Now we’re going to see what a fighting tiger is really like.
Mike VI, LSU’s beloved Bengal tiger mascot, has cancer, the school revealed Monday. It is, according to Mike’s caregivers, a terminal condition.
Quickly there were streams of comments on social media nationwide. A report of his condition made Fox Sports’ website. There were already well-wishers pinning get-well messages to the perimeter around Mike’s habitat on North Stadium Drive.
This Mike has always been a newsmaker, particularly in recent years for his unwillingness to get in his portable cage and ride around Tiger Stadium before games like his predecessors did. Now this. There was a news conference Monday morning to give an update on his prognosis and treatment. There are few humans whose cancer diagnosis would engender this kind of sympathy and concern.
It seems incredible, yet it’s completely understandable.
To a large extent, Mike the Tiger is an idea as much as a 400-pound carnivore. He is a living embodiment of LSU’s pride, woven tightly into the university’s image of itself in a way that transcends athletics or a fierce nickname.
The idea of Mike the Tiger is immortal, even if the actual Mike isn’t. The Roman numeral VI behind his name speaks of course to the five Mike the Tigers who preceded him, dating back 80 years.
Some lasted longer than others. Mike II was on the job less than two years, dying under what are still somewhat cloudy circumstances before LSU’s 1958 national championship season. When Mike I died during a dismal 3-7 season in 1956, his demise was kept under wraps until LSU (which started 0-6) finally won a game.
There’s no time to lose hope now. This LSU football season begins 14 weeks from Saturday when the Tigers take on Wisconsin up in Green Bay’s Lambeau Field. Since superstition and sports go hand in hand, some will see this as a bad omen for a promising campaign.
On the other hand, should he live to see it, Mike will no doubt become an even bigger rallying point for the team and its season.
There will certainly be debate as to how much care, how much expense, should be devoted to what is after all an animal, not a human being. An animal with what his doctors already say is an inoperable tumor, one that even with the best treatment will allow Mike to only live another year or two. Another football season or two.
The answer is really a question: Who can say? Who can say this much effort is enough but more is too much? It’s a difficult proposition.
From a humane perspective, it would seem an exotic animal held in captivity as Mike is — lavishly gilded as his cage may be — should receive the best and best-intended care from his captors. Even if it means at some point, as it certainly will, that nothing more can be done for him.
Meanwhile, LSU’s fighting tiger has to fight. Fight for every day. Every day he does will be an inspiration to those who love LSU, its teams and its incomparable mascot.