Disarming Pistol Pete strike against tradition

By Ned Cantwell: State Columnist

Let’s paint the Statue of Liberty pink.

Let’s trash the Zia symbol and adopt the Fleur de Leis as our New Mexico emblem.

Isn’t it the International Aeronautical Festival held each fall in Albuquerque?

As for that state question — “red or green?” — let’s change colors.

By the way, ever been to the Leaning Tower of Lisa?

I mean, this is Planet Earth. America. But most of all, this is the Land of Enchantment. We have traditions and patterns and familiar faces and places that provide our comfort zone. We have the Duke City, we have rodeos in July and religious pilgrimages in December. We have a state flower, the Yucca, and a state bird, the Roadrunner. We have Pistol Pete.

Pistol who? Yes, Pistol Pete, the beloved mascot of New Mexico State University. He’s been around for many, many years. And, guess what? This year they disarmed Pete. The old Pete we knew, the menacing three-foot Pete with the raggedy mustache and menacing glare, has been tamed. They took away his pistol and gave him a lasso.

Way to go, guys. The perennially staggering NMSU Aggies were 0 and 6 going into this weekend’s clash with Hawaii. If attendance keeps falling, they can schedule their games in a phone booth.

At least the student paper is prophetic. Back in March, The Round Up headlined, “NMSU football schedule looks to be daunting for Aggies.”

Is a redesigned Pete the problem? Don’t blame Richard. Richard Evarts of Artesia, the NMSU grad who gave Pistol Pete his makeover, was just doing what he was told. He said he wanted to recognize the “strong tradition of agriculture and ranching” in Southern New Mexico.

One of the problems NMSU has, in addition to a crummy football team, is that it is a copycat. Pistol Pete, before Richard cleaned him up, looked very much like Oklahoma State’s mascot who is also called Pistol Pete.

It doesn’t end there. The school’s colors, crimson and white, are the same as the University of Alabama. Aggies? Ask anyone in the country and they will tell you an Aggie is from Texas A & M.

NMSU shelled out $220,000 to a Los Angeles marketing company that recommended a new mascot and logo. During the summer, the college got all caught up in a frenzy of “branding” talk, as if the school were a box of detergent on the supermarket shelf.

Not just Pistol Pete was on the chopping block. The colors were going to go, and the name “Agnes” was being scrutinized.

The frenzy seems to have cooled. NMSU President Michael Martin said the image-altering ends with Pete. The school’s new uniforms, he points out, are still crimson and white, without the black of recent years. And they are still called Aggies.

The nickname nonetheless bothers NMSU officials. Martin wants to find a way to distinguish New Mexico Aggies from other Aggies. During the summer he floated the nickname “Aggie Amigos.” No one saluted when he hoisted that flag.

But Pistol Pete is friendlier. The old one, says President Martin, was so mean looking he frightened little children. If only the football team could do the same.

Ned Cantwell is a syndicated New Mexico columnist. He welcomes feedback at: ncantwell@charter.net