Monday, March 7, 2011

Not so mighty mascots

It’s almost time for March Madness, the brackets full of college men’s basketball teams with rough and tough names like Bulldogs, Badgers, and Demons. Proud names, powerful names, names that really beg to be chanted by rapturous fans. Names that imbue the teams who bear them with a sense of import, and perhaps render their opponents a wee bit intimidated.

Experiences with which I’m unfamiliar, having gone through high school and college cheering for teams named after wealthy English nobles and pacifist Christians, respectively.

It can be hard to get charged up at high school pep rallies when the team mascot, the Brighton Baron, wears a top hat and a monocle; frankly he looks like he is asking for an ass-kicking from the cheerleaders. On the other hand, any success our athletes achieved came from sheer blood and guts and effort.  I seem to remember the Lady Barons (not the Baronesses, too Sound of Music I guess) winning a field hockey championship one year, and we had some good ice hockey talent too. The jocks could be confident that no one had been psyched out by our posters of the Baron, scowling as though his tea was too hot.

When it was came time to pick a college I should have paid more attention. While I knew that Ben Franklin had founded my university, it never occurred to me that he'd name its athletes after his religious convictions. It's not like we were the Snake Handlers or the Holy Rollers either, which at least sounds like you could put some creepy religious juju on your opponents once they started beating you. No, to be on a team named "The Quakers" is to live in receptive mode, like Buddy the Elf testing Jack-in-the-Boxes at Santa's workshop. How do you exhort your athletes to battle when one of your mascot's main convictions is non-violence? “Go, preferably do not get in a Fight, Win if you can do so in a way that doesn’t hurt anyone!!”

Now I live in California and have tried to go native by remembering the names, if not the mascots, of all the schools in the UC and Cal State systems. This is a challenge for someone who has been heard to say, more than once, "You lost me at San. Are you talking about the San town that's down near the airport or the one up near the grapes?" But there is one school whose mascot I learned right away, probably through some sort of conditioned response.

And I can say with confidence that had I been educated in California, I'd surely be a UC Santa Cruz Banana Slug.


  1. The boys at my high school, in Lexington MA, played sports as "the Minutemen" - brave revolutionary soldiers - while the girls played as "the Minutemaids" bringing to mind orange juice and frilly aprons.

  2. "We're the Minutemaids and We've Got the Juice!"

  3. How did we never think of that?

  4. As a Banana Slug, I admire you.

  5. I went to high school in south Texas and we were the Alamo heights mules! Dint article! The womens teams were lady mules!

  6. Well, you know I'm a very tough Oregon Duck. Quack.

    There's a high school in town called the Hutto Hippos. I've always felt bad for the cheerleaders.

  7. Maybe it's the "Boy Named Sue" approach to mascot selection...if you can succeed as Hippos and Minutemaids, you can do anything!

  8. My brother's college mascot - the Pomona College Sagehens.
    Good at pecking out the eyes of their opponents.

  9. Bwahahaha!

    Our high school mascot was the Tractors.

    Yup. It was.

    I love the Quaker cheer. I'm going to pretend that's what really happened.

    thanks for stoppign by my blog!


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