Mike is far more ferocious than any of his fellow mascots around the country, which tend to be slothful, if not amiable, creatures, such as the banana slug of UC Santa Cruz. Mike growls and roars and paces in a special cage with all the comforts of home familiar to tigers: a tire, a swimming pool and a beer keg. He has even got his own bowling ball, though it's unclear if his keepers actually let him out on league nights.
You might not expect a 450-pound hellcat to be pacified with a little friendly scratch on the back, but here's Mike nuzzling up to Rollie Norris, the vet student who feeds him and tickles him between the ribs. Fortunately, a steel fence ensures the amity of this relationship.
On this summer afternoon, while Mike splashes in his pool, a couple of seven-year-old boys, David and Brian, peer in through the outer fence. "Boy, I'd sure like to be in that pool now," says David.
"You would?" says Brian.
"Not with the tiger! By myself."
"Think he's a boy or a girl?"
"His name's Mike," says Norris. "What do you think?"
"Well," David says. "I know a couple of girls named Mike."
"Good point. But this one's a he."
"Why's he called Mike?" asks Brian.