The Salmon Savages-The Changing of a Mascot

Super Bowl 51 is in the history books and the Patriots won the game in overtime, beating the Falcons. Those patriot’s mascot looks like a Minuteman, those early American colonial soldiers who defied King George and fought for their own sovereignty. They came from behind and soundly beat those Falcons, that mascot, a carnivorous bird who survives by eating flesh torn from animals they’ve captured and killed.

Aren’t mascots cool? Watch the news and find out how many mascots representing numerous groups throughout the United States are being changed. The reasons behind those changes are as numerous as the stories themselves. But most are being changed because they seem offensive to someone.  

So, here’s an interesting story. Right now in my home town up in Idaho, there are a few folks trying to get that school mascot changed. For years, the students in my old high school have been known as the Salmon Savages. The new school principal is a brave individual, putting herself out there in that small town, hoping to push the mascot change through the system.

She said it’s a form of bullying to use a mascot like Savage because someone might be offended, namely the native American Indians. Now I remember quite well my years as a kid growing up in that small town. And I don’t remember whether or not there were any of my Indian friends who felt maligned because of the mascot. Maybe they were, but they never brought it up. In fact they were right there with the rest of us savages, having a good time and trying to live up to our tradition of school spirit.

Many politically correct movements miss the point. Takes high school mascots, for example. Those mascots are fictional objects identified and used to rally the spirit of every student in the school. Yes, they’re made up; they’re make believe. Those monikers are created from common letters of the alphabet, to purvey school and team spirit onto a group of kids who want to be recognized as being from the same school!

All those kids who went to Salmon High School were not literally savages. They could’ve just as easily called themselves the pencil pushers, test takers, math whizzes, or chalkboard cleaners. Imagine the school fight song for the math whizzes!

Could it be, some folks just need to quit being perpetually offended? Some people just seem to constantly look for a reason to be sad about things. They’re crusaders because they constantly look for a fight and want to change the status quo to their own liking.

I’m not suggesting there are not real social issues that need to be addressed. You know what they are–corrupt politicians, sex crimes against the defenseless, illicit drugs distributed in school yards to name just a few.    

But collectively, we should choose our battles wisely. Speaking of sad people, you’ve noticed a lot of organizations creating ‘safe spaces’ for those people who so often feel offended who may not like the school mascot. Some universities of higher learning in the United States have made these safe places just for those students and staff who can’t quite cope with the harshness that learning new concepts creates in the minds of men.

But all those students whether taking refuge in their safe places or facing, head-on the rigors of having their minds stretched, are all known by the same moniker, whether it is a cougar, a tiger, a pirate, or a clown. And some may even proudly wear that moniker on their t-shirts or sweatshirts or hats with pride! That’s the name that brings them all together and gives them a sense of one.  
You know, there are a lot of mascot names out there that are really funky! There’s the Beet Diggers, skeeters, polar bears, wooden shoes, syrupmakers, and unicorns.

How about the Russets, as in Russet potatoes? Guess where that came from? Fellow Idaho natives might know them as kids from Shelley High School! They were tough. A bunch of farm kids.

Some mascots represent a sense of strength or boldness or athleticism or outright craziness. Have you ever heard of the Orofino Maniacs? Or the Crushers, Grey Ghosts, Raiders or Cavemen? Personally, I think I could’ve held my own against the Poca Dots, or the Camas Papermakers? As a Salmon Savage, I can easily imagine terrorizing the Bunnies or the Awesome Blossoms on the football field or the wrestling mat! But I’m not so sure about the Orofino Maniacs. So, who is more brutal and domineering on the basketball court? A Savage or a Maniac?

Truthfully, if I were strolling through a dark alley, I’d take my chances with a Maniac rather than a savage. Because a maniac, even though crazy and unpredictable would be less formidable than a savage during a fight for survival.  A savage might have a knife hidden in his sock or a baseball bat wrapped with barbed wire.

But you know, as a Salmon Savage, we played clean…most of the time! There was one football game we were losing badly. We were playing the Black Panthers.

A great team of hard working, farm kids from Central Idaho. We were losing big time and stinking up the football field. At half time, the coach told us we were a bunch of junk yard dogs and we better go out there and play with pride and reckless abandon!

So, how do junk yard dogs play? Certainly not with finesse and team spirit. Frankly, I don’t know what the coach was thinking. We ended up losing the game. Because really, how can a junkyard dog be good at anything other than eating people or chewing on the ankles of robbers. I guess I didn’t make the connection, so being asked to play like a junkyard dog didn’t work for me. He should’ve said, “Go out there and be more aggressive, relying on all the training you’ve been given in practice. You’re smarter, stronger, and faster than the guys on that other team!” Like I said, our team of junkyard dog, savages lost that game and it was embarrassing–getting beaten by the Black Panthers.  

But in looking back and thinking about it, maybe coach wanted us to be more savage than a savage. And what is more savage than a savage? Well, junkyard dog comes to mind. The life of any coach is full of mystery, doubt and anxiety. Especially the coach of a bunch of savages.

But recognizing the flow of logical thinking on this subject, if the students in your high school are the Savages, does that mean the teachers, principle, and even the school custodians are savages, too?
Of course not! Only the students have the honor of taking on the name of their beloved mascot! So, to that Salmon High School principal who wants the mascot’s name changed to something of her liking, just leave it alone! You’re not a savage! You’re just the intellectual leader of a bunch of savages!


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