East County Sports

Patriots: What’s in a nickname?



By Nick Pellegrino
ECS staff writer

EL CAJON — “What’s in a nickname?” was a 1970s book well-known in the sports industry as source material explaining the history to the mascot for (almost) every collegiate athletics program in the country.

It can be important to know such information.

For example, when the University of Tulsa was a brief member of the Western Athletic Conference, they played a men’s basketball game at Fresno State, which placed the name “Hurricanes”on the Selland Arena scoreboard.

Problem: Tulsa is the “Golden Hurricane” (singular). They politely asked for a quick and easy correction, but the scoreboard operator refused.

During halftime, with the hometown Bulldogs trailing by 20 points to the underdogs from Oklahoma; amazingly, the scoreboard was changed during the intermission to reflect the proper spelling.

Closer to home, supporters of Torrey Pines High were upset when Scripps Ranch opened its doors, taking the same “Falcons” moniker — it often brings distinctions between programs — and similar colors.

In the 1970s, an actual committee of La Jolla students faced the board members of the Grossmont Unio High School District, petitioning the removal of “their” nickname, the Vikings, from the soon-to-be-opened Valhalla.

An equipment manager from Valhalla noted that gear with a logo had already been ordered and it would be expensive to re-do the entire order. Thus, the birth of the nickname “Norsemen” as the only other reasonable alternative for a person wearing a helmet with horns.

Too bad for La Jolla. At the end of the decade, Holtville joined the CIF-San Diego Section from the Southern Section — they have been the Vikings for almost as long as La Jolla (both established in the 1920s) and they were not going to change.

There have also been smaller disputes. Poway wasn’t particularly happy and battled when Eastlake took the Titans label. However, San Ysidro was widely considered “far enough away” from Escondido to escape controversy when coined the “Cougars.”

More recently, lawsuits remain pending on the name change of the high school located in Tierrasanta, as Serra became Canyon Hills — which is it: a canyon or a hill? And isn’t there just one hill?

Among the San Diego Unified schools named for historic figures, why do we use both the first and last name for Patrick Henry, but not for: (Abraham) Lincoln,Herbert (Herbert Clark) Hoover,  (Samuel) Morse, (Will C.) Crawford,and (General Stephen Watts) Kearny — not his nephew, Major General Philip Kearny, Jr.

In the East County, when The Daily Californian (1892-2000) newspaper still existed, there was no problem for “Patriots” since Patrick Henry was considered outside of the circulation areas and thus wasn’t covered, allowing Christian High to reign as the area’s lone Patriots.

However, the ensuing website East County Sports.com, occasionally has problems with its slightly expanded scope of schools among Christian and Patrick Henry.

In the near future, if Liberty Charter in Lemon Grove — and politically approved for relocation to Rancho San Diego — gets bigger, they will have more local contests against league rival Ocean View Christian of Chula Vista — also the Patriots; or some of the league opponents for Foothills Christian included Orange Glen of Escondido, another Patriots.

Should expansion continue, Granite Hills may not be too happy to learn that Gompers Prep, a former middle school, are now the Eagles. meaning no less than eight schools in the San Diego Section hold the same mascot — at least San Pasqual was unique when named the “Golden Eagles” to be different.

Speaking of different, on a rare occasion, school change their mascot.

Did you know that San Diego High was originally the “Hilltoppers”? — guess where the school was located? The original “Old Gray Castle” building was located on top of a hill just south of Balboa Park.

Lincoln was not originally the “Hornets” — they spend one season as the “Presidents” — plural form, even though there was only one Honest Abe.

In North County, why did Santa Fe Christian in ncinitas switch and became yet another boring Eagles when they already possessed a unique, original  name and logo: the Navigators, using a 15th Century wooden ship’s sundail — something originally developed by the Phoenicians (for you historian buffs out there).

In the 21st Century, there is a new high school located south of Fallbrook that cane to our attention because they fielded a baseball team for the first time. The area is Bonsall (originally called Mount Fairview in the 1870s).

Question: How did Bonsall High gain the nickname Legionnaires? Wasn’t that a name of a disease which stuck Philadelphia in 1976?

Closer to home, former Mountain Empire principal Jim Cox, it is reported, was approached by a left-wing group representing Native Americans, claiming the school’s name of Redskins was offensive and racially insensative.

However, Cox didn’t take a liberal or conservative view of the issue, he took a purely fiscal view, stating something like, “If you want it changed, then you pay for it.”

This would included all new uniforms for all sports covering both genders, the re-painting of the gymnasium floor and other facilities (e.g., football stadium scoreboard), with a total cost of more than $20,000.

The group — none of them Native American — left.

To the surprise of Cox, the group returned 18 months later — with money-in-hand … and that’s how Mountain Empire became the RedHawks.

Speaking of Redskins, according to the American Indian International Chamber of Commerce, among all of the high schools on Navajo Nation land in northern Arizona, all of the school nicknames are in both English and “Diné Bizaad” languages.The native language nicknames are all different, but for just more than half of the English nicknames, the schools use “Redskins” as a demonstration of pride.


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