In case you rolled out of bed this morning saying to yourself, “Self, I would like to learn some quirky Arizona trivia today,” I’m here to provide.
First, some background for those unfamiliar with this aspect of American culture: American schools’ athletics programs are intrinsic to the overall school experience. Athletics gives American schools their school spirit, and much of student life revolves around the sports programs, with (American) football traditionally at the heart of it.
The components are the same at every school. In the student body, there are the jocks (athletes) and the cheerleaders (also athletes, charged with the task of motivating the players by generating crowd support).
Then there’s the mascot, the heart of the school’s athletics-driven spirit. My San Jose, California high school mascot was the Ram… we were the Willow Glen Rams, You are Now Entering Ram Country, GO RED AND GOLD!! American schools’ designated colors also boost school spirit by promoting and encouraging unity. WEAR SCHOOL COLORS ON GAME DAY!
The Ram as a mascot is a cool choice, if not a somewhat pedantic one. School mascots are typically animals – the more bad-ass, the better – and the ram does have an air of bad-assery. The mascot doesn’t have to be an animal, though, and neither does it have to be bad-ass. (Scottsdale Community College Artichokes, anyone?)
This brings me to that nugget of Arizona trivia I wanted to share this morning, since I saw something about this yesterday, and I’ve been thinking about it ever since for its historical interest factor:
In 1910, Yuma High School was destroyed by a fire. With no time on their side, the Yuma School District made the pragmatic decision to move the school into the recently-vacated Arizona Territorial Prison. From 1910-1913, Yuma high school classes were held in the old cell blocks, and school assemblies took place in the prison hospital. Aside from this, Yuma High was a normal school with the normal need for a mascot to represent it. Guess what mascot they chose? The most logical one for any high school housed in derelict prison facilities, of course! In 1917, Yuma High School students became “the Criminals,” and to this day, Yuma High School remains the “Proud home of the Criminals.”
This all came to mind yesterday when I found a list of the “10 Worst High School Mascots in Arizona” in the Phoenix New Times. The Yuma High Criminals took the number one spot on the list, its entry complete with the snarky comment, “Yeah, Yuma Rapists and Murderers does sound a little tacky.”
I disagree with the choice of Yuma High for this dubious honor… my feeling about the school’s mascot aligns more with the sentiments in the article from which I’d pulled the Yuma High School history bits related above: Yuma High School’s mascot carries historical significance, and that is a fine thing. The article is here. If you don’t care to read it, at least enjoy this video of the Yuma High School football team’s entrance onto their field a few years ago when they went to battle a rival high school at their homecoming game, because it’s something to see!
Another favor you can do yourself, if you haven’t already, is watch the 2007 re-make of the film 3:10 to Yuma. It’s my second-favorite Western after Tombstone, and it’s pretty well done!