From grades 7 through 12, I attended a boys’ school called Kingswood. It was in the process, as I graduated, of merging with Oxford, a girls’ school.
Alumni of the school this week received an email inviting comment on a proposed “a new graphic identity for KO — a key part of a wayfinding signage system.” Let us set aside for a moment the question of whether “wayfinding” is a legitimate word in any language other than the Ideo-speak of corporate consultants, as a well as the question of whether a signage system could ever be other than “wayfinding.”
I want to talk about what’s happening to mascots. The mascot of Kingswood-Oxford is a Wyvern, which is a kind of dragon. The look of the Wyvern has always been pretty nonspecific. It doesn’t even always face the same way. But I would say it leans more Puff than Smaug. That’s what it looks like on a kid’s lacrosse jersey. And here it is on a moisture-wicking t-shirt.
Now, get ready for the proposed rebranded Wyvern.
This, alas, is a trend.
The notion that a mascot ought to be fun and friendly is every bit as jeopardized as the subtext: that sports are about play and camaraderie, as opposed to domination and aggression.
Some of KO’s rivals do have more playful mascots. Westminster has a bird with no feet — weird, I know — called a martlet. They make funny videos about Marty the Martlet. Loomis-Chaffee has a pelican partly because a pelican is a long-standing symbol of going-the-extra-mile to nurture. Loomis-Chaffee, like others before them, incorrectly believes that pelicans will feed their own blood to their young. Anyway, more funny videos. I would say that, in terms of its obvious lust to roast your visiting middle school soccer player with flames and then feed on her entrails, the Wyvern is in a class by itself.
But it is, as I said, also a trend. UCONN recently took its friendly, happy husky logo and turned into something that wants to kill Liam Neeson. Maybe college is a little different (although the UCONN switch was not uncontroversial.) Could I suggest that, not merely in the case of KO but in other places where kids play games, there’s really no need to become more menacing?