The Alaska high school football season gets underway tonight, with a full slate of games across the state. While the new season brings promise and hope, it also brings a touch of controversy for an existing team that has been cobbled together from two former rivals.
As reported by the Anchorage Daily News, the two high schools in the state’s capital, Juneau Douglas and Thunder Mountain, consolidated their football programs to field a single team. Doing so provided the needed depth to keep players healthy and competitive while also provided cost savings for the school district. Those are all positive developments.
Yet the new Juneau high school team did present one pressing problem: Which mascot to use. Douglas plays as the Crimson Bears and Thunder Mountain the Falcons. After some crowdsourcing, the two schools decided that the best way to win was to accommodate both schools in a single name: The Thunder Bears.
Everyone was happy, right up to the point when someone (wisely!) decided to consult urbandictionary.com and type in the word Thunderbear. What they found, and what you can find via this link, was not quite family friendly enough to serve as a worthwhile high school football mascot. In a state where roughly 15 percent of the population identifies as Native American, calling a team of high schoolers the Thunderbears was particularly inappropriate.
Is it possible that the crowdsourced Urban Dictionary definition of Thunderbear is a hoax? Sure. But that wasn’t a risk that the combined Juneau student leaders were willing to take, and they’ve back away from the anticipated team nickname.
Thus, the Juneau high school football team, the first of its kind, enters the 2018 season without a mascot. As reported by the Juneau Empire, for now, they are just Juneau.
Perhaps that’s the wisest way forward. It’s impossible for anyone to be offended by a geographic name, and Juneau is now playing under the moniker that represents exactly what it is.
We’ll see how successful the combined team is in its first run out in 2018; the Juneau squad kicks off at Palmer on Saturday.