|Pride and Woes of SU's Warrior|
|Syracuse Herald American|
|Sunday, March 29, 1981|
|By Bob Peel|
The shield, sword and armor plate are stored away until next fall and Syracuse University's sometimesenvied and sometimes maligned but too often misunderstood Greek Warrior is back in moth balls.
That Warrior is the official mascot for the university's football and basketball teams. It is traditional the role of the mascot is portrayed by members of Lambda Chi Alpha fraternity.During the past year, two brothers,Barry Eppinger of New Rochelle and Michael Johnson of Watertown, have had that honor.
Barry feels it truly is a high honor.
"I'm just as proud as I can be to play the Warrior," he stressed at the close of the season. "I don't know how anyone could feel differently."
But they do have problems.
There were, for instance, the freezing temperatures of the Boston College football game last fall. Barry drew that assignment. The frigid November wind was in sharp contrast to the heat of Carrier Dome. Nonetheless, he had to wear the short sleeves, skirt and sandals of the authentic Warrior uniform. The game dragged on (we were losing) and the thermometer continued to drop. When the final whistle blew, Barry had to find friends to help him out of the costume.
Young Eppinger is a junior majoring in psychology with ambitions to go on to medical school. He wraps himself, figuratively and literally, in the mascot attire. He has little sympathy for the protest of three years ago when the Saltine Warrior gave way to the Greek Warrior.
The Rise and Fall of the Saltine
The original Saltine Warrior, an American Indian, was born in October of 1931. He was adopted quickly as the rallying leader at athletic events. Lambda Chi brothers took turns thrilling fans in old Archbold Stadium as they raced down the sidelines in war paint, war whooping and waving a tomahawk.
A very small group of campus Native Americans, however, in 1978, found the Saltine Warrior to be both unauthentic and undignified.
They protested, the university administration retreated in disarray and the Saltine Warrior was buried with little honor.
There were many in full sympathy with the original Warrior but to no avail. One part-Sioux student even withdrew from school to dramatize his disgust; he wanted an Indian mascot. Contests were held for a substitute and the proposed entries ranged from a mechanized orange to Anita Bryant.
The Greek Warrior finally was chosen and a $2,000 replica of Grecian battle dress was created by a Newburgh costumery.
The outfit is much lighter than it looks. That sword, gleaming under Dome floodlights, thankfully has no cutting edge. The flamboyant headdress with Orange imitation ostrich plumes weighs far less than a football helmet, and the face armor offers surprisingly good visibility for the wearer.
But there is that skirt.
And Barry and Mike have heard many comments about their legs. Both admitted they also have been asked for dates.
Mike especially remembers the opening game last football season against Big 10 champ Ohio State. That was the shocker that saw SU storm out to an early three touchdown lead over the perennial national power.
"Who do you think you are?" shouted an Ohio fan. "A UCLA Trojan?"
"Maybe," he replied. "We are playing like them, aren't we?"
Sneaky Pitt Panther
The Pittsburgh Panther mascot played dirty pool with our Warrior last fall when Pitt and SU battled under the Dome. Team mascots customarily engage themselves in mock battles when they meet on the field.
Barry tries to keep the horseplay short; he feels the crowd soon tires of it. But last fall's encounter was more of an ambush than a battle. The Panther sneaked up in back of the Warrior, sprang upon his back and ripped off one of the gleaming, silver Greek letter epaulets.
Stepping out onto the field or court of the opposing team at an away game gives you the same feeling shared by those who walked into Rome's Colosseum just before the lions were turned loose. It was that way at Georgetown this winter when Barry was there for the SUHoya game. The crowd was spirited and Barry was barraged with jeers and hoots.
The fans cheered him later, however, at half time when he allowed several local youngsters to play with his sword and shield.
Going to an away game is no picnic. That Georgetown jaunt was made in an all-day bus ride with the band and cheerleaders. By the time they ate after the game, relaxed and socialized with the Hoya pep squad, it was 4:30 a.m. Then the wake-up call for the bus back home came at 7:30 a.m.
Preparations for the Warrior appearance aren't always the best either. Barry and Mike have changed in men's rooms and cleaning closets. Mike remembers once putting on the armor in back of an ice machine. They are not allowed in the team locker room.
They have their imitators and volunteer assistants here at home, including The Dome Ranger, Super Bill and The Beast of the East.
Barry professed not to know much about the Ranger or the Beast but calls Super Bill a friend.
Barry's very first appearance was at the Temple football game last October. That was when the Temple coach pulled his team off the field after fights broke out between the players and fans. Barry was running around the field waving his sword until a policeman told him to "Get out of here before you start a riot!"
He also had the SU-Georgetown basketball game at the Dome when Marty Headd won it in the closing seconds with a driving layup.
Barry never will forget the crowd's roar of victory vibrating under his costume helmet.
That is why the warrior can't wait to come back next season: to stir up the crowd for more Orange victories.