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  • I’ve told this story countless times before, but Buzzfeed’s sponsored mascot question has me telling it again.

    First, a confession: I loved going to Syracuse. I had a great time there. I rooted for the teams. I went to the games. But I always hated the Orangemen name. And I hated the mascot nearly as much.
    That stinkin’ orange has never been my soulmate, Buzzfeed. It’s always been more of an embarrassing reminder that life is often not fair. My parents and I worked through a lot of hard-saved money and loans for me to go to college. And that goofy-ass thing is the face of my experience there to too many people.

    In my last year-and-a-half at school, I lived in a house with thirty-plus other guys. Some called it a fraternity. To others, it was more of a methane and insult factory fueled by cheap beer, wings, and cheese jaws. A guy in the house was on the cheerleading squad, and one day this poor, misguided fellow decided that the foyer of our house was a safe place to store the orange costume for a few hours.

    Why he thought that, I cannot imagine. But he did.

    So I came back from class to find the orange costume sitting on the foyer floor with that dumb grin on its fabric face. Sitting in the TV room, with a full view of it and me, were about eight or so guys lounging about. I asked why the costume was there. My questions were answered. Finally, one of the guys set the trap with perfect nonchalance. “Hey,” he said. “Try it on.”

    Hey, why not? Easy enough. I got into the costume from the bottom of it, lifting and dropping it onto me and fitting my arms through the holes. The cap, which wasn’t there, would have covered my head, and that’s what I would have looked out of. But in this case, I was just left wearing a giant, heavily stuffed, fuzzy globe that covered me from neck to upper thigh.

    I turned to model the thing to the room, but never completed the rotation. The couches emptied with frightening speed, and I was slammed with the full force of eight men knocking me onto my fuzzy back and pummeling the costume while I rocked back and forth and kicked helplessly like a flipped turtle. It didn’t hurt at all due to the padding, which was the whole point and what made the whole snare so brilliant. I just couldn’t help myself in any way. And my friends got to pound me as much as they liked without doing any harm.

    Finally, after much rocking and fruitless struggle, I realized that the only solution was to wriggle out of the costume and squirm away, which I did. At that point, it was explained to me that everyone who’d just beaten me without mercy had come back from class and had the same thing done to them.

    So I did what I saw as the only decent thing. I put the costume back, grabbed a spot on a couch and waited for the next victim. “Hey,” I told him after he’d asked about the orange. “Try it on, man.”

    After he thrashed his way free under a storm of knuckles, there were ten of us.

    This went on for a good part of the afternoon, building in fists and fury, sucker by sucker.

    By the time the cheerleader came back to claim the costume, the orange looked like it had been mugged. Which it had. Over and over. I wasn’t there by then—there were only so many spaces on the couch and floor—but I was told he was not happy. At all.

    To this day, I feel not one ounce of guilt.

    Soulmate indeed.
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