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Mascot Fights: Notre Dame Rivals Edition

Leprechaun vs. the world

Notre Dame v Louisville Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images

During this bizarre time in all of our lives, OFD has been here to provide premium mascot content. We’ve ranked the mascots of Notre Dame’s 2020 opponents. We’ve given you breakdowns of which of their mascots Josh could beat in a fight. Now it’s rivalry week at SB Nation, and we’re going to turn our pugilistic eyes toward the representatives of those programs Notre Dame has clashed with constantly over the years.

Think of this as a Super Smash Bros. scenario. The board of characters comes up and you immediately select your most trusted warrior: the leprechaun.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: DEC 28 Camping World Bowl - Notre Dame v Iowa State Photo by David Rosenblum/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Having chosen our avatar, up comes the rogues’ gallery of rival mascots, which our beloved leprechaun takes on one at a time. The matchups start easy and get progessively difficult. How far does Lep make it?

Ground Rules

The Leprechaun

As Mike Leach knows, these conversations get complicated when you’re dealing with a mythological mascot like a leprechaun, whose primary abilities are supernatural. What powers do we grant him? We can’t rely on pop culture as a guideline here; would we base the leprechaun’s fighting skills on the harmless cereal hoarder trotted out by General Mills, or the sadistic killing machine portrayed by Warwick Davis in the Leprechaun film series?

Thankfully, there are people in this world with a lot of spare time who have explored this topic deeply, relying on depictions of the “wee folk” in Irish mythology. The basics you probably already know: the leprechaun is usually depicted in folklore as a solitary cobbler about three feet tall who usually enjoys playing modest, ultimately harmless pranks, but will freak out if you threaten his gold (the gold itself is consists of scavenged “treasure-crocks, buried of old in war-time,” per the writings of William Butler Yeats). Notre Dame shows him carrying a shillelagh for self-defense, and of course raising his fists. In terms of supernatural abilities, the following are generally accepted:

  • Reality warping: the ability to change the physical properties and/or appearance of things, i.e. changing that shoe they’re always cobbling into a weapon of some kind.
  • Shape-shifting: Leprechauns are able to change their form down to the cellular level.
  • Regeneration: Unless penetrated by one of its weaknesses (more on that below), leprechauns have the power to heal from bodily injury.
  • Invisibility/teleportation: Leprechauns are able to disappear more or less at will, and can use that opportunity to reappear in another location.
  • Speed and strength: While they are not Superman by any means, most mythological depictions hold that a leprechaun at normal size is still strong enough to overpower an adult human and can run at unnatural speeds.

As far as weaknesses go, leprechauns - similar to vampires and werewolves - are vulnerable to silver, as well as iron. They can also be intoxicated by cream, but then so can humans if our use of Bailey’s is any indication. Interestingly, leprechauns also have a compulsive reaction to seeing a grained substance poured out in front of them, and will immediately stop everything they are doing to count the grains, which makes me very grateful the Nebraska Cornhuskers are not part of this debate.

The Rivals

The following teams are considered rivals of Notre Dame and therefore worthy to submit their mascots as champions to battle the leprechaun:

In the interest of ecumenicalism and in recognition of their proud history as a fighting force, we will also allow the Navy Midshipmen a slot in this battle royale, even though there is some disagreement among Notre Dame fans as to whether they should are a rival.

Level 1: The Pushovers

Stanford Cardinal

Stanford’s mascot is a tree.

NCAA FOOTBALL: JAN 01 Rose Bowl Game - Stanford v Iowa Photo by Katie Meyers/Icon Sportswire/Corbis/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

And a shoddy, washed-up tree at that. By the look of it, this is a redwood that traded in clean water, fertile soil and sunshine for Four Loko, Doritos and crystal meth a long time ago. This “fight” lasts as long as it takes for the leprechaun to chop down the tree, pull up its roots and bury his gold in the barren hole where it used to stand.

Miami Hurricanes

Hurricanes themselves are fearsome phenomena. Fortunately, Miami’s mascot is not a deadly storm but is in fact Sebastian the Ibis, a swamp-dwelling bird adopted by the school in 1926.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: SEP 14 Bethune-Cookman at Miami

The connection between the ibis and the hurricane is that the ibis, with its keen instincts, is able to tell when a hurricane is inbound and survive the encounter. It is often the last animal to flee and the first to reappear in the aftermath of the storm. Because of this, it developed a reputation as a protector and survivor in the Florida marshes.

