What's in a name?



  I recall having a conversation a few years ago with an area coach regarding the recruitment of one of his basketball players by Purdue University.
  Following an outstanding performance in a high school All-Star game, the player was cornered by a member of the Purdue staff who engaged the youngster with a persuasive argument on the merits of attending the prominent Big Ten school.
  The player's high school coach, knowing the young man was leaning toward commiting to a smaller southern school, pulled him aside and asked if he was fully aware of the opportunity being offered.
  The young man nodded in the affirmative, but then turned to the coach with a puzzled look and said, "I got just one question, Coach...what the heck is a Boilermaker?" He didn't attend Purdue.
  I have asked similar questions numerous times over a lifetime of avidly following prep and college sports. Perhaps some reader can enlighten me regarding the following queries...
  What the heck is a Billiken (St. Louis University), a Chanticleer (Coastal Carolina) or a Catamount (Western Carolina)?
  Is a Power Gull (Endicott College) some sort of seabird on steroids? And what in the world is a Stormy Petrel (Oglethorpe University - Atlanta)?
  I know that the Virginia Tech Hokies are also known as the Gobblers, but are the names synonymous? Is a Hokie just another name for a male turkey? I don't know!
  How could one possibly come up with a non-offensive nickname for the female counterparts of the South Florida University Bulls?
  To borrow from Mr. T, I'd pity the fool who would suggest Cows or Heifers to a physically fit, competetive group of female college athletes.
  Some of the more interesting names in college ball belong to schools with religious or church roots.
  Take the Battlin' Bishops of North Carolina Wesleyan, for example. Reckon those boys try to beat the devil out their opponents every game?
  Wouldn't the Oklahoma Baptist College Prophets have an advantage in knowing ahead of time the plays their opponents are going to run?
  And doesn't the name Demon Deacons (Wake Forest) loosely qualify as some sort of oxymoron? The two words just don't work together very well, do they? Makes me wonder if there might be a Quaker school somewhere known as the Fighting Pacifists.
  Wouldn't it be appropriate if the St. Joseph's College Monks (ME) recruited kids who played for the St. Augustine H.S. Hermits (NJ)?
  Shouldn't the Cal State-Santa Cruz Banana Slugs (affectionately known simply as "the Slugs") meet the College of the Atlantic Black Flies (of Bar Harbor, Maine) in a bowl game sponsored by Black Flag or Orkin Pest Control?
  The Boll Weevils of the University of Arkansas-Monticello might also want a piece of that action.
  How about a very civilized affair between the Centenary College Gentlemen of Shreveport, Louisiana (alma mater of NBA great Robert Parish) and the Lord Jeffs of Amherst College in Massachusetts? Would the Salad Bowl be formal enough?
  The names suggest that perhaps the teams might engage in touch or flag football rather than crude tackling, and the offensive and defensive lines could just stand there and slap each other silly with silk gloves rather than slam each other like common brutes.
  Speaking of brutes, I have run across some names in my time that conjure up images of the rough-and-tumble, smashmouth brand of football most East Tennesseans know and love so well.
  How about the Pittsburg State Gorillas (Pittsburg, Kan.), or the Southeastern Oklahoma State Savages (Durant, Okla.)? You'd have to love those guys!
  I found some other names while browsing the internet that are quite unusual. Some are suggestive of very interesting matchups, cheers, or game situations.
  Wouldn't you like to see the Thief River Falls (Minn.) Prowlers take on the Yuma (Ariz.) Criminals in a high school basketball game? I'd expect to see a lot of stolen passes and more security in the parking lot.
  Similar expectations would be fitting in a contest between the Teaneck (N.J.) Highwaymen and the Rawlins (Wy.) Outlaws, who have a logo of a horse wearing a Zorro mask on their uniforms. Hmm...I thought that was Quickdraw McGraw. Anybody else remember him?
  How much would you bet that the student body of Newcastle High School in Wyoming sings that theme song from "Rawhide" whenever the Dogies run onto the football field?
  How often do think kids in striped engineer caps yell "Wooo, Wooo!" and make chugging noises at Silver Grove (KY) Big Trains high school basketball games?
  Ilinois could be the site of one of the most interesting sounding matchups anywhere in high school sports. Doesn't a clash between the Hoopeston Cornjerkers and the Cobden Appleknockers sound like a good old-fashioned country knockdown dragout?
  Do you suppose the cheerleaders for the Gothic Knights of New Jersey City University look like Wendi Adams and wear black t-shirts to match their black lipstick and nailpolish?
  Wouldn't Lucky Charms be part of the pregame meal when the St. Patrick Leprechauns and St. Mary's/Cathedral Shamrocks get together for a Kansas high school football game?
