Schools should really think hard before naming a mascot. I live in Plainfield, Indiana which was originally settled by a group of Quakers so I understand the school’s decision to pay tribute to the town’s founding fathers. But a “Fighting Quaker” just seems odd. Even the kids at the middle school have started their own Facebook page called “Fighting Quakers…wth? Isn’t that an oxymoron?” I guess the English teachers at the school should feel proud that at least a couple hundred students know what an oxymoron is. Or at least took the time to Google it before clicking “Like” on the Facebook page.
Plainfield isn’t the only school with the unique mascot. Four colleges also have the distinct “Fighting Quaker” as their mascot, most notably the University of Pennsylvania. However in a recent poll of college students in Pennsylvania on which school has the most “badass” mascot, the Quaker came in last. Not really surprising when you consider that the definition of a Quaker is “a member of a religious sect that opposes war and dresses in a simple fashion.” Not really a “badass” mascot like a dragon or a hawk. And sadly Quaker was a derogatory term in the 1600’s (i.e. the Christians and Protestants poked fun a people for being Quakers). Closer to home are the Earlham College Quakers who play in the Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference. No polls among the students in that conference but I’m guessing the Quaker comes in at the bottom of the “badass” list – although in that particular conference you have the Transylvania Pioneers and Rose Hulman Engineers so it may be a three-way tie for last. Oh yeah and the Bluffton Beavers…. maybe a four-way tie.
My point is…. Mascots should be an animal or object you would be afraid of if you ran into it in a dark alley. Like a lion or tiger or bear (oh my!). And I used to question the “scariness” of birds as mascots until this spring when I watched a blue jay fluff my bulldog. Which brings up the whole other subject of bulldogs as mascots. They make them look really mean and scary but if you’ve ever actually owned a bulldog you know they are giant babies and that the little chihuahua next door scares the pee out of them. But see you just can’t make a chihuahua look fierce and intimidating – so no schools I know have a chihuahua as their mascot. Even bugs make good mascots because lets face it no one wants to get stung by a yellow jacket, hornet, bee or even a “skeeter” (Mesquite (Texas) High School, home of Stormy the Skeeter). And even though they have added bulging muscles and a mean “crusty” face to the Quaker he still wouldn’t be scary to meet in an alley.
I went to a college where the mascot was an owl. An owl is another one of those tricky mascots. They are kind of scary because they are one big bird with giant glowing eyes and they are nocturnal. But it’s not the same as coming face to face with a ‘gator. Add to the owl debate that the women’s teams always get teased as “hooter girls.”
Even weather events that are scary are good mascots – specifically hurricanes, cyclones and twisters. No schools are known as the sunshines… although sadly the University of Hawaii are the Rainbow Warriors. But they tend to drop the rainbow part and just go as Warriors.
The problem is that many schools determined their mascots in the early 1900’s when they were forming. And some, like Plainfield, honored their founders. Which is cool. But sometimes founders just don’t make cool mascots.
Let’s face it cool mascots are ones that can be represented by real live animals like Uga, Handsome Dan and Butler Blue (by the way Handsome Dan of Yale is the oldest known mascot to represent a school 115 years and counting – OK the live bulldog is only 4 years old but he is the 17th bulldog to represent Yale). In Texas a live longhorn named Bevo parades onto the football field and in Colorado there is Ralphie the buffalo. Mike the LSU tiger is a live bengal tiger that lives on campus – how cool is that?
Oh well, long live the Quakers – I’m sure it won’t change. However they are slowly sneaking in “Red Pride” as cooler alternative to the Quaker. The football jerseys say Red Pride and not Quakers – and most other sports uniforms say Plainfield or PHS as opposed to Quakers. Which I find odd because when you come from a school with a cool mascot (i.e. Warriors) the jersey’s have the mascot and the mascot name instead of the school name.
Even with “Red Pride” I don’t see us winning a “bad-ass” mascot title anytime soon!