Cyndi's Two Cents

Let them play ball!

Commentary.

I love unique team mascot names. New Berlin Pretzels, Cobden Appleknockers, Blooming Prairie Awesome Blossoms, Columbia Kewpies and Frankfort Hot Dogs, to name a few. 

I grew up in a small county with two high schools just shy of thirteen miles from one another. Our high school sports teams were competitors at the time, but fast forward years later when neither school had enough students to have a successful sports program. Instead of dropping sports altogether, they consolidated the athletic programs. There was, as you would expect, some controversy over the mascot in those early days, but the communities compromised, and a brand spanking new mascot was voted in.

It was alumni, not the student-athletes or student bodies for that matter, that struggled the most with “killing” the mascot. Nearly twenty years later the communities have adjusted to the change and the athletic program is a success story.

Only 13 country miles separate 2 tiny schools in a neighboring county from where I live today. These schools do not have enough players to make a team, so boys and girls from the smaller of the 2 very small schools are practicing and playing basketball with the teams from the least small school.

The student athletes are having a ball playing ball, but the smaller school alumni feel the team’s name and mascot should reflect the fact that the players do not all attend the same school. The alumni of the larger of the 2 very small schools could not disagree more. 

In times of school consolidation, one of the greatest emotional challenges has traditionally been what to do about the new team’s mascot. Despite the variety, mascots represent all that is brave, strong, daring, fearless, enduring, powerful, courageous, and unique about a community and its team. When communities are melded together for a school’s consolidation, there is much to take into consideration and for many, the mascot tops the list.  

As populations shifts continued through the 1980’s and 90’s and families left rural communities, many schools consolidated. The devotion of a community to a mascot and all the mascot represents is something with which many of you have had personal experience.

For most it really does not matter whether you are Sparkplugs, Dragons, Wildcats, Reapers, Artesians, Fightin’ Mules or Corn Jerkers. What matters most is the sense of community that these more- often- than- not strangely named mascots stir within.

The schools in my neighboring county are not consolidating.  The boys’ and girls’ basketball programs are operating cooperatively. If the schools remain at loggerheads with one another over a mascot for the sports cooperative, the current mascots will more than likely remain the same. The school alumni can be proud as peacocks (that would be a great mascot name!) and keep their individual mascots.

The proud alumni can walk away feeling like they won, while the student athletes lose their chance to play ball. That is what started this whole controversy anyway; just some kids that wanted to play high school basketball.

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