So this bird is not cowardly by any means, and he has a heck of a game face. However, he is also small, with a wingspan of about two feet and a weight of about three pounds. With a small beak meant for eating crustaceans, he really has no way of hurting the leprechaun. The ibis’ greatest strength, his ability to fly, will be little help when he is matched up against a being who can teleport to wherever he intends to escape. It might take some time, but eventually the leprechaun tracks down the ibis and bludgeons him with a shillelagh. KO.

Navy Midshipmen

Army v Navy Photo by Elsa/Getty Images

Personal confession time: goats freak me out. Maybe it’s their beady, inhuman eyes, their charging tendencies or their historical association with the occult, but I just do not like these fuzzy bastards and do not want to be in an enclosed space with them. I don’t find them at all cute and I think their cheese sucks. Yeah, I said it.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: NOV 23 SMU at Navy Photo by Mark Goldman/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

That said, objectively speaking, goats are pretty soft. They’re livestock. People do yoga with them. Even a billy as large and patriotic as the one depicted by Navy’s suited mascot doesn’t pose too much of a threat, especially when matched up against an opponent of human intelligence that is accustomed to the rough and tumble of the Irish countryside. The leprechaun’s strength and tenacity would allow him to easily overpower Bill, grab him by the horns and smother him like Clark Lea’s defense covering the triple option.

Level 2: Puts up a fight

Purdue Boilermakers

Purdue throws an interesting wrinkle into the mix as they technically have two mascots. The unofficial athletic mascot is a railroad worker known as Purdue Pete.

COLLEGE BASKETBALL: JAN 24 Wisconsin at Purdue Photo by Michael Allio/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The official mascot is the Boilermaker special, a train.

Iowa v Purdue Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images

Used right, these two could form a fearsome duo. Purdue Pete looks like a strong guy and carries a pretty big hammer, while the Boilermaker special could take away the leprechaun’s ground game by speeding back and forth like Star Fox in Super Smash Bros.

The leprechaun’s teleportation is the x-factor here. He could stand in front of the Boilermaker special, as it sped toward him - forcing Purdue Pete to stand away at a distance - then snap his fingers as it was about to hit him and suddenly appear behind Purdue Pete. Boom, shillelagh to the back of the head. Without its erstwhile companion, the train is just an inanimate object that the leprechaun can commandeer and bring to a stop. It’ll take some smarts on old Lep’s part, but he’s got this one.

USC Trojans

Colorado v USC Photo by John McCoy/Getty Images

What a lot of Trojan fans seem to forget about their supposedly heroic representative is that the Trojans are most famous for losing the Trojan War in humiliating fashion. Sure, Hector was a valiant and skilled warrior, but it was clear that the Trojans didn’t have a deep bench behind him. The random grunt known as “Tommy Trojan” was likely one of those jabronis who thought there was nothing at all suspicious about a gift offered by the army that had been laying siege to their city for a decade.

The Siege of Troy, 17th century Photo by Fine Art Images/Heritage Images/Getty Images

That’s not to say the leprechaun has nothing to worry about here. The Trojan’s sword is a problem for a creature with iron as a weakness, and being on horseback could help him as well. However, there’s no getting around the fact that Tommy here is a little slow on the uptake. The leprechaun could easily lull him into a false sense of security with a flattering song or limerick, then walk up and effortlessly slash his throat.

Pittsburgh Panthers

The first thing one has to do in assessng how dangerous Roc the Panther is establish what kind of panther we’re talking about here. Pitt’s website is clear that the basis for their panther is Felis Concolor - the common North American cougar. Not only is that not the legendary black panther or any of its relatives, it is actually more closely related to the household cat.

Pitt v Oklahoma State Photo by Brett Deering/Getty Images

That said, I certainly wouldn’t want to run into a cougar alone in the wilderness. This is a genuinely fearsome, large predator with massive teeth and powerful jaws that could wreck any ordinary human’s day. It’s also a Pitt panther, meaning it is going to be about 2-3 times as competitive in this fight as it has any right to be.

