What it Takes to Become the Stanford Tree

I always thought it would be great fun to be a mascot. The next time you are watching a sports game, notice how much amusement they are having and giving to onlookers—even in times of despair. For example, take the Chicago Bears mascot when place kicker double-doinked a field goal try at the end of an elimination playoff game against the Los Angeles Rams last year. Observe his comedic timing at 0:11 in this video. Hilarious.

So I took particular interest in this article regarding the try-outs for becoming my college alumni’s mascot, the infamous Stanford Tree. Much like gaining acceptance into the prestigious university itself, it appears that getting picked as the Tree has gotten exponentially harder in the last couple decades. In 2006, for example, it seems like all it took was being willing to drop your drawers at a basketball game to win this job. Nowadays, that would have simply gotten you laughed out of the mascot minor leagues.

Take, for example, the selection of this year’s Tree. There were four candidates, all young ladies. The Stanford Daily described some of the stunts three of them did. What happened to the fourth woman? Beats me, as the student-run newspaper doesn’t discuss it all. But considering the stunts the other candidates performed, I suspect she is either in a mental institution right now or lying dead in a coffin.

This is what Sadie Thompson, class of 2022, did:

Thompson’s stunts included sleeping in a raft in the Green Library fountain for all of Tree Week. She also taped herself to a tree to give the appearance of a crucifixion, and slept there overnight.

The Stanford Daily

She did not win. OK, I suppose even I have slept in some pretty odd places myself, like behind highway guardrails, on church cement and under a picnic table during a torrential downpour. Heck, even just a few months ago, I was taking a lay-down in some weeds at daybreak in the middle of nowhere. So maybe it’s not too surprising that dozing off in an inflatable vessel in a fountain for seven days is not going to cut the mustard.

Then there was Jana Kholy, class of 2020:

Kholy’s theme was “Cleopatree,” a nod to her Egyptian heritage. One of her biggest stunts, she said, was being rolled around in a carpet for 10 hours as she read excerpts from the dictionary out loud. The stunt was inspired by the story of  Cleopatra sneaking into Julius Caesar’s office while rolled in a rug.

“I read the dictionary as a sort of ‘knowledge is power’ type thing,” Kholy added.

In her final stunt, Kholy filled a kiddie pool with sand, put it in White Plaza and buried herself in it for 24 hours. As her body “began to decay,” she covered herself in mealworms.

The Stanford Daily

Apparently, she even resorted to wearing adult diapers, presumably so that she could stay buried in sand for a day without having to jump out and run to the bathroom. Yet she also did not win.

Who was the victor, then? That would be Caroline Kushel, class of 2021, who did the following:

Kushel’s stunts revolved around the theme “Pyschetreelia”: all of her stunts were related to the psychedelic craze of the 1960s, including a fake Vietnam War protest, Woodstock and moon landing.

“[For the fake moon landing] I got hoisted up 35 [or] 40 feet up into a tree, and then I got dropped down, at which point I fought an ‘alien,’ killed him and then flew back into the tree,” Kushel said.

The Stanford Daily

That was certainly creative. But what she did to re-enact Woodstock was even more extreme:

“I ate a vinyl copy of the Grateful Dead Greatest Hits, and then, when it was time, I went to the San Francisco Bay Area off Pier 39 and I proceeded to poop out the album [emphasis added] into the San Francisco Bay, which is the same place where Jerry Garcia’s [the lead singer of the Grateful Dead] ashes are scattered,” she recounted.

Kushel’s favorite stunt, though, was her last. The act, modeled off of the annual Burning Man event that culminates in the symbolic burning of a large wooden effigy, saw Kushel build her own version of the burning man structure to light on fire. After, she covered her hands in butane and grasped fire from the structure while reciting a monologue about society’s oppression of creativity.

“I actually ended up lighting my dress on fire [emphasis added] by accident and had to be extinguished,” she said.

The Stanford Daily

Eating antique vinyl, defecating it into public waters, and then turning herself into a virtual Valencian falla? No thanks!

Clearly, then, I would not qualify to become the Stanford Tree. Then again, as I’m no longer a student, I presumably would not be allowed to try out to be one anyhow.

I wonder if the Chicago Bears are accepting applications.

stanford_tree.jpg Photo: unknown.
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