COLUMN: Catch Mascot Madness

<p>AJ Mazzolini</p>

With the Final Four set in the NCAA Tournament for this upcoming weekend, I bet you thought you’d get a brief escape from the March Madness (Georgetown, no! My bracket!). Luckily, you forgot about Mascot Madness.

Haven’t heard of Mascot Madness? Well I?don’t blame you, I just made it up while waiting for softball coaches to call back and watching Ohio State choke me out of any further relevance in the office bracket pool.

So here’s the gist: I seeded the 16 schools in the East Oregonian’s coverage area by size — roughly — and we’ll let the tournament field play out to decide which school has the best nickname in Eastern Oregon.

The Round 1 matchups:

Hermiston Bulldogs (1) vs. Arlington Honkers (16)

Pendleton Buckaroos (2) vs. Condon/Wheeler Knights (15)

Mac-Hi Pioneers (3) vs. Helix Grizzlies (14)

Umatilla Vikings (4) vs. Ione Cardinals (13)

Riverside Pirates (5) vs. Nixyaawii Golden Eagles (12)

Weston-McEwen TigerScots (6) vs. Echo Cougars (11)

Pilot Rock Rockets (7) vs. Irrigon Knights (10)

Stanfield Tigers (8) vs. Heppner Mustangs (9)

It’s never happened in the Big Dance, but we have our first upset at the top with the No. 16 taking down the No. 1. Honkers has got to be one of the most original nicknames I’ve seen in from Oregon schools. Bulldogs is rather ordinary by comparison. Honkers advance.

Here’s who joins Arlington in the Elite Eight: Buckaroos (very topical); Grizzlies (can’t beat that ferocity); Vikings and Pirates (enough pillaging to go around); TigerScots (speaking of original); Rockets (I see what you did there, Pilot Rock); Mustangs (slightly cooler than Tigers).

Let’s recap and take a look at the next round of matchups:

Mustangs (9) vs. Honkers (16)

Buckaroos (2) vs. Rockets (7)

TigerScots (6) vs. Grizzlies (14)

Vikings (4) vs. Pirates (5)

The Honkers’ unusual-ness can only take them so far, I think. Cinderella’s night is over. Mustangs advance.

Buckaroos or Rockets? I still think Pendleton’s rodeo history carries it onward. Unless there were — at one time or another — real rockets in Pilot Rock. No? Then they misfire here.

I don’t think a TigerScot could beat a Grizzly if they were to meet in a dark alley. But since a TigerScot only truly exists in the imaginations of the people in Athena and the surrounding area, the elusive and mythical beast moves on to the Final Four.

When the Vikings meet the Pirates, which plundering set of scoundrels prevails? It’s a coin flip but the edge goes to the Vikings, if for nothing more than superior facial hair.

On to the Final Four :

Buckaroos (2) vs. Mustangs (9)

Vikings (4) vs. TigerScots (6)

Matchup problems can quickly sink a team’s championship dreams in the tournament. Can you imagine a worse matchup for the Mustangs than the Buckaroos? It would be like the Bulldogs running into the Mount Mission Muzzlers. Can’t help but send the Bucks into the title bout.

Waiting for them there will be the TigerScots. Why? It’s hard to say, maybe I just like upsets.

The final showdown:

Buckaroos (2) vs. TigerScots (6)

I’m judging this matchup based on three categories: toughness, originality and other intangibles.

You want a team’s nickname to strike fear into the hearts of opponents. Now I don’t think TigerScots or Buckaroos quite take it to that level, but there’s no denying that a Buckaroo is tough. I’ve been to Round-Up. Ask any of those poor souls about their injury histories and you’ll be quickly convinced.

Pendleton 1, Weston-McEwen 0.

As far as the state of Oregon goes, you won’t find another TigerScots team on the map. That’s not surprising really. But there is one other Buckaroos squad. Pendleton can thank Class 1A St. Paul for gifting the originality point to the TigerScots.

Pendleton 1, Weston-McEwen 1.

The final category is a bit of a wild card. The story behind the Bucks’ name is obvious and its history would be enough to stand up to most other schools. But the TigerScots’ story is fantastic and bizarre.

When the Weston High School Tigers and the McEwen High School Scotties of Athena joined forces in the 1970s, they opted to avoid choosing a new mascot. In what is either the least creative move in high school mascot naming history or the most creative, the TigerScot was born — some sort of hybrid animal in the same league as the liger. I can’t vote against genetic miracles.

Weston-McEwen 2, Pendleton 1.

There’s plenty of other gems out there — the Billies from Pleasant Hill being my absolute favorite — but as far as Eastern Oregon goes, its’ tough to beat a TigerScot.

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Refute these picks (nicely please?) by contacting AJ?Mazzolini at ajmazzolini@eastoregonian.com or 541-966-0839.

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