Stanford prides itself on diversity, and maybe that is why we should respect this year’s Tree for “what it is” –it broke away from the mold of the coniferous evergreen redwood Tree of the last four years. But although we have had unique Trees in the past, such as a palm tree, I find this year’s deciduous tree to be more cringe-worthy than some of these past creations.
The “non-traditional” palm trees of the past make sense, to an extent, because they are strewn all over our campus, but tree diversity in our mascot is tricky. Do we want tradition or diversity? Do we want our Tree mascot to look like what is portrayed in the Stanford logo or do we want it to keep us guessing?
Personally, I want tradition, and to see what I imagine when I think of the Stanford Tree out there dancing around on the field. I want to know that next year our mascot is not going to manifest itself as a bonsai tree or something more ridiculous and “non-Stanford” than even that.
To try to gauge campus sentiment, I sent out a survey to my diverse assortment of e-mail lists asking how people perceived this year’s Stanford Tree. I received 250 responses, largely reporting that this year’s Tree has not been favorably received.
Seventy percent of my respondents reported they do not like the Tree costume. Of those respondents, 25 percent said they flat out hated it. Only 25 percent said they liked it and of those, eight percent loved it. An overwhelming 90 percent of respondents said the Tree should be a redwood and not deciduous, and 70 percent said this year’s costume is not an accurate representation of our mascot. Some of the survey respondents were particularly outspoken, and below is a sample of their responses:
“IT’S NOT THE STANFORD TREE!!!!”
“I think it’s great–I like that its different and think that people criticizing it should understand better that the Tree is remade every year by the new Tree–and it’s a TON of work!”
“I like it because a Tree is a tree, but I like last year’s Tree better.”
“Though I appreciate the creative efforts, I think this year’s costume does not hit the mark. A. It should be a redwood. B. There should be more of an element of anonymity. C. The costume should accentuate the jig, and the jig should accentuate the costume: they should work as one. D. The Tree is really, really not good.”
“This year’s Tree is definitely sillier than last year, and to me it seems the point is to be silly. So in that respect it’s more successful.”
“It looks like a dead broccoli or stalk of celery from “Veggie Tales” with bulging eyes. Ew. Especially how the bottom part looks dead and the top part is green…just no.”
“It has phallic characteristics…”
“Personally, I think it looks more like a Tree. However, sometimes when he dances his eyes look like boobs–overall its appearance is psychotic and frightening.”
“When I think of the Stanford Tree, the image I get in my head is that of the redwood, not whatever this is.”
“It looks like a bush on a stick.”
We have to accept that the Stanford Tree is already not a very serious mascot. The nature of the Stanford Tree is to be quirky. After all, the Tree is affiliated with the Stanford band, not the University.
Yet, the new Tree’s appearance may take quirkiness too far. Since this year’s Tree is deciduous, it detracts from Stanford’s image of “brawn” (after all, year after year we win the Director’s Cup for our athletic dominance). Deciduous trees lose their leaves seasonally and look like skeletons for a large portion of the year. At least the redwood Tree mascot symbolizes old growth, an impressive large size, beauty and tradition within our school by representing our classic Tree logo.
Stanford football is doing great this year. By the time the bowl season rolls around, our deciduous friend should have lost its leaves for the winter. How can we stand behind a mascot that looks like it is weak and hibernating? How does that generate school spirit and pump the crowd up?
Stanford Tree, thank you for your creativity and for representing a culture of a school that doesn’t need to take itself too seriously–I must say this year’s rendition is very unique! I liked the spiced-up appearance of the Tree with lights through the leaves for the first home game and the clothes for this last game against USC. The Tree mascot in general is pretty cool because it is weird, and the Tree’s energy is still up to par this year, but it is just this year’s costume that is questionable…but it will work.
Disclaimer: This column is by no means bashing the person inside the Tree costume, or his creative expression. This column is intended to shine a light on a discussion that is already being had all over campus as to the appearance of this year’s Stanford Tree.
Alyssa London needs funding to read all the survey responses on Survey Monkey. Send her donations at alondon “at” stanford.edu.