense eyes and the distinctive aroma of sarsaparilla emanated from the dark recesses within. Enclosed care instructions (which had to be translated from a cryptic Austro-Bavarian dialect) directed that an included special “gel” be mixed with noncarbonated root beer and administered every four hours to minimize the stress of shipping and recover vitality. Standing just over three feet tall, weighing approximately 34 pounds and still covered in juvenile down, the shivering blue creature was rushed to an undisclosed location (some speculate a stock room at Dana Gardens, based on bathroom wall carvings at that location) and nursed back to health.

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The first actual meeting of The Blob and D’Artagnan is also a grab bag of hazy recollections. What few details available point to an early November 1985 exhibition game at The Cincinnati Gardens between Xavier University and The Grippos All-Stars—a ragtag collection of barnstormers with a taste for salty snacks. An usher recalls “seeing this little blue ball of fur cowering behind the first row of seats” mesmerized by the terrifying antics of the giant D’Artagnan. The crazed Musketeer’s antics of swinging from the center court scoreboard while swallowing his own sword sent all the children in the first seven rows screaming in terror. Except for the Blob, who scampered out onto the court, making a beeline for the teetering musketeer. The result? Love at first Blob.

D'Artagnan and blobfinal

So there you have it. The Blob or, to use D’Artagnan’s term of affection, “La Bloobé,” is actually female and instantly became the object of our mighty musketeer’s chivalrous affection. And like all great stories, this is not just a story of team spirit, but also a love story and a tale of mascot redemption—starting as a shoe, morphing into a dyspeptic dog, shifting into high-gear as a guy running for his life in girl’s tights, to finally a maniacal Musketeer with a monstrous head—and heart. All it took was the courtly love of a Blue Blob to re-direct D’Artagnan’s swashbuckling swagger in his service to the Queen City’s most inscrutable fur sack. If you ever happen to see them dancing together at center court listen closely; you might even hear D’Artagnan singing—“Bloobé…I got you Bloobé.”

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