Mascots embody school sports

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    By Ben Schroeder

    There has been a controversy brewing in America since the late 1800s when schools in the United States started to affiliate themselves with mascots, whether they are cute, ugly, silly or just plain odd.

    “If it doesn”t reflect pride and courage, why have a mascot?” said Rae Damon, a Native American from the Navajo tribe, who has never cared about mascots even if they represent her tribe. However, she said there should be some logic to having a mascot.

    The 26-year-old BYU graduate says it”s not everyday you can see a football game with wolverines and slugs fighting it out to be the winner. But, as amusing as it sounds, some people do not like the idea of a school flaunting its culture around.

    Many times, fans have been able to be at a sporting event and watch those silly mascots dance, run and lead the crowd in chants. Some represent Native Americans, some demons, and other interesting mascots. When someone finds out about an odd mascot, it seems the usual response is, why would some one want to have a mascot like that?

    Funny to admit, most mascots become the school”s face because students, locals or even reporters talk and give a nickname to the university or college. BYU is just such a school. Eugene L. Roberts, a coach for one of the sports on campus in 1923, described his students as Cougars. Later, in 1925, a man named George K. Lewis captured two cougar cubs. Lewis cared for the mountain lions and even brought them to the athletic games. The name obviously is stuck to the school even if some students don”t like it.

    “Personally, Falcons would be a good mascot. I have always liked the name Bruins. It sounds cool,” BYU junior Mike Trosdale said.

    Trosdale is a California native who never gave much thought about mascots until asked.

    “I never really considered if BYU had a normal mascot or not,” Trosdale said.

    But there are special interest groups that look at mascots all over the country, taking a pro-active approach to change the name of specific types of mascots. In California, a bill is being debated on whether to drop all Native American names on schools.

    “Schools that use a Native American mascot are just expressions of confusion,” Sioux tribe member Jean Nahomni Mani said after her daughter had just received her tribal name.

    Mani said traditional natives tend to see the use of their tradition as if some one was using Jesus Christ for their school mascots.

    “Our lifestyle is our religion, and people are just exploiting Native Americans,” Mani said.

    The University of Utah has been using some type of Indian mascot for a while and has gone through some changes over the year. You have to go back to the day when Elvis was still alive to find that the U of U had once been named the Redskins. But over mounting pressure, the name was changed to its current form of Utes with the approval of the Ute Indian tribe.

    “Everything done with the name (Ute) is approved by the Ute Tribal Council,” University of Utah Media Relations coordinator Liz Abel said.

    “We know that some schools do not play others with Native American mascots but we have no plans to change the name,” Abel said.

    Mani said she thinks tribes that approve the use of their names are selling themselves short, like the Utes or Seminole tribe (The Seminoles are one of the main contributors to Florida State University). She feels that most people do not even know what some of the names and symbols mean. Mani refers to the name Squaw, which is the name of a peak in Rock Canyon.

    “The name “Squaw” is referred to a female body part, most people do not even know that and use it out of ignorance,” Mani pointed out.

    Even with all the controversy with Indian mascots, most Natives don”t mind the name use as long as a “dumb cartoon” is not used (Cleveland Indians).

    On the lighter side, what if a school carries a mascot like the Camels or Running Rifles? The oddest mascots usually are animals or inanimate objects. High Schools in Utah carry some odd nicknames. According to the Salt Lake Tribune, the Davis Darts and Delta Jackrabbits are unusual and unique to the State. But some communities are very sensitive about their mascots and will attempt to change them occasionally.

    Just south of Provo, Utah is Springville High School and their Red Devils. Some residents said they felt the mascot was evil and wanted it changed.

    “The (School) Board wanted to know what the community wanted, and in a 3-4 decision they decided to keep the name,” Assistant Principal John Webb said.

    Webb would not identify the other suggested name, but former students of the high school said if the name was changed, it would be replaced with the name Patriots. Even with the history of the name and decisions, some people in the city are still upset it was not changed.

    Every once in a while a strange name comes up and the community embraces it and will not let go. Many polls have identified these names with top-10 rankings. Banana Slugs, Haymakers, Mighty Oaks or one that reflects BYU more than anyone else in the country the Whitman College Missionaries in Walla Walla Washington.

    Is it possible that in the old BYU Academy building there might have been a discussion that we would have a mascot like the Prophets, just like Oklahoma Baptist College in Oklahoma City?

    The Cougar name is a very ordinary mascot with 30 known college and universities using the only North American big cat. Some schools use other names, but they are still cougars like Catamounts or Mountain Lions.

    “Personally, a Fox would be better for BYU, I see those all the time instead of Cougars,” BYU student Mike Trosdale said. “Cougars just doesn”t strike out, but it”s tradition.”

    If you think there are strange mascots out there, you”re right. But, to identify a school with a mascot can be fun and puzzling. Some of the best names out there even have copyrights on them to keep it unique to the school. Nicknames such as Demon Deacons will never be used by any other team but Wake Forest, which refer back to a Baptist Deacon. It is also hard to believe that anyone will want to jump on the bandwagon and have Gentlemen as the nickname for the football team. That also goes for names like Gorlocks, Humpback Whales, Mules, Poets, Squirrels, Violets, Nads and Wonder Boys.

    Although, wouldn”t it be great to have your team enter the playing field and everyone chanting Go-Nads, Go-Nads, Go-Nads?

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