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Doug Robinson: 'Cougars' is offensive? Who knew?

Published: Tuesday, Jan. 24 2012 12:00 a.m. MST

DRAPER — Uh-oh, here we go again. Did you hear the latest silliness coming out of the Canyons School District? School board officials decided that the nickname selected by students for the new Corner Canyon High School is offensive.

The offending nickname? Cougars.

As in Brigham Young University Cougars.

As in Kearns High Cougars.

As in Washington State Cougars.

According to the Department of People Who Take Themselves Too Seriously, the school board determined that "Cougars" is offensive — to middle-age women.

"Cougar," if you haven't heard, is a slang term for a middle-age woman who pursues romance (or whatever) with young men. That probably never even occurs to you when you hear Bronco Mendenhall discuss the Cougars in one of his sleepy interviews. Apparently, it occurs to the people who serve on the school board, which should be embarrassing.

I quote Mark Twain: "In the first place, God made idiots. This was for practice. Then, he made school boards."

What do you expect from a school district that last summer forced Alta High to change the name of its annual intrasquad football game — known for three decades as "The Black and White game" (home jerseys are black, away jerseys are white) — because it was racially insensitive? Memo to Utes: The Red and White game is next.

There's a pretty good chance these people are trying too hard to justify their existence. They've got their antennae raised 24/7, probing the world for potential offense.

District flak Jennifer Cook explained it this way, apparently with a straight face: " If there's something out there that could divide (the school), let's not go there."

And if there's something out there that could make the district a complete laughingstock, let's not do that, either. The district's decision made national and international news for this idiocy.

The district originally solicited input on a nickname from 4,300 Draper school kids. Cougars received 273 votes, Diamondbacks 180, Falcons 171, Raptors 141.

The school board selected "Charger" instead.

Sheesh, why did they ask?

One clarification: Some media reported that the new name is "Chargers;" the district website calls it the "Charger." Great, the school won't even open until 2013 and there's already confusion about the name. It can't be a good thing if you have to explain the name.

What is a Charger, you're wondering? Something for a battery? Nope. Someone with a credit card? Nope. A Dodge? Nope.

A horse.

This was news to me, too.

"I like the alliteration; I like the appeal," said Canyons School Board member Kevin Cromar.

Actually, Kevin, Corner Canyon Cougars is alliteration; Corner Canyon Charger is not.

According to various Internet websites, "Cougars" is one of the nation's most popular nicknames for sports teams. Wikipedia listed the top 12, in order, as Eagles, Tigers, Bulldogs, Panthers, Knights, Lions, Bears, Hawks, Cougars (a.k.a. Middle-age Women), Pioneers, Warriors and Wildcats.

But in Utah "Cougar" is considered "offensive."

In this ever-sensitive world, where mere words can make frightened idiots out of grown men and women, there might not be much left for nicknames. Imagine if members of the Canyons School Board put their minds to work on other nicknames.

Vikings — Norse descendants might take a dim view of portraying Vikings as savages pillaging villages and stealing the spoils.

Vandals — Law enforcement could be upset that thieves are being cheered. What next, the Fargo Felons? The Muncie Murderers?

Cowboys — Let's see, cowboys shot Indians, sooooo … Women are upset too — what about cowgirls? School board suggests new name: Dallas Cowpersons.

Fighting Irish — Irish could be upset about the portrayal of them as intemperate brawlers.

Celtics — The Celts might take offense for being represented by a mascot who looks like he escaped from a box of Lucky Charms.

Angels — Religious overtones; we can't have that.

Sun Devils/Red Devils/Blue Devils — Satanic worship?

Yankees/Runnin' Rebels — What are we trying to do, incite another Civil War?

Bulldogs — Do we really want the lady's team being referred to as dogs?

Indians — Right, and their cross-town rivals are the Caucasians?

Giants — What, and risk offending the vertically challenged?

Chargers — On second thought, the board decides it shouldn't glorify people who habitually ring up debt on their credit card? Or perhaps it could be perceived as some sort of swipe — pardon the pun — against them?

The Charger "is entirely appropriate," said Canyons board member Paul McCarty. "The horse has been a prominent animal in Draper."

So has the cougar — the cat, that is, not the woman.

Doug Robinson is a long-time coach at Alta High School in the Canyons School District.

Email: drob@desnews.com

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