The Fighting What?
Some mascots make it challenging to root, root, root for the home team
By Rodger Nichols
With the Super Bowl coming up February 12, and the National Basketball Association and National Hockey League seasons in full swing, there are lots of team mascots in the news.
While there are plenty of lions and tigers and bears in the headlines, it’s more interesting to take a look at some of the more unusual mascots chosen for teams.
While most of the team names of the NBA are fairly logical, some are head-scratchers because the teams have moved to unlikely cities and taken their names with them.
That includes the Utah Jazz, now based in Salt Lake City. It makes a lot of sense when you know they were originally the New Orleans Jazz and moved west in 1979. The Los Angeles Lakers were originally the Minneapolis Lakers, following the Minnesota designation as the “land of 10,000 lakes.”
There is an unwritten rule that when fielding a team in a sport, you should give that team a mascot name that implies power and dominance over your opponents. Not every college subscribes to that rule, however. When students are given the choice, they sometimes choose mascots that parody the preference for power.
One of those schools is the University of California at Santa Cruz. In 1986, students rejected the faculty choice of sea lions and chose the large banana slug as the school’s mascot.
One of the cheerleaders’ duties is to lead the faithful in such cheers as, “Slime on, Slugs!” The mascot gained national attention when John Travolta donned a banana slugs T-shirt in the movie “Pulp Fiction.”
Closer to home are the Geoducks of The Evergreen State College in Olympia, Washington. The geoduck is not actually a duck; it’s a mollusk. In fact, it is the world’s largest burrowing clam, native to the Northwest and weighing up to 3 pounds, with a fat siphon.
That leads to such fight song lyrics as:
“Go, Geoducks go,
Stretch your necks
when the tide is low.
Siphon high, squirt it out,
swivel all about,
let it all hang out.”
What about high schools? There are 355 public and 116 private high schools in Oregon. Most of the team names fall into classic categories.
There are predators such as big cats: 13 tigers, 11 cougars, 8 lions, 8 panthers, 8 wildcats, 3 bobcats, 1 jaguars and 1 leopards.
Other land-based carnivores include 3 wolverines and 1 badgers.
From the canine family, there are 9 bulldogs, 5 huskies, 2 Timberwolves, and single examples of foxes, wolves, white wolves and wolfpack.
Of the ursine nature are 4 grizzlies, a pair of bruins, 1 lava bears and 1 bears.
Birds of prey are also popular, with 16 eagles, 5 falcons, 3 hawks, and 1 each red hawks, red tail hawks and The Dalles’ own Riverhawks.
Reptiles show up as the Central Linn Cobras.
Insects come into play with a pair of hornets.
Then there are animals that are not predators but prey. They include 6 mustangs, 2 broncos, 2 rams, a pair of blue jays and 1 each antelopes, gophers, beavers, white buffalos and ravens.
Human mascots include 13 warriors, 8 pirates, 6 knights, 5 Vikings, 5 Spartans, 5 pioneers, 2 rangers, 2 monarchs and 2 lancers. Ethnically, there are Irish and fighting Irish teams.
Those are the more traditional mascots. Oregon also boasts a pair of honkers, representing geese at Arlington and Klamath Falls.
Names that were natural choices based on their towns are Oakland Oakers, Pilot Rock Rockets, Pleasant Hill Billies, Triangle Lake Lakers, Seaside Seagulls and Elkton Elks.
Mythical beasts come into play with 5 dragons and 1 team of phoenixes. North Medford and Bend’s Summit High gives us weather systems, with the Black Tornado and Storm, respectfully. One school even zeroed in on a specific animal part: the Bonanza Antlers. Sometimes, changing sensibilities mean name changes.
The Grants Pass Cavemen used to call the girls teams the Lady Cavemen, an outstanding oxymoron. These days, it’s the Lady Cavers.
The Benson Techmen had a similar problem until they changed to the Lady Techers.
South Eugene went a different direction, changing the Axemen to just Axe.
Some favorites include one Washington school, the Camas Papermakers, whose mascot is a humanized mechanical paperrolling machine, which commemorates the town’s founding industry, the Georgia Pacific paper mill.
Others are the Huntington Locomotives, reflecting the town’s large Union Pacific switchyards, and the Cheesemakers of Tillamook. The latter were voted the best team 4A mascot in a contest in The Oregonian newspaper.
It seems logical that Tillamook cheerleaders would modify a classic cheer and ask the fans to “Push ’em back, push ’em back, wheyyyy back!”