The man, the myth, the mascot

Jake Alsko

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It’s Saturday afternoon, Jan. 18. The Oakland University women’s basketball team is trailing University of Illinois at Chicago late. We all have opinions on how to mount a comeback run, but some are funnier than others.

“Could really use that three game right about now. Maybe two. I don’t know. I’m not a basketball player. I have a paper mâché head.”

That’s @oupioneerpete. On Aug. 22 of last year, Oakland University welcomed this now-integral part of the athletic experience, the Twitter account of former OU mascot, Pioneer Pete. Pete tweets comically about Oakland Athletics on a daily basis.

In an email interview with The Post, Pete said he originally came up with the idea with other OU alumni as a joke response to the athletics department creating a Grizz Twitter account. 

“We talk often about the official OU twitter accounts which, bless their hearts, are often a little one-dimensional and uber-serious marketing machines,” Pete said.

“This allows me to do things I think the fan community was missing. Taking things to this ridiculous extreme is starting to get people excited about being fans, and that is what I want to do.” 

The Antics

University of Detroit’s mascot Tommy Titan is a frequent target, and victim of Pete’s antics. Pete admitted that poking fun at his UDM counterpart helps him cope with being abandoned as a mascot by OU to make room for Grizz and Clawzz.

“Let’s say until 1998 you were king of the world,” Pete said. “Then a teddy bear comes along and steals your thunder. “You get locked in a storage closet at the O’rena and Athletics throws away the key. Would you feel abandoned? I funnel my anger into Tommy Titan’s stupid face so it’s cool.”

While the Twitter account is less than 6 months old, Pete feels the spirit he embodies is much older.

“In a way I think I have always been Pioneer Pete,” said the mascot. “We all have a Pioneer Pete inside of us, and only when he’s free can you walk free of pain.” 

Pete said OU’s athletic department has never contacted him in an attempt to tame his behavior, instead retweeting a lot of his posts.

“I think they understand that activity like mine in it’s own strange way is important to the growth of the OU Athletics community,” he said.

Pete evaluates OU

Pete sees OU as a school “still putting it’s big-kid pants on.” He attributes this in part to the fact that for a young university growing as fast as Oakland, there’s “a crazy low number of staff,” which makes it more difficult for him to criticize the school’s missteps.

Still, he would like to see more effort being put into filling the seats of sporting events.

“All athletics on this campus really need that sort of attention,” he said. “We have one of the best swimming & diving programs in the NATION. Why isn’t that being CONSTANTLY SHOVED DOWN OUR THROATS?”

Overall, though, Pete is pleased with the school’s progress.

“As a whole I would say this university is accelerating in the right direction and it’s a blast to be riding shotgun.”

The mystery behind the mascot

The mystery person behind the account earned their bachelor’s in communication at OU a few years ago, and is considering returning to campus to earn a master’s degree in the field.

Pete had many on-campus hobbies during his undergraduate days.

“Going to basketball games and Bumpers when it still had classic arcade games,” he said. “I also was quite content with life pre-Clawzz. Sorry, buddy.

Pete has no plans on ending the account anytime soon, frankly because he’s having so much fun with it.

“My real job is kind of tedious/awful/creatively restricting, so Pete is a good outlet for letting my right-brain energy out,” he said.

Pete concedes that the would-be fame can make it tempting to reveal himself, but he also knows the account would then lose some of its luster.

“I think there is a bit of magic to the mystery of Pioneer Pete,” he said. “If I don’t get busted in a Watergate/Deep Throat scenario in the OU parking garage maybe I’ll reveal myself on my death bed. Stay tuned.”                

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