Friday, April 23, 2010

Long Live the Tree!

Whenever you travel with the Cardinal, you get the same question.  The Final Four is the worst because there are so many people there and you tend to hang out in the same areas, like, say, the Riverwalk in San Antonio.  Of course, it could be stopped by not wearing Stanford gear, but that ain't gonna happen.

It usually goes like this--

Them: "Excuse me, but can I ask you a question?"
Me: "Sure." (depending on what they are wearing, there may be teeth gritting)
Them: "I know you are called the Cardinal, which I don't really understand, but what's with the Tree?"
Me: Sigh."

You might think I'm kidding, but this really is the thing that inquiring minds want to know about Stanford.  Not what offense they will run, not who is injured, not even how many Nobel prizes have been won--it is all about the Tree.

Explaining it can be tedious, but I dive in.

Me:  "It used to be the Stanford Indians but that was dropped in the 1970's.  From 1972 until November 17, 1981, Stanford’s official nickname was Cardinals, in reference to one of the school colors, not the bird."

Them: "OK, I think I get it, but what about the Tree?"

Me:  "Nine years after the Indian was dropped, Stanford had still not decided on a new mascot. President Donald Kennedy declared in 1981 that all Stanford athletic teams will be represented and symbolized exclusively by the color Cardinal.  He said it was a "vivid metaphor" for life."

Them: (nothing, the asker is getting glassy eyed)

Me:  "But the Cardinal is just for the sports teams and there isn't an official mascot for them.  The Tree is actually the mascot for the band."

Them: "Huh?"  (Now they are sorry they asked.)

Me:  "The Tree is a take off on El Palo Alto, the redwood tree which is the logo of the city of Palo Alto, which is where Stanford is located.  El Palo Alto is in the Stanford Seal and is still standing, but it's not in really good shape and they are trying really hard to preserve it."

Them: "Ok, thanks, but I gotta....." 

Me: "The Stanford Tree is not like other mascots because it changes every year and we are always interested in seeing the new Tree.  There is an intense competition to become the Tree and the winner makes a new costume for their time as the Tree."

Them: Silence.  (They are wondering if I am done.)

Me:  "So while your mascot is some stinky thing in a reused outfit that is never washed, we have a forest-fresh, new Tree often made from recycled material so we are green too."

That usually does it--a true Too Much Information situation.  Sometimes they thank me and wish Stanford good luck, sometimes they are just looking to escape.

At the Championship game, I saw a sign that said--"We have Maya and Tina, all you have is a Tree".  I wondered if this was someone who got my explanation.

Me: "Well, no, we have a great bunch of players.  But I am glad we have the Tree and its wacky history, too."

But next year, I swear, I am printing up cards to hand out each time I am asked!

1 comment:

  1. Hey Dana, pass those cards around, will ya? We must all get the same question, ad nauseum.