Sports mascots endear themselves to fans because they’re supposed to stand for larger things, like vitality, tradition and tribal spirit.
But Mike VI, LSU’s Bengal tiger that passed away Tuesday, seemed to stand for something else in his final months, which is why his passing has touched people who don’t usually cry over departed animals.
Mike’s diagnosis in May with a rare form of cancer was a strange development that foreshadowed an off-key summer in south Louisiana.
After a season of grim shootings and epic floods, the loss of a tiger seems a small thing when compared with so much tragic human loss. But at LSU, a wild cat’s struggle to stay alive became yet another reminder of what this odd year has taught us, again and again.
It’s the simple lesson that life’s blessings, including earthly life itself, are fleeting, not to be taken for granted.
And maybe, in a time of such unspeakable violence and ugly politics, there is something hopeful in our willingness to shed a tear over a tiger. That lively lump of emotion in our throat brings the news that we’re still human, still capable – in what has seemed an increasingly cold and inhuman world -- of feeling something honest, unguarded and true.
So we’ll cry for Mike the Tiger this week, the mascot that inspired a community of fans to pause, amidst their many troubles, to remember the good times of past autumns, and hope for better Louisiana autumns to come.
We are glad that Mike’s suffering is over, and we hope that his passing points to the promise that this region’s suffering will soon be over, too.
That would be something to roar about — at LSU and throughout Louisiana.