The school where I attended and now teach has a symbol (or mascot? sigil?) of a “hub,” the center part of a wheel. (Wikipedia helpfully provides an illustration, in context here.) Our school’s athletic teams are known as “The Hubs,” and these wheel parts are apparently default-gender male, as our women’s teams are referred to as “Lady Hubs.”
The story is that this nickname comes from the city’s location at the intersection of rail lines and highways. As a symbol, it’s not an embarrassing one, and Illinois does have its share: The Hubs often play the Pretzels, the Barbs (based on barbed-wire fencing), and the E-Rabs during the same year.
I’m sure there are many other high school mascot names as strange as the ones here, and many of them recognize the unique features or histories of their areas. On the other hand, perhaps some of these symbols are self-perpetuating jokes that have outlived their usefulness, or were never that great to begin with. Some are wildly insensitive to particular ethnicities, such as my own college’s. Several local schools have claimed the tiger as a mascot, with no apparent connection to anything other than, perhaps, the tiger’s reputation for ferocity.
But a tiger is pretty paltry stuff when there are so many other mascot choices schools could make to give themselves a formidable appearance. Teams named Spartans, Vikings, Pirates, and Buccaneers are getting closer in spirit to the fearsome aggression that could be inspired, but these are perhaps too historically distant to really convey terror properly. I’m not sure Captain Fear, dressed as a life-size Cabbage Patch Kid, is frightening anybody.
So here’s my only-mostly-facetious suggestions: First, let’s let students pick new mascots from time to time — maybe every year? That would help everybody remember the particular sports season, as in: “That 1-and-12 season? Weren’t we the Rascals that year? Let’s never use THAT name again.”
Second, let’s get some modern, truly frightening mascots. I’d like to publicly suggest The Ebolas as a team name. Who would even want to play against The Ebolas? On the other hand, teams could brag, “We beat Ebola!”
Our team names could be a “ripped from the headlines” way to educate our communities: the “Global Warmings” (and the “Lady Global Warmings”)? the “Wealth Inequalities”? the “Declining Sperm Counts” (and “Lady Declining Sperm Counts”)? “The Extraterritorial Drone Strikes”?
What about the social pariahs we genuinely fear? The “Guantanamo Detainees”? Or, the “Guantanamo Interrogators”? Maybe “The Serial Murderers”? “Federal Bureaucrats” (and “Lady Federal Bureaucrats”)? “The Media” — the Fightin’ Reporters, Broadcastin’ Intimidation? “Undocumented Workers”? Hey, what about this much-maligned group: “The Regulatin’ Lib’rals”!
What about minor annoyances: The “Hangnails”? The “Papercuts”? The “Putrefying Meats in the back of the Refrigerator” (and the “Lady …”)? The “Slow-Loading Webpages”?
Anyway, this is just a little list to get school boosters thinking. But while I’m on the subject of school culture, I’d like to also point out another strange tradition: Why, in this great democracy, founded on rebellion FROM a king, do we still select a “King” and a “Queen” for the Prom dance? Actually, our school selects via an election — which, of course, isn’t really how most kings and queens were historically chosen. Why don’t we just have Prom Presidents, instead? Or, if we keep the King and Queen titles, let’s let those students act like real monarchs for the night: they get to decide who marries whom, who gets sent on diplomatic or military missions, who gets taxed how much, and which other dancers face beheading.
Disclaimer: All of this is in jest. I do not now, nor have I ever, endorsed beheadings of prom-goers.