Louisiana is renowned worldwide as a locale that has a plethora of blended cultures, colorful characters, artistic endeavors, and distinctive sights and sounds.
The Bayou State is a rich and overflowing gumbo pot whose ingredients include, but are not limited to: Creole and Cajun cuisine and culture, Mardi Gras, voodoo, Jazz music and Zydeco, bombastic politicians, and enough history to fill up the mighty Mississippi River.
Yet, the majority of nicknames for the state’s high school athletic programs are as bland as a Yankee-made étouffée.
You can’t throw a crawfish head in any direction in the state without hitting a school whose mascot is a Tiger. It is the most common nickname in the state and not surprising since the flagship school is LSU. But come on!!! Let’s be more creative.
If it isn’t a Tiger then it is usually some sort of other big cat predator like a Panther or Wildcat or a Cougar. These are OK names but they lack the dynamic nature of the state and do not represent Louisiana.
Shreveport is home to arguably the school with the best logo in the nation and the school with the least imaginative nickname. The Loyola Flyers boast Snoopy flying his famed doghouse – the Sopwith Camel – as the Flying Ace in pursuit of the Red Baron. A former French teacher at the school wrote Charles Schulz in 1966 asking for permission. Schulz not only said yes but provided a print of Snoopy in pursuit of the Red Baron!
Sadly, across town, the Class 5A Southwood Cowboys’ girls teams aren’t called Cowgirls, but Lady Cowboys.
To use a Cajun French term — the lack of imagination when it comes to school mascots is “pas bien.”
Now, that doesn’t mean that there aren’t a handful of really great nicknames out there.
The Leesville Wampus Cat is a mascot that is described as a cat-like creature from American folklore. A made-up creature? That is a feline predator I can cheer on to victory. Alas, calling your home football field the “Wampa Dome” when it lacks a roof, not to mention a dome one at that, lacks imagination.
Mandeville, meanwhile, has the Skippers which projects a salty sea captain ready to take down a whale, which is amazing. St. Edmund has the Fighting Blue Jays with a mascot that wears boxing gloves, while Crowley High is the Gents. One mascot wants to pummel you for 12 rounds while the other wants to beat you in a civilized manner. We need more of that!
It is obvious is that we need more distinctive nicknames and you know what? We just need to look at what the communities that house the schools are known for.
Breaux Bridge holds the Crawfish Festival so why not change the mascots from the Tigers to the Crawfish? I can hear the radio broadcaster utter the phrase “The Breaux Bridge offense just peeled the top off of Cecila’s defense with that touchdown pass.”
You can just keep going with the town’s festivals and use them as new names for the schools. Rayne High can go from the Wolves to the Fightin’ Frogs, Amite High could shift from Tigers to the Oyster Shuckers, while Gueydan can transform from the Bears to the Ducks. I mean Oregon has made that a cool nickname, and Gueydan can start rocking camo uniforms.
We can keep it going.
Port Barre can be transformed from the Red Devils (which isn’t terrible) to the Crushing Cracklins. Natchitoches Central should switch from being the Chiefs to the Meat Pies, while Delcambre can go from Panthers to Savage Shrimpers. Can you imagine the mascot dressed in a bright yellow slicker and throwing a shrimp net on the other mascot? I can and it is amazing.
New Iberia Senior High can go from Yellow Jackets to Cane Cutters, or maybe instead of using the festival, they can rebrand themselves as the Blue Dogs — inspired by the famed Blue Dog paintings of New Iberia painter George Rodrigue.
The possibilities are endless. True, some would be tougher to sell than others. Ponchatoula becoming the Strawberries and Ruston High being known as the Peaches, isn’t exactly inspiring masculinity or intimidation.
No matter what, we have to add a dose of hot sauce to Louisiana’s high school’s mascots. We can’t continue to be this bland.
Raymond Partsch III is the co-host of “RP3, D-Loh & Meche” which is broadcast weekdays (11-1) on ESPN 103.7 Lafayette and 104.1 Lake Charles — Southwest Louisiana’s Sports Station.