If Roc was able to get the drop on the leprechaun, this could be a nasty skirmish. However, the leprechaun’s regenerative abilities would keep the panther from being able to mortally wound him, and after surviving the initial encounter he could render himself invisible, thus allowing him to get to safety and gain the upper hand. He’ll come away with some scars after the first move, but I’d count on the leprechaun to take this one in the long term.

Level 3: Life or Death

Michigan Wolverines

As much as it pains me to say this, wolverines are actually pretty vicious and scary animals. They are noted in the wild for their aggressive tendencies, strength far out of proportion for their relatively small size and ability to take out much larger prey. And since the Skunkbears do not trot out any costumed figure on the field - wolverine or otherwise - the real thing is what we’re stuck with.

This is the toughest test so far for the leprechaun. Everything said above about the Pitt panther applies, with the additional factor of the wolverine’s bull-shark-on-steroids attack mentality leaving the leprechaun with less time to regenerate. The wolverine’s powerful sense of smell will also make it hard for the leprechaun to turn invisible and sneak up on him from behind. In short, this ferocious little beast is not going to let up easily.

The key for the leprechaun will be to hang in there and not get fazed by the rain and crowd noise initial attack, then find the right time to strike. If he can warp his shillelagh into something a little longer and sharper, like a spear of some kind, he should be able to keep the wolverine at a distance and eventually corner and impale him. However, this is not a matchup to be taken lightly and the leprechaun should proceed with the utmost focus.

Boston College Eagles

Remember when we talked about Miami’s mascot and how its ability to fly was matched by the leprechaun’s teleportation? That still applies here, but unlike the harmless ibis, a bald eagle is not a bird you can comfortably square up with at ground level. At eight feet wide and thirteen feet deep, with sharp talons and a giant, sharp beak, this is a bird that can tear you up and fight its way out after being backed into a corner. In a worst-case scenario, it could even pick a leprechaun up off the ground and carry it away.

Holy Cross v Boston College Photo by Omar Rawlings/Getty Images

It would behoove the leprechaun to lean into his prankster nature in this scenario. If he could shape-shift into some sort of prey animal, like a rabbit or a squirrel, he could get the eagle to pick him up voluntarily, thinking he had an easy meal, then shape-shift back into his normal form and land a killing blow to the bird’s bosom. He’ll only get one shot, but it may be the only chance he gets to take down this fearsome bird of prey.

Michigan State Spartans

Unlike their counterparts from Southern California, these warriors of antiquity are not to be messed with. Trained from birth to fight with honor and tenacity and never surrender, the Spartan warrior is fierce, disciplined and, if Zack Snyder is to believed, unfazed by enemy forces with supernatural elements.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: NOV 16 Michigan State at Michigan Photo by Scott W. Grau/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Fortunately for the leprechaun, this Spartan appears to be by himself, putting him at a crucial disadvantage. The effectiveness of the Spartan fighting style depended greatly on their ability to fight as a unit, using their shields and spears to form an impenetrable phalanx. On his own, an individual warrior may still be formidable, but is forced to fight in an unconventional fashion.

Still, his weaponry is an obvious problem for the leprechaun and he will be less easily fooled than the Trojan. The key for the leprechaun will be to avoid being cornered and deploy some of his supernatural skills in a way that can’t be predicted, perhaps by pulling a Loki and letting the Spartan think he has him caught while secretly attacking from behind.

Which one is the toughest?

That’s my take - which of these mascots do you think would be the toughest for the leprechaun to overcome?


Which rival mascot would you not want to meet in a dark alley?

This poll is closed

  • 2%
    Stanford tree
    (4 votes)
  • 0%
    Sebastian the Ibis
    (1 vote)
  • 0%
    Bill the Goat
    (1 vote)
  • 5%
    Purdue Pete/Boilermaker Special
    (10 votes)
  • 4%
    Tommy Trojan
    (8 votes)
  • 7%
    Roc the Panther
    (12 votes)
  • 50%
    Michigan wolverine
    (86 votes)
  • 6%
    Bald eagle
    (11 votes)
  • 22%
    (38 votes)
171 votes total Vote Now