The Oberlin Yeomen. The Oberlin Yeowomen. The Yeostickers. The Yeolaxers. The Yeo-everything's. The name has been a point of some minor contention in the athletic department, among coaches, fans and players for some time.
The most recent foray into the possible renaming of the Yeomen has come in the form of the "Crimson Thunder." Admittedly Yeomen is a pretty lame symbol for a college sports team, for that matter, any team. And admittedly, Crimson Thunder does sum up two of the more prevalent parts of the college, namely the school's color and the school's weather. However, that is where the "pro" column ends.
"Yeomen" is obviously not infallible either. The symbol of the Yeoman, is defined as 1: an attendant or officer in a royal or noble household 2: a naval petty officer who performs clerical duties 3: a person who owns and cultivates a small farm. This somehow falls a little short in grasping the essence of the school.
The last time someone suggested ditching the "petty officers" as a symbol was in the spring of 1994. Then men's soccer coach Fred Shultz jokingly made suggestions including "Vegetarians, Freedom Fighters and Plum Riders" as alternative names hoping they would inspire discussion to create a name which serve to both accurately describe the college teams and inject some excitement around the athletic departments. This led to many more names thrown into the mix in the form of a cartoon the following week, sporting such possibilities as the Oberlin Swamp Gas, the Oberlin Gin and Tonics, the Oberlin Fireballs, the Oberlin Universe-Controllers, even the Oberlin-can-I-pay-for-those-Birkenstocks-with-my-credit-cards. Surprisingly, none of those caught on very well either.
Recreating the school's sporting mascot is not the easiest decision in the world either, particularly in attempting to reach a decision which represents a diverse atmosphere. Out in the real world, there have been a lot of moves within the realms of names and appearances for college and professional sports that have a lot to be desired. Everyone can probably rest without worrying about Oberlin's colors suddenly becoming silver and black, no time in the foreseeable future will Yeomen/Crimson Thunder Starter jackets pop up in Foot Lockers across the country.
But there are many many names out there to choose from, and when the starting point lies between Yeomen and Crimson Thunder, nearly any decision will be an improvement. If anyone is looking for advice, they might even try some of the numerous non-varsity sports. Some of the other Oberlin teams have taken names about as far from yeo-fill-in-the-blank as possible.
Take the women's rugby team, the Rhino Ruggers for example. Sure, it's slightly abstract, but it's got nifty alliteration and it captures the whole elegant violence motif. Or the Oberlin Plague, the club ice hockey team. It sounds cool, and although it is hard to find any kind of physical mascot for a plague without possible legal repercussion from fans, they get to use phrases like, "Catch the Plague."
Then there are the truly abstract reaches of the spectrum exemplified in the Ultimate Frisbee names. The women's team, the Praying Manti are one of the few teams which come to mind which use insects as mascots. And Flying Horsecows, well there's nothing that will make people ask, "What the hell is that thing?" faster than the image of a Flying Horsecow.
In the grander scheme of things, whether the teams are the Crimson Yeomen, or Scarlet Soldiers of Doom matters way less than whether or not they win and/or enjoy themselves. Still, a lot lies in a name. Not to say that if the school was the Yeohorsecows all of a sudden the bleachers would be full and other schools would fear coming to Oberlin because of home field advantages, but the way a team is addressed has some kind of effect on the way they are.
Maybe a best of both worlds approach would work. The Yeothunder. The Crimson Yeomen. The Rolling Thunder. The Oberlin Rolling Rock. Crimson Tide. The possibilities are endless.
Copyright © 1996, The Oberlin Review.
Volume 125, Number 2; September 13, 1996
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