(Written with Scott Calhoun)

I didn’t know that Cosmo, BYU’s official cougar mascot, wrote poems until I recently read a collection of Cosmo poetry, entitled My World is Blue and White: Not For Cougar Fans Only.  The collection contains over seventy written by dozens who have worn the Cosmo costume over the years, gone out week after week to give their school 110%, and have never asked for anything except a few high-fives and the cheers of thousands.

For starters, I never knew of the emotional costs of the whole tryout process, especially when over a hundred compete each year for one coveted slot. This may be seen in the following poem, “The Winter of Our Tryouts.”

In a room almost empty of hope
we wait to hear the news
of who will stay
and who will go,
cast out
dismissed
de-Cougared
cut low.

Some sit in the corners,
and hide their face,
some of us quietly play Uno,
or stare into space.

We retreat into our own little holes:
so many broken dreams,
so many dead souls.

 

Of course for those who are selected there are moments of great exultation, as seen in the following: “I Beat That Guy.”

I beat that guy
who prayed on a mountain
and asked to be Cosmo
and received the dream vision
that turned out to be fiction.

I beat that guy
who made $40,000 selling pest control
who said to me “you’re a__ is mine”
but who couldn’t pay his BYU parking fine.

I beat that perky folk dancer,
I beat that no-talent Young Ambassador,
I sent that arrogant clogger to his just reward,
And then went for ice cream afterward.

But most of all I beat that inner guy
who said it couldn’t be done,
who said I wasn’t Cosmo material,
who said it wouldn’t be fun.

 

If being a mascot was all just fun and games, it would never produce such fine literature; that’s why I like some of the darker, brooding pieces, that conjure up moments of suffering and self-questioning. As we can see by this next work, entitled “My Whiskers Feel,” sometimes Cosmo shoulders a lot of responsibility:

I’m a Double O
I’m a zero zero
and when the Cougs lose a game
my whiskers feel.

I go home mangy
and defeated.
I lap up tomato soup
and it sticks to my whiskers

like blood.

 

Encountering other school mascots at road games often produces indifferent, not to mention alienating experiences. After a long road trip in October 1992, Cosmo wrote the following, entitled, “On Meeting the Arkansas Razorback.”

He’s a swine
a cloven footed devil
a pig on two legs.

We play fight on the 50.
I’m pawing,
he’s nose butting.
This big pig has
Mr. Pibb breath.

And there, there in Arkansas,
a Cougar means nothing.
The crowd all snorts
because they’re all rednecks and Gentiles.

 

The dark moments Cosmo must endure when his team is not winning are also captured in this poem, entitled, “Fur is Heavy on My Soul.”

Sometimes I don’t want
to get out of bed in the mornings.
I brood over toast,
drink Pero,
angry at God.

 

And yet when Cosmo is up, he seems to lose himself in the crowd; he is swallowed up by the excitement of it all. All social barriers are dissolved, as if the world is suddenly and temporarily created anew, as in the following piece, entitled, “Crazy Cat.”

I’m a bouncin
trouncing jumpin cat,
I’m a cool dude
who knows where it’s at.

I’m jazzin’
the fans in blue and white
and my fur suit
is fittin tight.

And I go kidnap
a cheerleader
and she loves it, and me—
this crazy cat
is feelin totally free.

And then, then it doesn’t matter
that her dad makes
250 grand a year
or that I come from Idaho.

 

Apparently Idaho has produced a number of remarkable BYU mascots over the years. This may also be seen in the next selection, recorded in September 1997 by a Cougar offensive lineman, John Kameamea, as he overheard Cosmo rapping these words in the locker room to himself, half-naked, in front of the mirror:

I’m a beautiful cat, baby.
My fur is smooth,
if you want to see something
just watch me groove.

I’m gonna grab a cheerleader
by her behind,
swing her over my head,
and she’ll be mine.

I am the cat,
I’m on the trail,
from the tip of my nose
to the tip of my tail.
My fur is as graceful
as an Idaho wheat field.

 

Clearly sometimes poetry comes easily to Cosmo, and the words just flow; other times the creative process is excruciating. Cougar mascots learn how to be alone and meditative in a stadium full of tens of thousands of cheering fans, yet mindful of the duties of their position, as seen in the following, entitled, “She doesn’t see that I’m writing.”

She’s pulling on my tail
wanting to be tossed
I put my pen aside
not wanting to be bossed.

I spin her around far above,
twist her torso
into the letter C.
I squeeze her
like an accordion,
until she respects me—
that’s what I call
maximum intensity!

Yet afterwards her hair
still bounces big and tall
and I am left to ponder
the meaning of it all.

I hope these poems help you, as they have me, see the real person underneath all that fur. I confess I once looked on Cosmo’s antics with contempt, but I cannot say that now. In my college days Cosmo was that furry fellow whose antics at football games were sometimes entertaining, more often annoying. I remembered sitting in the stands and wondering, “Who is this guy? Where did he come from? Why is he here?” Now I have some answers. Who are these people who offer such anonymous service? Now I think I know.