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Saturday, October 8, 2011

The Once and Future Mascot

By Jody Worsham

All rights reserved for Mascot Training Camp

From what I can remember of my theatre history classes, the shaman or medicine man would don a mask, usually that of an animal, to do "business with the gods." Once he put on the mask, he embodied all the qualities and characteristics the animal mask represented. And thus began the practice of athletic teams adopting an animal as their totem and having someone who can't play the game, wear the mask and costume and become the mascot.

In Texas we have over 2,000 schools boasting all kinds of school mascots, each hoping to imbue their team with all the power and attributes associated with their chosen mascot. Usually mascots are lions, tigers, bulldogs, hornets, eagles, or even marlins. You want your mascot to be something that strikes fear in your opponents.

I first became aware of the impact a mascot can have on a team when I entered Pattie Welder Jr. High. A clue should have been the giant insect painted on the wall as you entered the school. Being a city girl, termite did not first come to mind. Already self-conscious about our size, no junior high athlete wants to be called a termite. Now granted, a termite can render an oak floor to a pitiful pile of sawdust over time, but did we really think our opponents were going to shake in their cleats over facing the mighty termites? What were the cheerleaders going to yell?

     "Go Termites Go! Chew ! Chew! Chew!

Reduce them to sawdust! Boo Hoo Hoo!"

As a child, our family moved a lot. After the termite incident, I did some research on various mascots in Texas. My sister coached at a high school in Lewisville. Their mascot? The Fighting Farmers! I could just see the costumes for their drill team, little checked skirts with white aprons and a sunbonnet. No thank you. I didn't want to go to Itasca and be a Wampus Cat. I didn't even know what a Wampus Cat was. I didn't want to be a Red Ant, so Progresso High School was out. New Braunfels seemed promising, the Unicorns, but I wasn't sure how aggressive they were when it came to athletics.

Hutto looked like it might be an option until I realized they were the Hutto Hippos. I suppose when they were voting on mascots one of the board members or coaches had just seen a National Geographic episode detailing the ferociousness of the hippopotamus, Africa's most violent animal. That is the only reason I can see voting for the hippo to be your mascot. Being a Lady Hippo did not do anything to raise my self-esteem.

We finally settled on Blooming Grove ISD, home of the Lions in central hot Texas. Our arch rival was a school five miles down the road, Frost High School. Their mascot? The Polar Bears of course. Most of our football games were played in 99 degree heat. Go figure.

Over the years I've thought a lot on the subject of mascots and I have noticed some omissions. For example, we have the bulldogs, but no Shih Tzu or pugs; hornets and yellow jackets, termites still, but no brown recluse spiders or red bugs (also known as Chiggers). We have cowboys and plowboys but no carpenters or mechanics; jets but no submarines. We have tornadoes, hurricanes, but no tsunamis.

There are no mascots to represent our modern times. Since we all know competition drives education in Texas, I propose the following mascots. For the high schools for the visual and performing arts, I suggest the Butterfly. For the technical schools we could have the Geek Greeks, the Modem USBee's, or the Galveston Giga Bytes! For the School of Art and Fashion Design, they could be the Van Go's. For the all-girls school of graphic and web design, the Web Debs would be perfect!

I have yet to find a school embracing the ultimate mascot in terms of viciousness, tenacity, stamina, agility, versatility, speed, and vision…the common housefly. Now think about it for a minute. Their bite is ferocious and irritating. You can't run them off. They keep coming back. They can cling to ceilings and hide in places you can't get to. They can fly around forever no matter how many times you "shoo" them away. They can cling to the backs of chairs, screens, moving ceiling fans, and beneath tables. They are faster than most rolled up newspapers, flip-flops, fly swats and chop sticks, well except for Mr. Miyagi. And talk about having eyes on every opponent! Nothing beats the house fly. They love hot humid weather, and yet I've found them in the dead of winter.

No, you can have your lions, your tigers, your hippos, your dogs. Give me the common house fly as a mascot to be reckoned with! Go, Flies, Go! Buzzzzzz!


Anonymous said...

I can just hear the opponents shouting off.....

Sharon said...

Hilarious, Jody. Good job. Go houseflies, go!

SouthMainMuse said...

My husband played football in MN. They were the Concordia Cobbers, as in a corn cob. An angry corn cob. Now that's a terrifying sight. Great and funny writing as usual.