In the world of sports mascots, there are many who are a genuine delight (the Phillie Phanatic, for one) and many who are walking horrorshows who stalk through our nightmares and curse our waking moments with dread and terror (the Pelicans' King Cake Baby is a shining example of this). It's hard to get on the right side of that equation; for every goofball like the Houston Astros' Orbit, there are the dead-eyed monstrosities like the Chicago Cubs' Clark the Cub, who, with his rictus smile and lack of pants, seems to have been lab-designed to scare as many children as is humanly possible.
Celebrate, then, the likes of Western Kentucky University's Big Red, who is basically a weird amalgamation of a frog and Grimace but is somehow beautiful for it. Conceived in 1979, Big Red was, believe it or not, always supposed to look this way; his creator, a former WKU student named Ralph Carey, quite literally drew a big red scribble and presented it to a mascot committee. "I knew that mascots were problematic," Carey recalled in 2012, somehow presaging our current era of oversized monsters who look like they were birthed by one of Godzilla's less-prominent rivals. So he came up with something that could offend and upset no one: a red mound of felt with big eyes, suggestive eyebrows and a gigantic mouth, somehow borne aloft on the spindly legs of whatever WKU student drew the honor of wearing the costume.
Western Kentucky approved, and for the last 38 years, Big Red has been an integral part of both the school's athletics and the mascot scene as a whole (and was even at the center of a failed lawsuit against an Italian television show that stole Big Red's design outright and turned it into a children's character named Gabibbo, who is basically Big Red but with a bowtie). But now, after decades of entertaining both WKU fans and the world, Big Red needs your help; specifically, he needs a new host for his immortal soul suit. And as such, WKU is asking folks on the internet to help them raise the $7,000 they need to keep Big Red functional.
Instead of using Kickstarter or GoFundMe, WKU has its own fundraising site, SpiritFunder, with tiered levels of support, from "Big Red High Five" ($5) to the considerably more sensual "Big Red Booty Pop" ($500) all the way to the top, "Big Red Ultimate Fan" ($1,000), which already has one backer. As of press, the project to refurbish Big Red has $1,591 behind it and 29 days left to raise the remainder. So if you have some spare bucks and a soft spot in your heart for an amorphous red blob that won't become a formative fear in your child's mind and thus force you to spend thousands of dollars on therapy down the road, consider pitching in to help Big Red. And if that doesn't do it, then just take a look at this 2016 video of Big Red's big day on campus, in which he eats mail, stares longingly at humans, and comes face-to-face with his previous incarnation—an experience that is a real trip if you think about it.
And if you don't, then just remember that Big Red knows where you live and can probably swallow you whole, and in his belly, you will find a new definition of pain and suffering as you are slowly digested over a thousand years.