Scarvey column: Go Wampus Cats, Banana Slugs and Fighting Pickles

Published 12:00 am Friday, September 4, 2009

I was looking through a friend’s photos online recently and the mascot of his kids’ school gave me pause. “Paul, are your kids really the Crabs?” I e-mailed him.
Except I typed it “Carbs,” which seems about as good a choice for a school mascot as “crabs.” Wouldn’t crab, being protein, trump carbs in a rock/paper/scissors kind of matchup?
When my daughter was at the School of Science and Math, she was a Unicorn. In general, the Smathers (as they sometimes refer to themselves) are not crazy about having a mascot known for being doodled, along with rainbows and daisies, in tween notebooks. It’s entirely possible that in selecting a college my daughter picked Georgia ó with its mean, jowly bulldog ó as an overreaction against the poor sweet uni.
If a school wants to go with a mythical creature, the Wampus Cat is a pretty cool one ó several high schools around the country have adopted it.
Some schools gravitate toward tough mascots. A Yuma, Ariz., high school calls itself the Criminals ó a nod to the fact that the school used to be housed in a prison. (Just imagine the headlines that our sports editor Ronnie Gallagher could come up with.)
In Merrill, Mich., being a Vandal will get you cheers. Kernersville’s Bishop McGuiness, despite being a private Christian school, loves its Villains.
Some Christian schools, like the Morris Academy in Houston wear their religion a little more openly ó they’re the Praying Hands, and what better team to put up a Hail Mary pass at the end of the game?
But perhaps it’s better to be a Villain or a Vandal than to be a Troll (Trinity Christian College in Illinois).
Some institutions like to take a cue from the name of the school when it comes to choosing mascots. In Los Angeles, the Ribet Academy sends the Fighting Frogs onto the field. When the Webb School in Bell Buckle, Tenn., loses, it’s the agony of da Feet. Yes, they are the Webb Feet.
Although political correctness has found its way to some schools, apparently it hasn’t made it yet to Laurel Hill, Fla., where the team is the Hoboes.
“Go, Homeless!” doesn’t have quite the same ring.
Schools with wimpy mascots have taken to adding aggressive modifiers, like Wake Forest did with its Demon Deacon. (Why not the Bipolar Baptists, for that matter?)
Some schools go to great lengths to spin their mascots as tough. If Trout sounds too passive, just add “Cutthroat” as a modifier. “Fighting” is a good default adjective choice for toughening up a mascot, especially if your mascot is a vegetable. The Fighting Okra of Delta State University for example.
The in-state favorite here is the Fighting Pickles of the N.C. School of the Arts.
You have to feel for the football team of Blooming Prairie, Minn. ó it’s hard to feel macho when you’re the Awesome Blossoms. Or a Violet, playing for New York University.
In one of the worst mascot choices ever, Gray’s Harbor College teams are known as the Chokers. (“Get out there and … choke!”
Bunnies (Fisher, Ill.) and Chipmunks (Metairie, La.) are cute, but probably don’t evoke a great deal fear from opposing teams, unless it’s possible to be cuted into submission.
If your team was called the Lions, wouldn’t that be good enough? Not for Lawrenceville, Kans. They are the Chesty Lions, because they’re prouder than your average slouching lion.
The Crowley, La., team apparently looked to the doors of the school restrooms for inspiration: They are the Ladies and the Gents.
If you’re on a sports team in Frankfort, Ind., you can be a Hot Dog and your coach won’t yell at you.
Mt. Clemens High School in Michigan fields the Battling Bathers. Seems like it would be hard to put up a good fight when you’re naked or just wearing a towel.
You’re guaranteed to be the team everybody wants to thrash if you’re the Lawyers (the John Marshall School in Cleveland, Ohio).
If you go to the University of California at Santa Cruz, you can look forward to being a Banana Slug.
Another slimy mascot is the Snail (the Madeira School in McClean, Va.) But I think that’s better than being an Evergreen State Geoduck (pronounce it “gooey duck”), which is a big clam with an extremely long “neck,” and, which, I might add, is not so very attractive when out of its shell.
On the Evergreen State Web site is included this official fight song, written in 1971. (I am not making this up):
“Go, Geoducks go,
Through the mud and the sand,
let’s go.
Siphon high, squirt it out,
swivel all about,
let it all hang out.
Go, Geoducks go,
Stretch your necks when the tide
is low
Siphon high, squirt it out,
swivel all about,
let it all hang out.”
Students at the Dunn School in San Olivas, Calif. are the Earwigs, the name being derived from an old wives’ tale that this insect crawled into people’s ears in order to lay eggs in people’s brains.
Now that’s a creepy mascot, one that makes the Boll Weevil (University of Arkansas Monticello) sound pretty tame.
Still, if I were a female athlete looking for a school, I’d probably rather be an Earwig or a Boll Weevil than go to Presbyterian College in South Carolina and be one of the Blue Hose.
The crazies at the Rhode Island School of Design call themselves the Nads, and really, I just can’t bring myself to even go there.
There are schools who cheer on their Freddies, Johnnies, Jimmies. Larries and even Kewpies. The sheer diversity of the school mascots in this country is breathtaking. We have Syrupmakers, Atom Smashers, Rockcrushers, Granite Diggers, Cornjerkers, Boilermakers, Appleknockers, Cheesemakers, Spoofhounds, Swamp Foxes, and Nimrods.
And somebody’s cheering for all of them.
Contact Katie Scarvey at 704-797-4270.