Bench the Billiken

Unreal seeks divine inspiration at the Pulpit Masters audition and laments the pending prohibition of the SLU Billiken. Plus, our newest feature: Somebody Buy my Crap!

Florida State and Illinois are among the 18 schools with an American Indian nickname or logo that will be prohibited by the NCAA from displaying them in postseason events, starting in February. The names will not be allowed on team uniforms and mascots -- such as the Fighting Illini's Chief Illiniwek -- will not be allowed to perform at games. Even band members and cheerleaders will be barred from using American Indians on their uniforms beginning in 2008.The Associated Press, August 6

Hot on the heels of the National Collegiate Athletic Association's decision to prohibit certain Native American mascots and imagery from its championship events, the Associated Press reports that a national group led by Los Angeles Lakers coach Phil Jackson has appealed to the NCAA to have all mascots and imagery involving Buddha-like figures added to the ban.

The focus of Jackson's ire is Saint Louis University, whose sexually ambiguous, pixielike mascot, the Billiken, is based on an ancient, big-bellied Japanese god of good fortune.

"The Osaka Billiken had a much larger belly, so as to exhibit capacity for the spiritual lard he relieves us of each day," said Jackson, whose group is incorporated under the not-for-profit moniker Coaches Railing Against Buddha Belly Imagery (CRABBI) and counts University of Cincinnati Coach Bob Huggins among its members. "The St. Louis Jesuits' debasement of this god is a crude one. The least they could have done is give him a proper phallus."

The only other program Jackson's group is targeting is the Bucks of Southwestern Alaska State, whose mascot is based on the late actor John (Uncle Buck) Candy. Jackson says he has studied the work of Candy carefully since the portly SCTV alum's premature passing and considers it to be directly descended from the ancient spiritual realm of the Far East.

"We caught hell from a pro-hunting group when we used to use a cartoon deer," responds SWAS chancellor Thaddeus Pulsipher IV, explaining his unorthodox use of Candy's likeness. "Never in our wildest dreams did we think anyone could interpret the comedy of Uncle Buckas Zen."

Reached via cell phone at a woodland beer bust near his parents' home in Georgetown, Kentucky, B.L. "Trout" Calhoun -- a SLU senior-to-be who last year donned the Billiken suit during basketball games and plans to do so again this coming season -- says his behavior this summer has not been reminiscent of a Buddha-like Japanese god.

"I rode a gelding across Interstate 64 last night after drinking a fifth of Fighting Cock bourbon," says Calhoun. "I mean, I made it, but that doesn't make me the god of good [copulating] fortune. Phil Jackson can go [copulate with] himself."



Preach for the Stars

Back in the day, God revealed Himself via burning bushes and plagues of locusts. But when the Man Upstairs called on Baptist pastor Jim Lee recently, he used a modern approach.

"I got an e-mail," reports Lee, a tall man with a spiky blond mullet, toting a Bible and clad in a tux with tails.

Lee's e-mail, sent by an earthly proxy in the form of California-based Original Productions, invited him to a casting call in the basement of the Radisson in Clayton for the upcoming reality show Pulpit Masters. The program, which will air in ten one-hour segments on The Learning Channel, will pit preachers, gurus and motivational speakers against rabbis, salesmen and swamis in a spiritual smackdown to divine the world's Pulpit Master.

Upon arriving at the casting call, Unreal encounters about 50 hopefuls. Each will be allotted three minutes in front of a camera. Most are deep in meditation, asking the Primary Mover for guidance.

Lee is no exception. "I had something all worked out, but I think I'm just going to share an anecdote from my life," he confides. "I'm a pragmatist, and that tells me that the spiritual reality is reality."

Deep stuff, but the folks at Original Productions -- who have brought us such spiritual sustenance as Monster House, Monster Garage and Plastic Surgery Before and After -- seem ready for anything. "We're still trying to lock down how to reward the winner," says executive producer Tom McMahon.

Whatever the prize (and something tells Unreal it won't be a ticket to Paradise plus 72 dark-eyed virgins), Lyle Johnson feels up to the task. Though he's a little nervous, Johnson has his monologue plotted out. "I'm going to talk about where I've come from," he says, hinting at a past rich in earthly delights. "Put all your cares in God's hands, and finally, tell them what God means to me."

And what does he think of his competition? Johnson's isn't going bear to witness, false or otherwise, against his neighbors. "No comment," sayeth he.



Somebody Buy My Crap

Item: Beer Can Collection

Condition: Old

Price: $50

Seller/Age: Maury/62

Location: Creve Coeur

Phone: 314-434-4979

Issue: August 5

Unreal:How many beer cans you selling, Maury?

Maury:I have more than 300 cans, domestics and imports. I have a banana box full of cans I got from Anheuser-Busch. Someone would get a kick out of them, because they're test-market cans they never produced for sale.

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