It’s a big day in the land of Syracuse, as not only are we celebrating National Orange Day, and not only is it the 145th birthday of Syracuse University, but it’s also the 25th birthday of our very own Otto the Orange. Congratulations, Otto, you’re now old enough to rent a car! And with that incredibly scary thought in mind, let’s move on to things that don’t involve an anthropomorphic orange getting behind the wheel of a two ton vehicular killing machine.
It’s hard to believe that Otto, a figure that has become so widely recognized, has only been the official mascot of Syracuse University since 1995, and that the name Otto was first used in 1990. Up until that time, the Syracuse mascot, that lovable orange blob, was known simply as “The Orange.” According to Cuse.com, other names that were considered included Clyde and Woody, and later Opie. As the story goes, the naming of the Orange came down to either Opie or Otto, because people finally realized that alliteration is awesome, with Otto getting the edge because it’s too easy to rhyme Opie with dopey.
And let’s be honest, that’s absolutely true. I can’t watch an episode of the Andy Griffith Show without referring to Ron Howard as Dopey Opie.
Amazingly, Otto almost vanished in the mid-1990’s, when alternate mascots such as a penguin with an orange scarf, a wolf, and orangutan, and a freaking troll were all considered. Fortunately, logic prevailed and the University stuck with Otto the Orange, and an 18-member committee made it official in 1995 that he would, indeed, remain Syracuse’s mascot.
Otto hasn’t had an easy life, of course. He frequently pops up on lists of the Worst Mascots in College Sports, because people are heartless bastards who don’t understand that poor Otto has a heart, and a soul, buried somewhere behind those giant, lifeless eyes. He’s often been a punchline – and even a punching bag – in ESPN “This is SportsCenter” commercials:
Yeesh, that commercial is even harder to watch now when you consider the DeShaun Williams incident.
Of course, the abuse doesn’t end there. Looking at you, Karl Ravech:
Fortunately, for every jerk at ESPN who decides to knock Otto around, and for those ACC jerks who wouldn’t even let him play in the mascot game this year, there are thousands of Syracuse fans ready to embrace the lovable goon with open arms. So buck up, Otto the Orange. Central New York loves you, especially Rakeem Christmas.