Not Everyone's Buying Georgetown's Fur Trade

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Week Two of the New Jack Era tipped off around 11 a.m. yesterday morning, when Georgetown's fresh-faced bulldog mascot -- teeth bared, eyes crossed, gray fur gleaming -- emerged from the Verizon Center tunnel to commune with a fan base still warming up to his new look.

The old Jack, nearly everyone agreed, was ready to retire. His fur was worn; "a little flea-bitten, shall we say," said longtime Georgetown fan Eric Siberten of the District. His jowls were judged insufficiently bulldogish. Plus, there was that odor.

"For years, the guy would go by and leave a trail behind him," said Lora Drezner of Potomac, whose second-row seats provide intimate views of the action, plus the scent of mascot aroma.

The New Jack required a half-dozen prototypes before a final design was chosen, at a cost in the mid-four figures. His face was meant to evoke at once the classic bulldog of the '80s, the more defined mouth of the most recent Jack, and the prominent jowls of a real-life bulldog.

"When you blend the new and the old, that's sort of what we came up with," said Andy Rowdon, an assistant director of marketing at Georgetown.

(Of course, the New Jack is not to be confused with Jack the Actual Bulldog, who also has been spruced up this season with the addition of a Hoyas jersey. Rev. Chris Steck, an associate professor of theology, bought the outfit for $25 at the campus bookstore, and it's proved quite popular with fans. "I wouldn't want something to look 'cute' on the dog," Steck explained. "This looks athletic. It looks sporty. Although bulldogs are known to be the couch potatoes of the dog world.")

Anyhow, the New Jack costume arrived a few months ago, but didn't make its debut until last week's Big East home opener, when many confused Hoyas fans accused the New Jack of looking excessively feline.

"He stole the head of the Villanova Wildcat," complained Greg Pereira, who was wearing a plush bulldog mask at yesterday's game. "It's not intimidating in any way at all. It has a huge overbite. It needs an orthodontist. It's horrific. It needs to stop."

Many Hoyas fans, though, were considerably more upbeat. They thought the New Jack looked a bit tougher than his predecessor, more menacing, more ferocious.

"Oh wow," said Redskins rookie defensive lineman Alex Buzbee, a Georgetown alum, upon his first sighting. "He's crazy-looking. His eyes, he looks possessed. More intimidating, for sure."

Some fans admired his lustrous coat -- "I think the student body's going to be a lot more likely to stroke Jack as he walks past," pointed out senior Ben Shaw, an enthusiastic New Jack backer -- while others said they were fine with any Jack, as long as he didn't obstruct their view of the game.

"It's better than an Orange going across the floor, I can tell you that," said '04 grad Lawrence Kelleher.

Costume Party

Hoyas supporters continued their admirable habit of showing up at Verizon Center in full costume yesterday. The offerings included a full-body Scooby Doo, a full-body banana and a cow (with udders), plus Alexander Hamilton and Thomas Jefferson.

"Until every single Georgetown fan is in costume, we will never have true home-court advantage," the Scooby Doo argued.

None of the costumed observers, however, managed to wrest Fan of the Game honors from Mary Travers, one of a trio of so-called "Senior Citizen Cheerleaders" who bear homemade signs urging on the Hoyas and broadcasting their ages. Beatrice Hawkins carries "77." Martha Straite holds "74 1/4 ." Travers hoists "71 1/2 ," although "it's supposed to be 3/4 ," she admitted. What's the meaning?

"We want everyone to know that it's okay to be senior citizens," said Travers, who has been to three Georgetown Final Fours. She's attended games since the early '70s and boasts Georgetown sweatshirts, sweat bands, kitchen ware, shoelaces, a watch and a shower curtain. "Once you're a loyal Hoyas fan, you're always a loyal Hoyas fan," she said.

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