There’s an old adage in Hollywood: “Never work with kids or animals.” These sports teams didn’t heed this message (well, the animal part), and found out what happens when a beast decides to act on its own.
The Atlanta Flacon
On September 11, 1966, the Atlanta Falcons took the field for the first time as the NFL’s newest expansion team. The first game in franchise history was a major event for a city on the rise. In front of a sellout crowd that included a who’s who of local politicians and dignitaries, the Atlanta squad was supposed to be led out onto the field by a real-live falcon—who was trained to make two majestic laps of the stadium before settling onto a high profile perch from which he would then lend moral support to his team.
Right on cue, the bird of prey gracefully winged out over the field…and kept on going, soaring up over the 54,000 screaming fans and out of the stadium, never to be seen again. Undeterred, the team’s owners went out and got a new falcon and tried again—three more times, only to watch their prized falcon fly out of the stadium each time. Atlanta’s football Falcons may have wanted to do the same after losing their first nine games in a row.
Texas A&M’s Reveille
Since 1931 Texas A&M University has had seven different dogs named Reveille serve as the college’s official mascot. The latest incarnation is a purebred collie that took over mascot duties in 2001. And Reveille VII has been the most troublesome by far. Her nearly nonstop high-pitched yelping has actually been heard over the school band in a stadium full of 82,000 screaming fans. Worse yet, Reveille bites people. On the field before a football game in 2004, she ran around and tore off a piece of a “yell leader’s” pants. She’s also snipped at a number of students (fortunately, none seriously). But because Reveille is “the most revered dog on campus,” the university has repeatedly refused to replace her. Why? She is, quite simply, Top Dog.
- As the highest-ranking member in the Corps of Cadets, a student military organization, Reveille (she is the Cadet General) wears a ceremonial blanket studded with five diamonds
- She’s the only non-service dog allowed to roam campus buildings
- Military cadets must address her as “Miss Reveille, ma’am!”
- If she feels like sleeping on a cadet’s bed, the cadet must sleep on the floor.
- She even has her own cell phone (which is carried around by the Mascot Corporal, who acts as her caretaker and secretary).
But some students aren’t so sure Reveille is the best dog for the job. They’ve stopped short of asking for her replacement, but do request that she stay in obedience school until she can handle her duties better. (She’s been through several stints already.) “Even though Rev is held in high regard,” student columnist Jim Foreman wrote in 2004, “she is certainly outranked by A&M President Robert M. Gates, and God knows what would happen if he were to bite one of the yell leaders.”
Update: As Reveille VII has matured out of puppyhood, she’s calmed down and seems to be performing her mascot duties honorably… and obediently.
The Auburn War Eagle
Animal trainers at Auburn University in Alabama have gone through five eagle mascots since 1930. While they’ve had a nearly perfect track record of not flying away (only one has escaped), one particular War Eagle (IV) seemed to take an opposing team’s touchdown rather personally. It happened in a 1976 game against rival University of Florida, when late in the game Florida receiver Wes Chandler caught a pass and ran the ball 80 yards for a touchdown to put the visiting Gators ahead. Apparently unable to stand by and watch his team go down in defeat, the War Eagle flew onto the field and attacked the startled receiver. “The last Auburn defender who had a shot at me dove and missed,” recalled Chandler. “Just about that time, I heard a loud squawk and the bird bit me. It probably would have hurt if I didn’t have the pads on.” Not quite sure what to do, the referees ended up charging War Eagle with a 15-yard personal foul (fowl?) on the ensuing kickoff. Auburn went on to lose the game.