What Rough Beast?

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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.


newwyv I know! What could be more welcoming, more suggestive of fun and sportsmanship? Bear in mind that KO now accepts even 6th graders,so this would be their symbol, this murderous spawn of hell.

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?


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