Okra,rattlers, deacons, and gorloks

David Epps's picture

Growing up In Kingsport, Tenn., I played football for the Redskins of Ross N. Robinson Junior High School.

Well, in the eighth grade I mainly rode the bench. I actually started as an offensive center in the ninth grade. Our crosstown rivals were the Warriors of John Sevier Junior High. We would all meet up at Dobyns-Bennett High School where those who continued to play would join forces as the Indians.

A generation later, my three sons would graduate either from McIntosh High School (the “Chiefs”) or from East Coweta High School (the “Indians”). None of our nicknames were politically correct.

The University of Illinois is known as The Fighting Illini, named after a Native American tribe. The Illini used to have a guy dressed up as a chief, but he was banned because the “chief” was considered to be offensive to someone or the other.

That got me thinking about who it is that gets offended. Notre Dame has The Fighting Irish and one of their logos is a feisty leprechaun. I haven’t noticed that the citizens from the Emerald Isle or their descendants are all bent out of shape about that.

Then there’s the Minnesota Vikings. Where’s the outrage from people of Norse descent? Tennessee is known as the Volunteers. Shouldn’t all volunteers everywhere be offended?

On a personal level, what about the University of Mississippi, known as the Rebels? As the great-great- grandson of Pvt. Alexander Epps, 63rd Tennessee Infantry, Confederate States of America, I take no offense that Ole Miss identifies its teams with the Southern soldiers of so long ago.

For that matter, Western Illinois is known as the Fighting Leathernecks and, as a former non-commissioned officer of Marines, I take no offense at all. Kinda makes me proud, actually.

Nicknames are usually chosen to represent a warrior spirit or a fierceness on the athletic field. The nickname is meant to be a symbol that will strike fear into the hearts of opponents.

Thus, we have the Georgia State Panthers, Georgia Bulldogs, the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets, the Arizona Wildcats, the Florida A & M Rattlers (the snake, not the baby toy), the Lafayette Leopards, the Missouri Tigers, the Bloomfield College Deacons (ask a Baptist preacher how terrifying deacons can truly be), and on it goes.

Of course there are nicknames that seem to inspire no fear at all. Among them are the Fighting Okra of Delta State, the Oregon Tech Hustlin’ Owls, the Providence Friars, the St. Francis (N.Y.) Terriers, the Tufts Jumbos, the Webster Gorloks, the Whittier Poets, the Delaware Tech Roadrunners, the Earlham Hustlin’ Quakers, the Endicott Gulls, the Goshen Maple Leafs, the Oregon Ducks and the Oregon State Beavers.

My brother-in-law played on a college intramural team whose nickname was the Snail Darters.

Sometimes, schools give in to pressure, as happened at the University of West Georgia. In 1933, the school adopted the “Braves” as the team name. In 2006, under pressure from the NCAA, this was changed to The Wolves. I just hope the wolf lobby or the folks from PETA take no offense.

Perhaps the most absurd report of political correctness run amuck was recently found at brand new Corner Canyon High School in Utah. Newnan Columnist Alex McRae reported that the students were offered the chance to vote on their nickname and chose The Cougars.

“No,” said the school principal. “Why?” you ask. Because the principal said that the term “cougar” was demeaning to women. To the uninitiated, “cougar” is a term sometimes applied to older women who date younger men. Think Demi Moore and Ashton Kutcher. I would call the principal a moron but someone representing the moron population would get all hostile.

Maybe all this silliness will pass someday and people will not be so touchy and easily offended. Or maybe the Okra people will feel like their veggie is being demeaned and take their case to court. In the meantime, all I can say is “Go Indians!”

[David Epps is the pastor of the Cathedral of Christ the King, 4881 Hwy. 34 E., Sharpsburg, GA 30277. Services are held Sundays at 8:30 and 10 a.m. (www.ctkcec.org). He is the bishop of the Mid-South Diocese (www.midsouthdiocese.org) and is the mission pastor of Christ the King Fellowship in Champaign, IL. He may be contacted at frepps@ctkcec.org.]