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This being the slowest sports news time of the year, sports columnists have to be more creative in coming up with topics that can be somewhat informative as well as interesting. A question that was directed to me sometime back by a non-Pea Ridge area person that had to do with the school's mascot, the Blackhawk.

The person asking the question thought that the Pea Ridge Blackhawk was like the mascot for the National Hockey League Chicago team, the Blackhawks. Of course, the Chicago mascot is a Blackhawk with an Indian connotation as opposed to the local animal mascot.

Contrary to popular belief, there was no Blackhawk tribe of native Americans. There existed in the early 1800s, however, a Sauk chief by the name of Black Hawk who fought federal troops after some of his tribal leaders were coaxed into making their mark on some papers that gave the federal government title to Sauk lands. Black Hawk fought heroically and became something of a hero in the press and was finally captured. To dissuade him from continuing the battle, Black Hawk was given a tour of the eastern United States where he saw the vast population of the white American people and the weapons and resources the federal troops had at their disposal. Black Hawk then made known his decision to stop resisting forever because of the futility of it all, but making it clear that he knew his people were wronged and that his cause was a just one.

There was also another Black Hawk Ute Indian war chief who carried on a war with Mormon settlers for several years from the mid-1860s until 1872. This particular war was different as Utah was not a state yet with the territory being ruled by polygamous Mormons. As such, the federal government did not intervene or offer assistance to the Mormons in their battle with Black Hawk and the Indians held their own against the Mormons. When the Mormons renounced polygamy and became a state, the war almost immediately ended.

Back to the question at hand, the Pea Ridge Blackhawk is a type of bird that is called a blackhawk, a particular species. Nearly all black with some white markings on the feathers. As far as I have been able to find out through my research, there is only one other high school in America with the Blackhawk mascot. I found several high schools with Blackhawk mascots but except for Phillipsburg High School in Texas, all the others were named for Indians. I did find two that were Black Hawks (two words). Those were regular Hawks that were black, so you really can't say they were the same as Pea Ridge.

At any rate, it would seem that Pea Ridge has an unusual name for a high school mascot.

There was an Associated Press story out declaring what a journalist thought were the 12 most unusual mascots in America. The teams and their mascots were as follows:

• Astoria (Ohio) Fighting Fishermen,

• Stuart (N.Y.) Thunder Chickens,

• Frankfurt (Ken.) Hot Dogs,

• Columbia Hickman (Mo.) Kewpie Dolls,

• Jordan (Utah) Beetdiggers,

• Lauren Hill (Fla.) Hoboes,

• Watersmeet (Mich.) Nimrods,

• Paoli (Okla.) Pugs,

• Poca (W.Va.) Dots, and

• Midland (Texas) Chemics.

Also among the 12 were the Ozark Hillbillies, a school in northwest Arkansas.

Other schools with, shall we say, entertaining mascots include: The Cobden (Ill.) Appleknockers, the Polo Marcos (Ill.), Frost (Texas) Polar Bears, Grays Harbor Chokers (Wash.), Rocky Fork (Colo.) Meloneers, the Orofino Maniacs (where the Idaho state mental hospital is located), and of course, the Yuma (Ariz.) Criminals who held their first public school in an old penitentiary.

Arkansas has their own unusual names such as the Fordyce Red Bugs, the Prescott Curley Wolves, the Conway Wampus Cats (six legs), and the North Little Rock Charging Wildcats. When North Little Rock consolidated their two high schools, they combined the Chargers from one school and the Wildcats from the other, to get a Wildcat dressed in a suit of armor charging into battle on a horse. Rock and roll fans can appreciate the School for the Deaf Leopards in Little Rock.

The story mentioned that the Ozark school used to be the Bulldogs up until the 1930s when the local school board there decided to change it to Hillbillies. The story also mentioned that the Kewpie doll mascot was adopted because sometime long ago, a teacher placed a Kewpie doll on a basketball mid-court and their team won the game that night. I don't know about the Ozark history but I do believe that the origins of the Kewpie mascot as reported in the article is a lot of hooey. In the first place, I can't imagine any referee anywhere who would allow foreign objects to be left lying on a playing surface that would endanger athletes who could slip or stumble on them.

I used to attend track coach workshops in Columbia, Mo., and someone in my group asked the coach from Hickman how they got such a weird mascot. (Actually they didn't say "weird" but this is a family newspaper.) The Hickman coach explained that the mascot used to be a Tiger, like the university in town. After World War II was over, the anti-war and quite liberal high school faculty demanded that the students come up with a nicer, friendlier, more warm and fuzzy mascot than a tiger. As the story went, the students were incensed at the teacher's demands and chose the stupidest, most insane mascot they could think of. The faculty, however, decided that a Kewpie was better than a Tiger and thus a ridiculous mascot was born. How this other story made it onto the press wires probably has something to do with liberal journalists not wanting to make other liberal fellow travelers look bad in print.

While we have meandered onto the subject of liberal demands with regards to school mascots, we don't have to look outside our state to see the results of that. The Arkansas State Indians became the Arkansas State Red Wolves in 2010 when the NCAA decreed that no NCAA team could participate in any playoffs or championships in sports if they had an Indian or native American mascot.

I know of no official native American organization that had a problem with Arkansas State's mascots or anyone else's for that matter. As a matter of fact, the Seminole tribe of Florida made an appeal to the NCAA that the Florida State Seminoles be left alone as they considered the mascot status a great honor to their tribe. Being part Cherokee myself, I did not have a problem with Indian mascots, anymore that I have with the Fightin' Irish of Notre Dame mascot even though I have quite a bit of Irish blood.

Anyone reading the news much anymore can't help but notice the plethora of people all over the country claiming victim status. The number of people perceiving slights or taking umbrage at the most innocuous of comments has become legion. The theory of micro-aggressive behavior is being taught at major universities, teaching clueless students that people (mostly white people) do and say aggressive, abusive things without even knowing it.

Perhaps living or working in a community like Pea Ridge has become as unusual as the school's mascot. If that is true, it is to the country's detriment.

•••

Editor's note: This column was first published in 2011. John McGee, an award-winning columnist, sports writer and art teacher at Pea Ridge elementary schools, writes a regular sports column for The Times. The opinions expressed are those of the writer. He can be contacted through The Times at [email protected]

Sports on 05/13/2020

Print Headline: What's really in a name?

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