Begin by seizing something which your opponent holds dear; then he will be amenable to your will.
- Sun Tzu, The Art of War
An honourable variation of 'Beer Theft' is the Art of Mascotry. The former is the acquisition of such artefacts as road signs, statues, and anything else portable at a stagger, while under the influence of beer. It is a time-honoured part of the foggy rights of bonding, but is never, ever considered a reasonable thing to do when sober, as it is also known as vandalism - hence punishable with the full force of the law - by those outside the sudsy circle.
It is similar in that to even consider mascotry, you must already be quite inebriated. However, it differs in one important aspect, which may be best illustrated by the following definitions:
mascot /máskot/ n. a person, animal or thing that is supposed to bring good luck [from modern Provençal 'mascotto' 'little witch']
- From the Oxford English Dictionary
mascotry /máskotree/ n. 1. the acquisition of a Mascot owned by an establishment, by an organisation that holds that establishment in lower regard. 2. (as in The Mascotry) an act of Mascotry in process, the most recent or major Mascotry of a Mascot. Mascotry, Art of the process of mascotry. mascoteer a person engaging in mascotry. mascoteerage see mascotry. mascotry team a group of persons involved in mascotry.
A Short History
Mascotry is an ancient art, being documented by Sun Tzu in the oldest military treatise in the world, The Art of War. As the quote above illustrates, taking someone else's mascot is a means of demonstrating very overtly one's strength over the opponent's army. This would be done in the hope of breaking the opponents' spirit and their desire to continue with violent conflict.
A good example of this is the capture of the standards at the Battle of Edge Hill (23 October, 1642) in the English civil war, when Oliver Cromwell's army fought the Royalists of Charles I in a veritable orgy of mounted flag stealing.
The Standard and the Hand
At the time, both King Charles and Cromwell claimed that they had won that battle. In any case, it was a ferocious fight, with heavy casualties on both sides. Two months after the event, farm workers woke to the sound of fighting and bugles again. On looking out towards the field at Edge Hill, they saw the ghostly outline of soldiers fighting. It happened again the weekend after... and the weekend after that. Soon word got back to King Charles, who sent some of his soldiers to confirm the sight; which they did, down to seeing the Standard Bearer, Sir Edmund Verney, being slain and having the hand holding the standard hacked off, rather than giving it up to the enemy. Some say that the ghostly soldiers can still be seen fighting at the Battle of Edge Hill every 23 October.
Although an interesting story, it has an important point. The King's standard was a public demonstration to the armies in conflict that they were still very much in the fight. The capture of the standard would not only send a signal to the opponent that there was no point in continuing, but a signal to your own army that you had indeed defeated them, with proof of the event. Sir Edmond Verney's determination to defend the standard, whether apocryphal or not, demonstrates how important it was to prevent its capture.
Mascots did not have to be flags. Indeed, they could be persons of great importance to the establishment in question.
Pretence and its Consequences
King Edmond Ironside was given the nickname 'Ironside' for the ferocity of his battles. In one such battle, his enemy, Edric, climbed to the top of a hill, and presenting the combatants with a severed head proclaimed:
Surrender! This is the head of your leader, Edmond!
This would have worked if it were not for the fact that Edmond was not, in fact, dead. To say that this fatuous statement made Edmond angry would have been an understatement. He removed his helmet to demonstrate that he was very much alive - both by being able to remove his helmet and by having a head - and then proceeded to throw a spear (as further proof) at Edric. He missed Edric; but Edmond had thrown it so hard that it bounced off Edric's shield, and went through two soldiers standing beside him.
Again, this may or may not be what actually took place; but the fact that the story survives goes to stress the importance of a figurehead such as the Head of State... and also not to pretend that the mascot is dead, unless one is prepared to face the consequences.
Carelessness Costs Lives
Objects with great significance attached to them have always been the target of mascotry, none more so than the Crown Jewels of King Edward I.
The deed occurred in 1303. The perpetrator was Richard de Podlicote. He had spent 98 days tunnelling under the walls of Westminster Abbey to reach the treasury and steal the Crown Jewels. He was not entirely unaided; he had the help from 48 monks from the Abbey.
The acquisition was successful, and Richard sold off the Crown Jewels to the London goldsmiths. Unfortunately for him, as the objects in question were so beautiful, the goldsmiths quite naturally, if somewhat ingenuously, displayed them in their windows. Richard was hanged, but the monks who assisted him went free. Te deum laudamus!
As a final warning to anyone else who would conspire to do anything so audacious, Richard's skin was stretched across the treasury door.
