It was to college basketball cheering sections what the Great Pyramid of Giza and the Colossus of Rhodes were to classic antiquity; what Big Bertha was to metal drivers; what Superman’s bare hands were to steel and the course of mighty rivers.
A really, really fat head in the pantheon of Fatheads.
The Barry Bonds of fat heads.
I speak of Mozilla, the giant cardboard cutout of former UNLV basketball star Mike Moser.
When it was decided recently that Moser would be transferring to Washington, my first thought was not how Rebels coach Dave Rice was going to replace him, but how the Rebellion cheering section was going to replace Mozilla so soon after losing The Beast.
The Beast was an equally giant cardboard cutout of UNLV star freshman Anthony Bennett, who has declared for the NBA Draft. No word yet on whether The Beast will come out early, too. If it does, the Lakers might be interested, because there are nights The Beast moves better than Dwight Howard.
As much as I will miss The Beast, I will miss Mozilla more, because Mozilla was first. Giant cardboard cutouts are sort of like kids as they move away from home, with the biggest difference being you don’t have to take them back in if they can’t find a job.
To a Rebels fan named Sean Clauretie, it seems like yesterday when Mozilla was leaning against the doorjamb of the Thomas & Mack Center (with the help of about six hotel management majors), and Clauretie was measuring how much Mozilla had grown with a cherry picker and really tall pencil.
It was a couple of weeks before the showdown with San Diego State in 2012 when somebody representing the Rebellion approached Clauretie, an art director at The Palms, about doing something big for that game.
Something with the wingspan of a twin-engine Cessna.
“They threw it out there as an idea, something big to get national attention,” said Clauretie, whose father, Mike, was an economics and finance professor at UNLV, a fixture at Rebels basketball practice, and a fixture at the old Moose McGillycuddy’s across the street from the UNLV campus before he recently retired.
Sean Clauretie said he basically was kicked out of UNLV for being a knucklehead. But he continued to support the basketball team through an underground network of like-minded supporters known only as “Uncle Rico.”
Uncle Rico considered the students of the Rebellion its nieces and nephews. The group raised money for the myriad posterboard creations you see at the games, but insisted the college kids receive the credit.
Clauretie thought a giant cutout of Moser should be the prototype, the A-1 Saturn rocket, because Moser played with desire and always had these wild expressions on his face.
“There was no shortage of source material,” Clauretie said of the photographs on the Internet of wild-eyed Mike Moser that inspired his monolithic lookalike.
I recall being in the press section behind the basket, looking down on my laptop for the score of the Wyoming game, looking up again. And there it was, rising, huge, arms flapping at the elbow, like some mythical prehistoric creature. There was an angry scowl on its face.
“It is alive,” I mouthed.
And then I knew Jamaal Franklin and Chase Tapley and the other Aztecs knew what it was to be Godzilla when the people of Seatopia unleashed Megalon to destroy the world.
Mozilla might not have saved civilization that day, but it did get some TV time. Moser scored 19 points and made a big steal at the end of the game. UNLV won and Mozilla was a big hit. A really big hit, stretching 8 feet across.
Until Moser dislocated his elbow at California before Christmas past.
When the Rebels returned to the Thomas & Mack Center, Moser’s arm was in a sling — and so was Mozilla’s. That was awesome. Clauretie said that was the idea of Adam Rogas, another member of the Uncle Rico underground.
So now that Moser plans to finish his career at Washington, will Mozilla be transferring, too?
“Somehow, some way, it’s gotta wind up there with Mike or his family,” Clauretie said.
There even are talks of a bigger, stronger, much-improved Mozilla being built in a darkened laboratory at happy hour. A fire-breathing Mozilla with industrial strength. Son of Mozilla. A purple-and-gold Mozilla that would be conceived of space-age polymers and fruit cake ingredients, so the little finger wouldn’t break off.
“I don’t ever want to run afoul of the NCAA,” Sean Clauretie said, and good luck with that. “But I could see myself making a call to U-Dub and sharing some of the parameters with ’em.”
Las Vegas Review-Journal sports columnist Ron Kantowski can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-383-0352. Follow him on Twitter: @ronkantowski.