What's in a Name?
October 18th, 2006
If you trust that auspicious Web site for NYC high school sports, PSAL.org, you will find that the collective name for many Stuyvesant athletic teams is the Hitmen. If you go by the name of the football team, as most colleges and high schools do, all of our teams would be dubbed the Peglegs, and all athletes would be endowed, for better or for worse, with “Pegleg Pride.” If you dig deeper beneath these arbitrary labels, however, you will find a conglomerate of epithets, a jumble of unrelated team names that follow no set theme or pattern. You jump from the Felines to the Runnin’ Rebels, from the Mathletes to the Furies, the Phoenix to the Chipmunkz, the Penguins to the Pirates. Unlike schools such as Madison High School (the Knights) and Petrides High School (the Panthers), our teams maintain a sporadic naming system, the like of which is largely unseen in New York City.
Is this a bad thing? In some ways it reduces unity between teams. Even teams of the same sport but opposite gender have different names; for instance, the boys’ and girls’ volleyball teams are known, respectively, as the Men of Steel and the Vixens. The positive effect of a single unifying team name could be compared to the idea of our country’s Union; the fifty states are teeming under the all-encompassing name United States of America.
No other school in the city follows our lead, including other specialized high schools. Brooklyn Technical High School operates as the Engineers, and those who compete for Bronx High School of Science simply rear their heads as the Wolverines.
But can we say that this is wrong simply because no other school practices it? It is a question of tradition versus ingenuity, and we are simply on the experimental side. Surely, our system is better than LaGuardia High School’s, that center for visionary creativity, which gives all teams the blanket name of LaGuardia Athletics. Our overabundance of varying team names is merely a refusal to conform, a refusal to commit to one blank-faced word to represent hundreds of athletes. Even our uniforms are all different; we borrow colors from the entire palette and designs from all cultures and mythologies. Perhaps this represents our wariness of anything that is actually uniform or trite.