  Do you think extra medical personnel would be necessary if the Bad Axe (MI) Hatchets ever traveled to play the Ketchum (ID) Cutthroats? Would Lizzie Borden be an appropriate mascot? Kids could just change that old chant around, substitute their opponents' names in place of "mother" and "father" and scare the crap out of parents from other schools.
  Some mascots really are scary, especially to little kids. My daughters would have gone into hysterics when they were little if they had ever encountered the mythical symbol of the Doane-Stuart High School Thunder Chickens of Albany, N.Y.
  A bonafide Thunder Chicken is supposed to be six-and-a-half feet tall and have yellow and orange feathers. They also carry a lightning bolt and play the bagpipes. Sorta scares me.
  There are a few other high school or college mascots which ordinarily wouldn't scare me, like penguins and okra (yes...okra), but the addition of one adjective to each name changes my image of the cute, waddling snowbird and the common garden vegetable into things so uncharacteristic and alien that they are terrifying.
  I never want to encounter any Fighting Okra like they have at Delta State in Mississippi, or be chased by a Screaming Penguin, the likes of which are to be found at Explorations High School in Washington.
  Want to take a guess as to the nicknames of the high school squads from Salem, Mass., and Sleepy Hollow, N.Y.? No trick here. If you guessed Witches and Headless Horsemen, you'd be correct.
  Now try this one. What is the nickname of the teams at the Webb School in Bell Buckle, Tenn.? Would you believe...Feet? And the girls' teams are called the Lady Feet. True...all sadly true. Stinks, doesn't it?
  Here's one of the most unusual names I have ever heard of - the Nathan Hale-Ray High School (Moodus, Conn.) Noises. That is not a misprint...n - o - i - s - e - s ...as in unpleasant sounds.
  The name is inspired by strange, underground rumblings caused by seismic activity in the area, part of the local Indian lore and known as "Moodus noises."
  Knowing the source of the name does little to change a feeling that I have that sitting in the student body section of a gym where the kids are rooting for the Noises might be a sensory experience too overwhelming for a man my age to survive.
  I suspect that sitting in the gyms of the Lakeview (Ore.) Honkers or the Orofino (Idaho) Maniacs might be dang near as unpleasant.
  Wouldn't attending a high school game between the St. Hubert (Penn.) Bambies and the Benson (Neb.) Bunnies leave one feeling all warm and fuzzy? Heck, a guy might even talk his wife into attending one of those games.
  Hmm...with names like Bunnies and Bambies, do you think the cheerleaders might be the special attractions at those schools?
  Well, I think I will abandon the silly conjecture for now and, in the tradition of Paul Harvey, reveal a little more about some of the names mentioned earlier in folly (and one yet to be revealed)...so ....now for "the rest of the story"....
  The Bunnies of Benson, Nebraska actually got their name following a prep football contest which they won back in the 1920s. Seems the opposing coach was upset by the conditions of Benson's homefield, which was full of holes, and remarked that his team had "come down to play Benson, but ended up playing the bunnies."
  A similar sore loser was responsible for tagging the Yuma, Ariz., teams with the name Criminals, expressing his displeasure with their brand of play and wishing to insult them.
  An errant rumor is that the team adopted the nickname because the school, in its early days, held classes in a building formerly used as a territorial prison. Classes were, indeed, held there, but a crybaby coach was the man who christened the Criminals.
  A similar urban (or rural, as the case may be) legend holds that the aforementioned Maniacs of Orofino High received their unflattering nickname because of the school's close proximity to the Idaho State Mental Hospital.
  Not so, says my internet source...the infamous Maniacs, like the Yuma Criminals, earned their label the old fashioned way...they earned it with their seemingly maniacal play on the gridiron.
  The seemingly bloodthirsty moniker bestowed on the Ketchum high kids (the Cutthroats...remember?) was hardly meant to instill as much fear as one might believe. Surely almost any Idaho farmboy could tell you a real cutthroat is...would you believe...a trout. That's right...a fish...probably close kin to a rainbow.
  I will close with this bit of info that I hope will enlighten and humor you...Have you seen that commercial which features various members of a tiny community in Michigan cheering and singing the fight song of their beloved Nimrods?
  That is the actual name of the athletic teams at Watersmeet High School in rural Michigan, and Nimrod fans are genuinely proud of their team AND their colorful moniker...for a nimrod is not a clutzy, unintelligent dolt as teenage slang would suggest.
  A nimrod, my friends, is a mighty hunter, just as was the man by that same name mentioned in the Old Testament of the Bible...and now...as old Paul would say, you know the rest of that story.
  And as to that question "What's in a name?"...I think there's a whole lot more than ol' Shakespeare might have believed. But heck, he never even played football, so what did he know?