As high school tournaments are about to start taking over the Wells Fargo Arena, let’s consider a whole new approach.
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This is not a joke. The forsythia and star-flowered magnolia in my yard usually color around April 1st. By then, other chromatic harbingers of spring (or the last dances of winter), the Iowa high school and girls’ basketball tournaments, will have presented their trophies.
What time it is! Winter has knocked us down. And it is a joy to settle comfortably into our homes, the glow of television lighting our faces as we watch countless hopes and dreams dribble across the pitch.
So many stories to follow. Will dynasties continue? Will new powers emerge?
We are ready for upheaval. We encourage the motley underdog to make it all the way to the marquee match. We tear ourselves apart every time a small-town team can make a once-in-a-generation push toward eternal glory in Iowa sports.
We take note that the stars get dressed for the last time before donning the uniform of the Cyclone, Hawkeye or Panther.
It’s sad that such a celebration, and high school sports in Iowa, must still be plagued by the cancerous tumors of disrespectful, chauvinistic mascots. The Cleveland Guardians (baseball) and Washington Football Team (soccer, now Commanders) made the enlightened upgrade in professional sports. Iowans even recently “moved a mountain” by renaming a well-known creek with a slur. In cultural and natural landscapes, our neighbors are getting rid of this ugly nomenclature to shine better. Let’s take the high road – maybe it’s an alley – and remove the slurs of Savages and Red Men and the appropriation of First Nations names from Iowa sports.
And let’s take the opportunity to twist some new names. Rather than defaulting to animals (though I love banana slugs, tardigrades, Tasmanian devils, and three-toed sloths) or superheroes (Avengers, Titans), consider local searcher names, thought leaders, community builders, conversationalists and empaths.
Continued: Mason City schools’ removal of ‘Mohawks’ leaves 27 Iowa high schools with Native-themed mascots
Continued: Opinion: I am an enrolled tribal member who teaches in Iowa on American Indians. Here’s why tribe-related pets should be retired.
In fact, Knowledge Seekers, Community Builders, Empaths, and the like would be perfect names for new mascots.
(Why not human rather than superhuman mascots? When minor league baseball team Beloit SkyCarps, debuting in 2022, moved from the former Snappers franchise, the Supper Clubbers were a runner-up mascot.)
Or why not rush and go more cosmic: Learners; Early adopters; illuminated; polymaths; or – my favorite geek – Pluripotents.
(Whichever new mascots are selected, players, parents, and community members should be prepared to live up to those names. corners of fear of the Other and indifference to the welfare of neighbors out the window.)
We can even be a little more specific.
The Mason City Mohawks, named after the short-lived but forward-thinking Colby Motor Co., could become the favorites. Or in honor of the city’s artistic sons, they could become the architects (Frank Lloyd Wright), the storytellers (Bil Baird) or the composers (Meredith Willson).
Continued: Goodbye, spear and feather in Norwalk: How Iowa high schools are reacting to the national mascot debate
As Willson went from small-town Iowa kid to Oscar nominee and Broadway mega-hit who worked with John Philip Sousa, Charlie Chaplin and George Burns, call the teams the Ups. -and-Comers.
At Spirit Lake, once the site of a clash of civilizations, let the town (with many visitors/tourists) now advertise diplomacy and turn Indians into ambassadors.
Wapello knows – with a hotel listed on the National Register of Historic Places and as a launchpad to natural, archaeological and anthropological sites – the value of hospitality. The Indians could become the innkeepers.
New Hampton calls itself the “City of Expanding Horizons”, so change the Chickasaws to Horizon Surfers.
Or pay homage to Bertha Davison Rice, a New Hampton native who, as an adult in California, led the way in wildflower conservation and refugee relief (San Francisco earthquake) while being at the forefront of responses to urban poverty and socio-economically disadvantaged youth. In a lifetime, she did work analogous to that of John Muir, Herbert Hoover and Jane Addams. Call the teams the Do-Gooders or Leading Edges.
Or be bold and call the teams the Berthas.
Moravia is named after a Central European Slavic religious sect that left sweltering Europe for more welcoming spaces in the United States. Re-equip Moravian Mohawks as problem solvers.
The Sigourney and Keota school districts have precedents for strategic partnerships, especially in athletics, so turn the Sigourney Savages into collaborators.
Forest City is pinned on the map as a hotbed of world-class RV manufacturing. Turn Indians into makers or innovators.
Centerville is the hometown of famous opera star Simon Estes who also teaches and persuades through his music. It seems easy to turn the Red Men into Cultural Diplomats or Golden Voices.
Imagine the Multi-Potential and the Innovators or the Storytellers and the Golden Voices going head-to-head in a championship game.
And then there are the mascot names that we could all hope some high schools would decide to adopt – because they are ideal names of trust, inspiration, integrity and accomplishment. These are the names of that moment, a moment that will forever be etched in our memories and literally in our COVID-tinged cells. These are our highest level champions: caregivers and essential workers.
How electric would it be if some March the New Hampton Essential Workers took on the Wapello Caregivers at Wells Fargo Arena for championship gear?
Patrick Muller is a visual artist living in Hills.