THE SPARKY PROJECT #4: Change vs Tradition, The Diary of a Torn Sun Devil
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March 16, 2013 9:33 AM

By ASU Fan Nate McWhorter for

I am a recent graduate of ASU and I had a notable role within the University and Athletics for the last four years.  “New Sparky” just happened to be introduced on the day I had come back to Tempe for the weekend.  When I first saw it I had reactions not too dissimilar from what seemed to be the rest of the Sun Devil Nation.  I did not like the look one bit and I thought they were insane.  I contacted one of the associate athletic directors (whom I had breakfast with that morning) and asked him if they did any focus group testing, and he assured me they did.  After hearing this I think I was even more upset. 

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I am a firm believer in tradition.  I’m a sucker for nostalgia and I wish games were exactly like they were when I was a young kid but I know they won’t.  In my four years as a student and working within the university I have also learned that the tradition at ASU is to change.  It goes back to the old phrase “the only constant is change” and that’s what we do best.  So if I have learned anything during my 22 years of being a Sun Devil I have learned that things will change, but will not change is my love for Arizona State University. 

That all being said I do not remember any decision made by Sun Devil Athletics in the past that was met with this much animosity by the general nation.  When we did the rebranding there were a lot of “old school” folks who did not like it but there were a lot of “new school” folks who loved it.  To add to that a lot of the “old school” people have admitted now that the Nike Makeover has grown on them.  New Sparky however, has not been met with any mixed reviews.  I think the Sun Devil Nation feels betrayed because this change was so drastic so fast.  If Sparky eventually evolved into this character over a matter of years I don’t think there would be this much backlash but nonetheless we arrive here. 

During my weekend in the Valley at the time of the unveiling I ran into an old friend of mine (another very DieHard alum) and I asked him what his thoughts were.  He replied by saying “I don’t like it but I’m sure it will either grow on me or I’ll become apathetic to it.” That was not the response I expected from him but it made me think.  It made me think about how much change is present and there usually isn’t much we can do.

At the end of the day I do not care what our uniforms look like, what the cheerleaders wear, or what Sparky looks like as long as we are winning.  Day in, day out we hear about x and y football recruit wanting to come to ASU because of the culture and the atmosphere Coach Todd Graham has brought to Sun Devil Football.  THAT is what matters. Look at our baseball prowess, did Sun Devil Baseball just suddenly become good and get the best recruits every year? No. They built a program, and they did that wearing god awful mustard yellow jerseys.  If you build a culture that athletes want to be a part of then they won’t care what the mascot looks like, they’ll just consider it the mascot and a part of the package.

I now live in Montgomery, Alabama and I have been fully immersed into the Auburn/Alabama culture here.  Obviously the tradition is rich with these schools but they keep it simple.  It’s Roll Tide, War Eagle, and nothing else.  Winning is the only thing that matters.  The University of Alabama has seen an enrollment spike in the last 5 years because they are winning championships.  It’s a simple formula: breed a winning culture, attract winners to your school. There is no mention of mascots or colors in that formula whatsoever.  

So where does this all leave us?  We as a Sun Devil Nation have a choice.  Do we embrace this as part of the constant change has defined this university for a long time? Or do we stand up against the powers that be who have breached our tradition and our trust?   These are the questions we must ask ourselves. All I know is that I love my Sun Devils and I always will, no matter how creeped out I am by Sparky.

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