“Team mascots have a history of offending.”
So begins an online story posted by Time magazine on the sometimes controversial choices of organizational mascots, such as for professional football teams or even, as defined by Time, an “inconspicuous elementary school.”
Time offers a well-known example of controversy, of mascots referencing Native Americans, but that debated hasn't heated up in Hillsborough County, where we have both the East Bay Indians and the Chamberlain Chiefs.
While typically a “safe bet” to choose for a mascot “an animal, and not an ethnic group,” that hasn't been the case for the Canyons School District in Draper, UT. That's where school board members rejected the use of the Cougar because, as Time reported in January, they found it “offensive to older women.”
That “Corner Canyon Cougars” is an alliteration that works well didn’t carry much weight with the board. Nor that the Cougar is a common school mascot, as is the Eagle and the Hawk, both of which are used in Hillsborough, at and Armwood high schools, respectively.
Holding more weight with the Utah board, Time reported, is that the term “cougar” has crept into the English vernacular to reference "an older woman who seeks romantic relationships with younger men.”
With that reasoning, we could be having our own issues here at home, where the Cougar is the mascot for both Durant High and Cimino Elementary schools, albeit chosen years before the term came to mean something more than the predator in the wild. (For that, you can thank, in part, the Courteney Cox sitcom, "Cougar Town.")
But those who know the history of those schools probably wouldn’t put up much of a fight.
I don’t know why Ron Frost, the charter principal of Durant, selected the Cougar to represent his school (and if you, the reader, do know the answer, please post it in the comment box below).
But I do know why Cimino ventured down the same path.
The charter principal of that elementary school, Sandra Frost, was married to Ron Frost, and she felt it would be a strong connection to both her husband's legacy and to the concept that an elementary school is in the business of preparing students for the upper grades.
Sadly, both Ron and Sandra Frost died from cancer, shortly after they opened their respective schools, which is why it has become especially poignant that the school that bears their name, Frost Elementary School, is represented by two Cougar cubs.
I still get a bit choked up when I tell this story, which is why I have no problem with the use of the Cougar as a school mascot.
This "older woman" clearly finds it anything but offensive at the local scene. As a tribute to Ron and Sandra Frost, I say, let their memory be eternal.