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Behold that Tiger

Aubie, mascot and spokestiger for my alma mater Auburn University, is highly respected in his field. His non-threatening and animated appearance has made him very popular and, over time, has elevated him to a symbol of not just the sports programs but the entirety of AU itself. Don’t take my word for it. In national competition, he has been named “best college mascot” several times. Yes, apparently there is such a thing. Aside from his antics, which tend to the comic, there are several things to like about Aubie. For one thing, he is based on a cartoon. The “real” Aubie is patterned after a paper tiger that was created and drawn by Birmingham Post-Herald cartoonist Phil Neel. For decades, Neel’s two-dimensional Aubie graced the cover of Auburn’s game-day football program. When the powers that be decided they needed a sideline mascot, Neel’s Aubie was a ready prototype. Also, Aubie retains his autonomy. As far as I am aware, he is the only college mascot who will not permit Lee Corso to get inside his head. On the rare occasion Coach Corso picks Auburn, he must don an AU football helmet. There is a small cadre of students trained to inhabit the Aubie costume in a given year, but—supposedly—no one knows who they are. And Aubie couldn’t be bought. While other mascots traipsed around in commercials for one corporate television sponsor or another, Aubie did not. Until this year. This year, I have seen Aubie in a series of television commercials, and it bothers me. No, it isn’t a big deal in the grand scheme of things, but college athletic programs apparently cannot get enough money these days. Anyway, we’re proud of Aubie.