I’m a big fan of Silverdale Baptist Academy but I suspect somebody didn’t really try hard as they should have when, about 15 years ago, the decision was made to call the now-glowing high school’s sports teams the Seahawks. I’m enough of a purist to think school nicknames ought to mean something. For instance, Tennessee’s Volunteers came as the result of the “volunteer soldiers” from Tennessee fighting so valiantly for Andrew Jackson during the War of 1812.
The “Commodores” of Vanderbilt are because Cornelius Vanderbilt, who gave the money to start the university in Nashville, made a lot of his wealth with his fleet of steamships and his sobriquet back in the day was “Commodore Vanderbilt.” North Carolina’s Tar Heels came about because of all the tar, pitch and turpentine that made the colony famous years before statehood when it became “The Tar and Pitch State.”
Georgia became the “Bulldogs” because the first president in Athens came from Yale – which earlier had lionized the Bulldog -- but “Uga,” whose monument stands mightily in one end zone of Sanford Stadium, has long surpassed the Ivy League hound in lore. The stories of how nicknames were born both in high school and college are wonderful but how Silverdale became the nonsensical Seahawks is beyond my comprehension. Quite simply, there is no such a thing as a seahawk.
Over the weekend there was a picture in the newspaper of a good-looking football player running for his life with Seahawks stamped on the front of his jersey and, by gumbo, it just doesn’t fit. In the first place, the only true Seahawk is a football player who must play in Seattle. If it is a bird you are talking about, experts in ornithology will tell you “seahawk” is no more than a slang word used for an osprey or a lesser-known fowl known as a skua.
There was a Navy patrol boat commissioned in 1917 called the Seahawk but it sank in a hurricane two years later. Errol Flynn, an early movie actor, starred in the movie “The Sea Hawk” in 1940 but my bet is that of the entire student body at Silverdale Baptist, about as many students have actually seen an osprey as have watched the 75-year-old movie in black-and-white.
So in something of a light-hearted exercise, what would happen if we flipped the bird for something far more appropriate? Regretfully, Silverdale is best known as the location of the county workhouse so “Jailers,” or “11-29s,” or “Convicts” hardly conjures up visions of athletic greatness. “Bums,” “Rednecks,” “Dope-heads” and “Gang-bangers” are not only out, those words should actually never be uttered.
Since it is a Christian school, we have “Elders,” or “Deacons” such as Wake Forest, but if we called the team the “Fightin’ Elders” people would think it was a Methodist school. When you think of the “Apostles,” it’s a given the sports writers of today would have fits every Friday night and, besides, that may border on the sacrilege.
The name of Gideon, who famously whipped the Midianites and the Amalekites in the Bible’s book of Judges, actually means “Destroyer,” “Mighty Warrior” and Feller of Trees” in Hebrew yet too many of us associate The Gideons with the Bibles they glorious provide in hotel rooms. Goliath? That won’t do -- the giant turned out to be – quite literally -- the world’s biggest loser. “The Sampsons” would have some appeal if it weren’t for The Simpsons. No, let’s go in a different direction.
Chattanooga is where the first Coca-Cola was ever bottled so, like the Green Bay Packers, we could have the Silverdale Bottlers except for the fact the Silverdale Baptist Bottlers takes on an entirely different and most undesirable connotation in that faith’s circles. We have our famous river but there isn’t much swagger that comes when the Silverdale Catfish step off the bus. The Choo Choos? I don’t like it, either.
There has to be something. When Auburn and Georgia played for the very first time in 1892, legend has it that an old Civil War veteran was there with his pet eagle. The bird had been wounded at Shiloh and the old veteran had nursed it back to health and then kept it for over 30 years. Late in the game, Auburn down by 3 points, the bird broke free and began circling the field.
The Auburn students, sensing a miraculous last-minute drive, stood as one and encouraged the now-bald bird. “War Eagle! War Eagle!” they screamed and the old bird kept circling while the team kept driving. Right as Auburn scored, the bird flopped dead from exhaustion in the same end zone, having given its all for Auburn. That’s how the famous “War Eagle!” cry was born.
Our only hope is that something will happen at Silverdale Baptist, giving the students the gumption to get a better nickname. Mind you, be very careful. In 1981 the then-president of the University of California-Santa Cruz declared the school’s teams would be the “sea lions” but UC-Santa Cruz is a free thinkers’ school and a huge revolt took place. The students got all herbed-up and wanted, of all things, to be known instead as the Banana Slugs, which can be found in Santa Cruz gardens and are indigenous to that part of the state.
The vexed president then decreed he would let only the athletes vote and the Banana Slugs won in a landslide. Today no one can explain the big statue of a sea lion sits proudly in front of the athletic department but everyone knows the largest collection of Grateful Dead memorabilia is on permanent display in the library.
Whoa! It just came to me – the Silverdale Baptist Passats! What’s the greatest thing that has happened up Silverdale way? The Volkswagen Automobile Assembly plant has to be the answer. VW hasn’t announced the name of the new SUJV but, barring trade-mark gobbledygook, this could be a no-brainer. Of course, Volkswagen might not go for it, especially since the image consultants are already working overtime to convince all of VW’s neighbors that the Germans’ love affair with the United Auto Workers union isn’t the same as terminal cancer.
Look at this. With VW quickly spiraling market share, the relationship with Chattanooga’s bicycle community would be enhanced in a high schools sports venue and, if the Germans can get past the fact Silverdale Baptist is a … um, Christian school that most certainly does not run afoul of the Hobby Lobby haters, it would be a boon for sales every time SBA teams played at home or away.
Silverdale would have to make the call … there are better and prettier cars out there but it is surely better than Seahawks because it is a fact one of those has never flown through these parts, unlike a fast little osprey or a bird of the skua species.
Just so Silverdale won’t go into crisis mode, a couple of years ago a writer for the website TotalProSports.com came up with what he felt were the funniest high school nicknames in the country. Silverdale’s Seahawks didn’t make this this but here is who did in descending order:
20. Blooming Prairie Awesome Blossoms (Blooming Prairie, MN)
19. The Arkansas School for the Deaf Leopards (Little Rock, AR)
18. Nathan Bedford Forrest High School Rebels (Jacksonville, FL)
17. The Poca High Dots (Poca, WV)
16. Hooker High School Bulldogs (Hooker, OK)
15. Tillamook Cheesemakers (Tillamook, OR)
14. Frankfort Hot Dogs (Frankfort, IN)
13. Jordan Beetdiggers (Sandy, UT)
12. Williamsport Millionaires (Williamsport, PA)
11. Sidney Lanier Poets (Montgomery, AL)
10. Point Pleasant Big Blacks (Point Pleasant, WV)
9. Mars Fighting Planets (Mars, PA)
8. New Braunfels Unicorns (New Braunfels, TX)
7. New Berlin Pretzels (New Berlin, IL)
6. Laurel Hill Hoboes (Laurel Hill, FL)
5. Centralia Orphans (Centralia, IL)
4. Yuma Criminals (Yuma, AZ)
3. Butternut Midgets (Butternut, WI)
2. Hoopeston Cornjerkers (Hoopeston, IL)
1. Teutopolis Wooden Shoes (Teutopolis, IL)
Again, there is no such a thing as a seahawk.