"I’m not trying to shun people for putting up a pitchfork and saying, ‘Go Devils!’” ASU graduate Joe Forte promised last week. “But I’m here to tell them there’s a better way.”
Forte had lately been circulating a petition at his alma mater, demanding that the school change its athletic teams’ mascot from the Sun Devil to the Sun Angel.
“Devils are evil, angels are not,” clarified Forte, who makes corporate marketing videos for a living. He began circulating the petition last month and had collected more than 700 signatures thus far. He expected to have 1,000 by next week.
“As soon as you get 100,000 signatures on there, you know, you start to get noticed,” he exclaimed.
Forte liked to talk about his “faith journey,” which began as a Catholic. “But Catholicism didn’t do it for me,” he recalled. “When I was in the Navy, I joined a nondenominational Christian church, and became a big believer in Christ.”
But at ASU, Jesus took a backseat. “I wasn’t really following Christian values,” Forte admitted. “I was in a fraternity, I was in that world. I was partyin’. I was gettin’ girls. That whole thing.”
A voice in Forte’s head changed all that. While he relaxed on the beach in San Diego this past Independence Day, God spoke to Forte.
“He said, ‘Go into the ocean and baptize yourself.’ I dived in and when I came out, this huge weight had been lifted off me. I recommitted myself to Christ, I stopped drinking alcohol and doing drugs. I had been a huge pothead since the age of 15.”
Forte wasn’t even a little bit high when he found the metaphor that will, he hoped, change ASU forever. “I got really sunburned that day on the beach,” is how he remembered it. “I came home red as the devil. That’s when it came to me — that’s the sun, being a devil. The sun is good, but if you stay in it too long it can kill you. It was that realization, plus the voice of God saying, ‘Start the petition and change the ASU Sun Devils name,’ that got me going.”
He argued that funding for ASU athletic programs already comes from something called The Sun Devil Foundation, so what’s the big deal? If ASU’s mascot were an angel, students would take heed and start following general rules of goodness, he believed. With a devil as a mascot, they were more likely to be naughty. He also thought a haloed mascot could lead to some big team-sport wins in the bargain.
He swore that many students agreed with him. “The idea of a Sun Angel is really resonating with people,” he insisted. At first, though, response was something other than resonant.
“When I originally posted the petition on Facebook, I was digitally crucified by all my frat brothers. Friends said it was nuts and crazy and gave me a lot of crap for it. But it was in my heart to get this idea out there.”
Ultimately, Forte thought, it’s up to student government whether anything gets its name changed or not.
Meantime, he was clear about a few things.
“I don’t want this to be about me,” he said of the proposed mascot switch. “And I’m not trying to turn ASU into a religious school. I’m trying to keep it from becoming a demonic one. Wouldn’t it be great to have a bunch of 18-year-olds with angels and halos and wings on their shirts, instead of a demonic creature?”