Thursday, May 10, 2007

Yak Attack

Anson’s post reminded me of a mascot skirmish from my high school days.

For three of the four years I attended my high school, our mascot was, inarguably, offensive to Native Americans. Then, during my senior year, a Sociology teacher named Mrs. Barks convinced our principal to change our mascot to something less offensive. (She was new to my school and was full of “big ideas.” Because of her "ideas," she was reviled by many of the residents of my town.)

(Unlike Anson, I like to write in paragraphs: it’s easier on the eyes. Sometimes my paragraphs are only two sentences long.)

I had no particular attachment to our Native American-related mascot and saw the naming of a new mascot as a great opportunity to leave my mark on my high school. (A vocal minority, however, claimed that the mascot “honored” Native Americans and that it would be a “travesty” to change it.) I joined the Mascot Committee and dominated meetings with my suggestions. The Mascot Committee, which was essentially the same nerds who were on the Yearbook Committee, let me bully them into including “Yaks” on the ballot of twenty names that were to undergo a school-wide vote (I also worked the name "Blue Genie" onto the ballot). Most of the other names were ones that were already in use by other popular teams, such as the Spartans and the Titans.

I must put this story in context: I moved nine times before I was a senior in high school. A month before each move, my parents refused to buy anything. “We’ll just have to lug it to the new place,” they claimed. So, for thirty days, we lived on peanut butter and jelly and wiped our asses with tissues. When the tissues ran out, I took toilet paper from the high school bathroom and brought it home. When the PB&J ran out we ate the canned food that had been in the back of the pantry for years. We washed our dishes by hand. We brushed our teeth with baking soda.

So, when all this mascot stuff was going down, my family was about to move. I am not complaining about my parents' moving-related quirks. Living like cavemen was actually quite fun, and after graduating from high school I promptly attended a college where I lived like a caveman for four years. I’m merely pointing out that I was underfed and probably under-wiped and so I was, certainly, a little loopy at the time.

The night before the big vote, I stayed up until five in the morning making dozens of posters that had a large color picture of a formidable/brooding yak chewing some cud. His image was framed by the words YAK ATTACK. I got to school early and taped them on the walls of the stairwells.

That’s all it took. The Yaks won by a landslide, accruing more than 75% of to the school-wide vote. Victory was sweet, but short-lived (as it often is). Hours after the vote was announced, the principal, claiming that the Yak entry was not a “serious” entry, disqualified it.

My high school is now named the Nighthawks. Bleh.


Anson Mountain said...

Our high school nickname was the Rebels. Our mascot was a little southern gentleman who was well-mannered and generous until he'd had a few too many mint juleps and then he started going on and on about the War of Northern Agression and took off his shirt and offered to "lick any son of a bitch in the house with one damned hand tied behind my back". Our pep rallies were, as you can imagine, incredible.
A private school a few towns over, The Webb School, had the incredible nickname of the Feet. The Webb Feet. This is probably better than it should be only because the administration seemed to love it as much as the students.

Musa D said...

I went to a high school that was less than 5% black, and my senior year only one player on the varsity football team was black. His name was Josh Cox, and he was an undersized but hard-running fullback. Josh got about half the team’s carries each game, all between the tackles, and at our home field when he’d gain at least five yards, or when his collision with a defender was audibly violent, the PA man would play a train-whistle sound effect and the crowd would chant, “Night Train!”

Josh “Night Train” Cox. First, the rhythm is all wrong and there's nothing even close to rhyme. Second, it was embarrassing to have so many white adults chanting “Night Train!” at Josh. So after two games of this, our principal forbade the PA man from using the train whistle. This decision made it into the local paper, and the story mentioned where the PA man had bought the train whistle, so fans brought their own train whistles to the next game.

Before the next home game, the principal convened us in the gym and informed us that Josh’s new nickname was “Choo Choo” Cox, and that this nickname was what we were to chant after the sound of the reinstated PA train whistle. Josh stood next to the principal and waved.

We tried. But no one over the age of eight likes to yell “Choo Choo!” Plus, the opposing fans had begun chanting “Cox Chewer” and the like whenever Josh was stopped for a loss. So by halftime we'd resigned ourselves to clapping, hooting wordlessly, and stamping our feet.

DrGravitee said...


Make this comment a post. We are hurting for posts during the month of May. I might even make this comment a post.

I'm off to Ireland today. See you in June.