Root of the Rivalry

Rod Searcey

Don't mess with the Tree. That's the message from junior Evan Meagher, this year's incarnation of the Cardinal mascot. He is under the protection of a group of burly undergraduates who call themselves the TPG -- Tree Protection Gangstaz. His handmade costume (a palm, not the traditional redwood) is moved to a different "safe house" each night, and it's equipped with a global positioning device. "I can track the Tree at all times within a 1,000-mile radius," Meagher claims. The dancing shrub has reason for caution as the November 20 Big Game draws near. In recent years the rivalry with Cal has turned increasingly ugly. A rundown:

1998 Cal students steal the Tree costume. Threatened with arrest and a ban of Cal mascot Oski the Bear, they return the Tree three weeks before Big Game.

1997 Twenty-three are injured and six arrested when enraged Cal fans storm the Stanford Stadium field after a 21-20 Big Game loss.

1996 Cal fans tackle the Tree after another Big Game defeat. The mascot loses several branches.

1995 At a Stanford-Cal basketball game, the Tree and Oski are ejected for fighting.

1992 Cal fans pelt the Band with fruit, attack the Tree and tackle a Stanford yell leader.