Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Team Mascots Redux

I'm absolutely sure I have written before on the thorny issue of school and sports team mascots. If you've read all about this on "The Gods Are Bored," you are excused today, but please stop by again later in the week.

I have attended two schools and worked at one. Two out of the three had inappropriate mascots.

The high school I attended was three miles from Antietam Battlefield. Our mascot was a Rebel soldier. Our football games began when the "mascot," a young man dressed in a Rebel uniform and carrying a large Stars-and-Bars flag, ran onto the field. Our school fight song was "Dixie." This was a public school with about 25 percent of the students being African American. Full half of the football team consisted of African American athletes.

About a decade ago, a politically correct group tried to get the mascot changed. The school received bomb threats, and the individuals seeking the change received death threats. The idea was scrapped. My high school is still the Rebels. The only change I can see is that they've ditched the Civil War imagery on the spirit wear.

This pales in comparison to the school where I work. Its mascot is a tornado.

Even as I speak, my classroom door is decorated with a large, bright drawing of a happy tornado, holding its arms out in warm welcome. As a Pagan, I am physically ill about this. It is so disrespectful of Mother Earth, of people who have lost everything in these weather events ... I just cannot find words. I've never liked a tornado as a mascot.

This being Spirit Week at my school, there are tornados everywhere. On every classroom door. On posters. On sweatshirts. For the love of all that is holy, does a stinking sports team have to be this destructive?

You know why we have a tornado as a mascot, right? This is Camden County, New Jersey. It's not impossible for us to have a destructive tornado, but it is highly, highly improbable. The odds are in our favor. Once a month, at noon on a Monday, Snobville tests its tornado warning horn. It has never sounded out of necessity.

My college, Johns Hopkins University, has a blue jay as its mascot. This is more like it, to my thinking. Then again, I watched two blue jays peck a baby bird to death and eat it in my back yard two evenings ago. I kept trying to save the baby, but those jays were incredibly persistent, and I didn't want to take the baby inside (wouldn't have helped anyway, the jays are incredibly persistent). So eventually I had to let nature take its course.

Just now, instead of doing my work, I was checking the schedule of an A-level pro baseball team in Jersey that I like to go see sometimes. Its mascot is a blue crab. Next to a vulture, I think this is about the best mascot imaginable. A crab can claw the hell out of you, but it can't kill you, and (like the Sacred Thunderbird) it will only eat you if you're dead in the water.

To conclude this sermon, I must say that I'm expecting a dose of dour punishment from the Goddess because I'm neither taking down the smiling tornado from my door or complaining to the higher-ups about the mascot. I selfishly need my job, more now than ever. But trust me, I'm looking for a well-deserved smite.


Debra She Who Seeks said...

We try to be a little more sensitive about such things up here in Canada but then again, the name of our City's pro football team is the Edmonton Eskimos. Inuit people hate the term Eskimo but no one's ever made a big deal out of the team name -- yet.

Anne Johnson said...

It turns out my school's mascot used to be "The Tradesman," some beefy type in a hard hat. The students voted to change it. That was before my time at the place. I would have lobbied for ANYTHING but a killer storm.

Chas Clifton said...

The high school from which I graduated, Fort Collins (Colorado) HS, had as its mascot back then the "lambkin." Yes, as in Mary had a little ...

I guess it was being a "boy named Sue." You had to be tough if your mascot was the lambkin.

And this mascot had been selected back in the 1890s, along with the school song, to the tune (inadvertently?) of "Deutschland uber Alles." How did they get that one through the world wars?

Rebels, Tornadoes, ha.

Anonymous said...

I guess I had it easy -- my High School -- Redwood HS -- was the Redwood Giants. College was the Cal Bears. SF State (grad school)is the Gators. Bears and Gators are pretty deadly. but Cal is the bears because we are the bear flag state, and redwoods are giants. No idea where gator comes from, as I don't think there are any in California.