Column COVID-19 Long Beach State

Column: New CSULB Shark Mascot Not That Big A Deal

How did you react when the United States Government admitted that it’s in possession of “off-world vehicles not made on this earth” last month? They chose a time of global pandemic to flip-flop on a hotly debated topic, and I doubt it changed your mind about the existence of intelligent life outside this planet.

Last week, California State University, Long Beach, unveiled its new mascot “Elbee” the shark. It’s just the latest rebranding attempt on campus after retiring its Prospector Pete 49ers mascot more than a year ago.

Much like people not changing their minds about aliens, Long Beach State athletics fans aren’t changing their minds about the “49ers” situation because Cal State Long Beach changed its mascot to a shark.

This Elbee news is unnecessary, and should be treated as such. So as I write in every column about the many names we call Long Beach State, let’s hope this is the last time we need to discuss what to call our local college teams. But I doubt it.

To be clear, the university, CSULB, has adopted the new mascot. The university’s athletic department, LBSU, has not.

LBSU athletic director Andy Fee has said many times that the school’s sports teams, while no longer going by “the 49ers,” will not be going by the Sharks. They’ll continue to be called “Beach” as they have over the last few years, with the exception of their baseball team, which will remain the “Dirtbags.”

It’s strange to me that so many LBSU supporters are so dedicated to tradition. This is a school where one-year football coach George Allen changed the team colors because he didn’t like the brown and yellow practice jersey. This is a school that goes by about a half dozen different names and the baseball team has a name of its own. This is a school where they spent thousands of dollars to rebrand its athletic department “The BE/\CH” and after a little bit of complaining, the controversy quickly died down. LBSU tradition is change.

The bottom line is that there was no need for CSULB to introduce Elbee the shark as its new mascot. Especially not now. There are ZERO games for the shark to dance at and the LBSU athletic department isn’t creating Elbee signage for the Walter Pyramid.

“The kids can take pictures with Elbee,” Fee said. “But Dan Monson isn’t saying ‘Sharks on three’ coming out of a timeout.”

Elbee will probably be most useful at graduation and fundraising events. Who does that hurt, and why is that necessary? No one, and it’s not.

Long Beach State and “Go Beach” are phenomenal marketing tools. They should just leave it at that, and it looks like they will. Of course, that didn’t stop LBSU athletics fans from freaking out online after watching Elbee stalk an empty campus in the reveal video. The costume and lack of color or personality got the most negative reviews, and the name got most of the compliments.

CSULB said in the official press release, “There is only one Elbee and does not have a spouse nor family members. Elbee transcends gender and uses the pronoun “they/them.”  Elbee is nonverbal.”

A character about as bland as its color scheme — of course, that’s on purpose.

The CSU system has asked all of its schools to move away from individuals as mascots. I think CSU Northridge Matadors could be next on the chopping block.

That makes sense to me. Human beings have been killing each other in the name of their own god, government, safety and tradition since time immemorial. Our past is dark and full of terrors. For some strange reason, the American sports culture decided to celebrate these brutal memories by naming our sports teams Raiders and Knights.

Candidly, I think most human mascots are dumb and unnecessary. Animals are much better mascots than humans, and these mascot changes will continue to happen in sports. We need to accept that. We need a self correction as a culture.

When the kids of the future ask why things changed, we can explain why it was for the better. Just like when our parents’ parents had to explain to them why women were eventually allowed to participate in sports, or why there was such thing as the Negro Leagues.

Changes aren’t erasers. LBSU will always be the 49ers from 1949-2018. In my opinion, it was then changed to reflect that prospectors were part of aggressive westward expansion, and Manifest Destiny ideals are not to be paid homage. It’s a good lesson to learn.

Right now, Elbee changes next to nothing for LBSU athletics fans, and yet we’ve already received emails and comments from fellow alums who said they’ll no longer support the LBSU athletics department because of a shark mascot.

Seriously!? What are we really holding onto here?

No one is coming to our houses and stealing our Prospector Pete shirt. Wear it and continue to support the student athletes who will benefit from attending such a great university in such a great city.

We can’t let a silly name change at CSULB make life harder for LBSU student athletes. We’ve all got bigger fish to fry.

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JJ Fiddler
JJ Fiddler is an award-winning sportswriter and videographer who has been covering Southern California sports for multiple newspapers and websites since 2004. After attending Long Beach State and creating the first full sports page at the Union Weekly Newspaper, he has been exclusively covering Long Beach prep sports since 2007.