OUR CORNER: On accurate mascots

Conan the Rhubarbarian: Sumner
Conan the Rhubarbarian: Sumner's next mascot?
— image credit: Illustration by Daniel Nash

By Brennan Purtzer, Publisher

As a lifelong traveler, I've seen a lot of places.

What I've learned to look for at each spot are the elements that make every geographic location truly unique. Our communities here at the foothills of Mount Rainier offer great variety, along with attributes that are ours alone.

That's why I'd like to dedicate this column to the high school mascots that are selected to represent our cities.

Let me be clear, I refuse to claim that mascots from the schools I attended are notable in any way – they were arguably worse than those of our cities. Growing up, I was a mustang, a bobcat, a ram, a titan and a wildcat.

What I’d like to bring attention to is the failure of our school mascots to accurately represent our students. Now, some of you may have grown attached to our mascots. That’s perfectly natural, but I argue that our mascots could be serving us much better.

In case you need to be refreshed, both Enumclaw and White River (only a few miles apart) are known as “The Hornets.” Bonney Lake High School is the home of the Panthers and Sumner High School calls its athletes Spartans.

Each of these monikers aims to intimidate and inspire at some level, however, they seem redundant and inappropriate. In the six months I’ve lived here, I’ve yet to be stung by a hornet, be stalked by a panther, or even challenged in battle by a single Spartan!

Yet Enumclaw and White River share their mascot with four other schools in the state of Washington, Bonney Lake shares its mascot with 16 others, and Sumner shares its with eight.

Certainly our cities are more unique than we demonstrate in this regard.

Other schools have risen to the challenge of choosing a mascot that represents their population: just ask the Camus Papermakers, the Chelan Goats, Davenport Gorillas, Explorations Screaming Penguins, Lincoln Abes (formerly the Railsplitters), Oakville Acorns, Sultan Turks or Ridgefield Spudders.

My proposal is that we open the conversation about mascots, because I believe we could do better. Just to get the ball rolling, I’m prepared to offer the following suggestions. Enumclaw is famous for its sudden and sometimes terrible gusts of high velocity air. Why not capture this fearsome strength, and play it to the advantage of our sports teams? How about “The Enumclaw Monsoon Wind” as a mascot?

In Bonney Lake, I’m often afraid I’ll be decapitated by a rouge speedboat on Lake Tapps – but that’s not something we want to be known for. How about playing off the lake theme, and becoming the “Bonney Loch Monsters?” It should be easy enough to create a unique costume of a cartoonish plesiosaur.

And for Sumner? The city, famously housing the state Rhubarb Growers’ Association should perhaps represent themselves with a ferocious, Conan-inspired “Rhubarbarian.”

But let’s not forget White River. My first thought was to do something with the “river” in their name, perhaps something like The Riptides or Rapid Riders. But then I remembered the scariest thing about Buckley, which terrorizes me every day when I pass through it.  The most appropriate and intimidating name I could think of for a team from White River, The Predatory Traffic Enforcement Officers!

High Schools may do as they please when it comes to naming their mascots, but when they aim to pick a figure from history for all their citizens to rally behind for a lifetime, I believe they should put at least a modicum of thought into the opportunity to leverage the symbolism behind that figure.

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