Blogs > Liberty and Power > The Twilight of the Mascots

Aug 26, 2004 12:27 am


The Twilight of the Mascots



For years, one of the most reliable sources of controversy in team sports has been the mascot. From the tomahawk-chopping Atlanta Braves to the often suggestively truncated South Carolina Gamecocks, there has been no dearth of outrage about the schmucks in the ridiculous costumes. And why not? The logic of mascot-induced indignation is clear: the University of Illinois's Chief Illiniwek is bad because he denigrates Native Americans, while the University of Mississippi's (semi-retired) Colonel Reb is bad because he glorifies the Old South. Got it?

At any rate, an article in today's Washington Postlaments the increasing homogenization of D.C.-area high school mascots:
    In two weeks, the Freedom High School Eagles of Prince William County will take the field, proudly wearing the black and gold for the first time.

    A year later, another Freedom High School, with another group of Eagles, will open in nearby Loudoun County -- also wearing black and gold.

    The two schools will add to a sizable flock of Eagles among area high schools: There are the Edison Eagles of Fairfax County, the Osbourn Eagles of Manassas and the Colonial Forge Eagles of Stafford County. Over in Maryland, Charles County will add its own Eagles team next year with the opening of North Point High School in Waldorf.

    When it comes to picking mascots, high schools in the Washington area's fastest-growing counties tend to stick with the familiar. Mascots are usually chosen by students, who vote on a handful of safe choices compiled by school staff members. Wildly unusual names don't make the list, generally because common names and mascot images are easy to find on the Internet and transfer to such items as football helmets or book covers.

    The process guarantees little controversy, at the risk of uniformity.

    "It's become much more commercialized now," said WaydeByard, public information officer for Loudoun County schools, who added that television exposes students to team jerseys and logos from across the country."People go to a catalogue instead of to the community."
Ah, commercialization: I knew it! But why not fault democracy? The students get to vote, after all, from what could only be a wider variety than adults ever get on a ballot. Why not blame the stifling tendencies of bureaucracy?
    "I think that as [schools] open, they want to be positive" and not offend anyone, said Karen Poindexter, principal of Marsteller Middle School in Prince William.
How about statist conformity?
    Even if a mascot is widely used, principals still like it.

    "When I personally heard Freedom High School, I thought Eagles," said Christine Forester, who will lead Loudoun's Freedom High, which will open next year."I always thought of eagles as majestic and soaring."

    Students had other ideas. Some wanted to be the Freedom Patriots. That mascot was already claimed by Loudoun's Park View High School. Then someone suggested"Freedom Fighters." That called to mind an image that Forester wasn't quite comfortable with.

    "You have to think: How does it strike people?" she said.
Whether the kid who came up with Freedom Fighters was being earnest or ironic, we need him or her on our side.



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