"You'll never get ahead if you don't take care of what you have." - Doris Waddell, RIP

A historic building on our U of M-Morris campus - morris mn

A historic building on our U of M-Morris campus - morris mn
The multi-ethnic building was the original home of the music department at UMM. (B.W. photo)

Friday, December 10, 2010

What's in a name? Let's analyze, for schools

What is MAHACA? Are we supposed to pronounce it like a word? It reminds me of the word that got Republican politician George Allen in trouble and paved the way for James Webb to get elected.
Anyway, MAHACA are the initials that denote the wrestling program that represents Morris. I assume it's headquartered in Morris although I'm not Mr. Almanac when it comes to all this.
Education today is highly fluid with kids moving around for both educational and sports purposes. That's good and it's probably also necessity.
When it comes to presenting sports to the public, though, you should use terminology and communicate in a way that Mr. Average Citizen can grasp.
Marketing? Well, if you're charging admission for something you're marketing. You're getting money put in the coffers. So the point I'm making, is that maybe our school leaders in Minnesota should make a new resolution to simplify terminology.
For example, no more MACCRAY.
We are into the new winter sports season now, and I find it cumbersome to refer to our basketball teams as "Morris Area Chokio Alberta."
We have the wrestling example that I cited at the start here.
My source for the names I cite here, is the Pheasant Country Sports website. I learn there that the swim program is referred to as "Morris Area Minnewaska Area."
The gymnastics program is titled just "Morris Area." Maybe that's an error. Or maybe so many towns got involved, it got ridiculous. If that's the case, congratulations on having the light bulb go on over your head.
The central point I'm making is that names of schools should be snappy, logical and convenient. The only problem is that some toes would have to be stepped on.
A lot of the elongated or ungainly names came about because of political sops. Entities that represent combos of separately named communities have to be oh so careful. At least, this is the way it has been up to now.
I don't think the emotions associated with identity issues are as strong as they used to be. I think if all of the home basketball games are going to be played in Morris, the programs could just be called "Morris."
How about that? "The Morris Tigers." Just like it used to be.
It's understood that the Morris programs accommodate some families outside of District #769. People in the immediate area would fully understand this.
As for people not in our area, why confuse them with an awkward construction: "Morris Area Chokio Alberta?" It doesn't roll off the tongue, does it.
And why is the word "Area" curiously inserted in the middle? Well, locally we know why - because District #769 goes by the "Area" name while C-A is still on its own (albeit with some pretty strong challenges, I assume). It almost seems redundant, though.
If the Morris school deems it proper to use the word "Area," maybe that goes far enough. Chokio and Alberta are in the Morris area (small "a"). Again, everyone in the immediate area knows all about the Chokio and Alberta communities, and Herman and Cyrus etc. We love all of them.
Non-local people really aren't going to care how these sports teams are referred to. People in the Twin Cities who check outstate ("greater Minnesota") sports reports are done no favor when they have to sift through names like MACCRAY.
It has been said that the people who populate the Twin Cities came from outstate. It would be nice if they could stay connected through a naming system that registers with them, rather than names that might be of places on Mars.
Maybe at the state level, a policy should be encouraged of having schools be named for the town where the high school is located.
Don't pussy-foot around and be afraid to offend people. I have found that these emotions can be hot but for only a short time. People are happy to "move on" in due time.
There is always one generation of parents that might cry bloody murder, but I have found through years of being close to school activities that one generation gives way to the next, and the departed generations sever their ties pretty quickly.
"Oh, I don't get up to the school much anymore since my kids graduated" etc.
The current generation is attuned to the present. And I don't blame them. The only people who might complain about that are sports coaches who took a team to state, say, five years ago and who find that the current "crop" of parents couldn't care less. They just want results now!
I've seen this phenomenon firsthand. Ah, humanity.
I think it's presumptuous for the high school in Barrett to be known as "West Central Area." There are a lot of communities in West Central Minnesota and the school with that name has no special status relative to the others. According to my suggested policy, the school would become known as Barrett High School.
An outrage for the other towns involved? No need to fuss, it's just a school name.
I was inspired to write this post by confusion that has surfaced with online prep sports reporting platforms. These platforms have a lot of potential for providing a great PR service on behalf of prep sports. But all the consolidation, pairing and naming issues, fluctuating from one season to the next, give them a real challenge.
I notice that Maxpreps has a page set up for "Chokio-Alberta Morris Spartans" boys basketball. And, a Morris coach informs me that the "Minnesota Basketball Hub" website has the Tiger boys playing in the Pheasant Conference. It's supposed to be West Central of course.
That coach and I have both sent emails trying to get these situations straightened out.
Notice that I used the term "Tiger boys." That's because I didn't want to bother with "Morris Area Chokio Alberta." I'd really just like to say "Morris boys basketball." OK, "Morris Area boys basketball." Ditto with the girls.
Has the time come when we could make a change like this without too much fur flying? Even if a little fur flew, my educated opinion is that it wouldn't last long. I think we'd all breathe a sigh of relief.
Town identity issues aren't what they used to be. The communications revolution has opened up vistas that leave us feeling far less confined. Many of the key businesses in our small towns are owned by, or have their strings pulled by, entitites whose offices are located far away, where the people couldn't care less about town names (beyond their utility).
Really, being concerned about town identity issues is so 20th Century.
Please, let's retire the MAHACA initials for Tiger wrestling. I can't even state for sure what the initials all stand for, although I could guess. If someone like me can get confused - someone who pays more attention to sports than most - heaven help the general public.
We're just playing games with these politically contrived constructions. Let's get over it!
What's in a name? Let's take a closer look as we answer that question. A school or team name shouldn't be an "inside" thing.
Where is BOLD High School? Wherever it is, let's name it after that town etc.
In "the old days" i.e. when I was young, there was a very popular bumper sticker that read "Where the h-- is Bird Island?" (Dashes weren't used.)
Today I'd like to ask "Where the h-- is BOLD?" I'd happen to know, but there are a lot of people who wouldn't. Let's help them out. Ditto for MACCRAY and other such unwieldy names.
(Footnote: Locally customized bumper stickers and T-shirts were a novelty when I was young but they are ubiquitous today. Cyrus did a copycat thing with the bumper sticker but they used "heck" instead of the more raw word.)
-Brian Williams - morris mn Minnesota - bwilly73@yahoo.com

No comments:

Post a Comment