The Here and Now
In the present day and age, mascotry is a more light-hearted affair. It is mainly undertaken by drunken students determined to demonstrate their prowess and notoriety over other universities, or equally drunken members of rival clubs or faculties determined to 'get one over' the other. It is also a common theme in films and other associated fiction such as the adventures of,
From its short history, it is obvious that there is a clear motive to mascotry. This is not to say that all mascotry is, in fact, planned. As Sun Tzu himself documents:
If the enemy leaves a door open, you must rush in.
This is in sharp contrast to the opportunism of Beer Theft... which is not to say that all Beer Theft is spontaneous. There have been documented cases of persons engaging in planned 'Treasure Hunts', involving a list of objects to acquire being drawn up prior to the act occurring. Again, it must be stressed that this is illegal.
In light of this, mascotry has to be approached in a different fashion.
You must be aware of which of the following categories the mascot in question falls into:
Not Attached - These are mascots which are not attached to a seemingly immovable object; ie they can be picked up easily.
Attached - These mascots are often attached to an immovable object, for example, a pole or a plinth. The attachment can vary from a simple wire to being welded onto the immovable object in question.
Heavy - As the title suggests, mascots that fall into this category are of a weight which cannot be borne by one person alone. These require at least a small group of persons, or (at best) some special lifting equipment, in order for the act to be executed1.
You then have to decide who to take with you. There may also be room for 'cannon fodder' (who will not know your predetermined method of escape) for reasons which will be addressed later. There has to be agreement among your fellow 'Mascoteers' that the object has to be taken. Then the consumption of alcoholic beverages in a mutually agreeable drinking establishment can commence. Once all are sufficiently inebriated, the mascotry can begin.
The Direct Approach
There are several approaches to obtaining the mascot, too numerous to document here. All vary in difficulty and the amount of planning required. However, there is one approach worth mentioning here, due to its elegant simplicity.
This involves looking sober when drunk, and approaching the person or persons who may be in charge of protecting the mascot in question, and asking:
Can I take [object in question] for the purposes of mascotry?
They should then acquiesce to the suggestion that you have permission to do so, unlock the case and give the object to you. Your group should then exit rapidly, before anyone realises what has happened.
Although this sounds like an unlikely approach, you should not underestimate the vulnerability to the power of suggestion of those put in charge of safeguarding valuable things, as the following case study illustrates:
A student, approaching the desk of a rival university for a different matter altogether notices a papier maché cheetah in a glass case. He enquires whether it is the university's mascot, as indeed it is. He then poses the aforementioned question. The person behind the desk, slightly taken aback by such a direct question, duly nods, and offers to open the case up for him there and then.
For the record, the student in question did not take up the receptionist on the kind offer, as his reasoning was if the person would be so stupid to give away his mascot, then it was not worth the effort of explaining why he was carrying a large papier maché cheetah to fellow passengers on the Tube.
However, if they do answer 'no', then it may be best to exit the building as rapidly as dignity will allow, before an altercation with the members of the establishment from whom you are attempting to obtain the mascot occurs.
At first, exhibit the coyness of a maiden, until the enemy gives you an opening; afterwards emulate the rapidity of a running hare, and it will be too late for the enemy to oppose you.
- Sun Tzu, The Art of War
Even then, the alarm may have already been raised. The members of the establishment from whom you are taking the mascot will be there to meet you and your group, quite possibly armed with weapons chosen to inflict discomfort, embarrassment, and pain.
They will also greet you with an air of contempt. It is now the time to affect your means of escape with haste. The 'cannon fodder' will remain as a suitable distraction in order to enable your safe passage to your place of residence or inebriation.
Sun Tzu concurs:
Soldiers when in desperate straits lose the sense of fear. If there is no place of refuge, they will stand firm. If they are in hostile country, they will show a stubborn front. If there is no help for it, they will fight hard.
It is advisable to consider the following relationship, should you, the following morning, be in a state where you cannot recall the events of the past night:
The size of the Mascot acquired is directly proportional to the volume of alcohol consumed.
It is also important to stress that mascotry, Beer Theft, and any such activity, which involve taking or breaking other people's property, are against the law; and, college high jinks notwithstanding, may land you in serious trouble.
This entry is intended to document the existence of such phenomena, and not to encourage or condone theft or vandalism. The object of good-natured pranks is to have a good time, which should also be shared by the victim. This means placing limits on your activities which remain well within the bounds of what is acceptable to all concerned. It's not fun to hurt or offend people.