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Hutton: What’s in a nickname? A lot

Post-Tribune File Pho Jeffrey D. Nicholls/Post-Tribune  Andrean's miner mascot during January 27 2003 game against Horace Mann Andrean High

Post-Tribune File Photo Jeffrey D. Nicholls/Post-Tribune Andrean's miner mascot during the January 27, 2003 game against Horace Mann at Andrean High School in Merrillville

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Updated: November 23, 2013 6:28AM



I can’t get worked up about the political correctness or the insensitive nature of “Redskins” or “Indians” as a nickname. Both sides are firmly dug in with their opinions and I don’t see movement being imminent.

Washington Redskins owner Daniel Snyder, in a letter to fans, pointed out that the nickname originated because four players and the head coach were Native Americans on the first team.

Snyder referenced the fact that the “Redskins” is how he identifies with the team he grew up watching. People opposed to the nickname rightly point out that “Redskin” is a racial slur and that it’s unacceptable today.

The value of a good nickname is priceless. Quite frankly, it’s not easy to establish something that stands up to the test of time and that is original and appropriate and unique to the community.

To celebrate cleverness and tradition and schools that got it right, I’d like to unveil my top three nicknames for schools in Northwest Indiana.

1. Hobart Brickies

I actually give a slight edge to the 59ers of Andrean for having a better nickname than the Brickies of Hobart but the overall winner goes to Hobart for having the unbeatable nickname/mascot combination. The Brickies nickname derives from the now defunct Brickyard near Deep River Water Park.

A whole football brand, which gave Hobart a national spotlight, was derived from that name. And, of course, the Brickie Bowl, which is now landmark, was one of the greatest places ever for a football game.

The clincher for No. 1 for the Brickies is Yohan, the Bricklayer mascot. According to www.spiritofcompettion.com, Yohan, a Popeye-like figure who wears gold and purple, was developed by a student, George Zupko, in 1942.

The Brickie nickname isn’t perfect. It doesn’t work well with basketball, a sport where you’d rather not be throwing up “Brickies.” The Brickie brand spawned a whole generation of excellence, particularly in football.

There is the famous song/phrase, “All my life I want to be a Brickie, work, work, work” that everyone in Hobart knows. Imagine if their nickname had been Indians or Cowboys. Wouldn’t have the same ring.

2. Andrean 59ers

Without question, the coolest pure nickname in Northwest Indiana. It’s cool because it all fits together, like a jigsaw puzzle. Andrean’s address is 5959 Broadway, the school started in 1959 and, according to Dave Pishkur, the Development Director, he believes 59 was the number on staff when the school opened. Last year, USA Today ran a contest, picking out the best high school mascots and, interestingly and perhaps inappropriately enough, they were selected as one of the top five from Indiana.

Why inappropriate you ask? Because they have no real mascot. Pishkur said they have run through a variety of mascots — a beaver and chipmunk are two that he mentioned — but none have stuck. I don’t see that as an insurmountable problem. They should commission a creative group of students to come up with something that sticks.

3. LaPorte Slicers

Another catchy nickname with a mascot problem. The official mascot for the Slicers is a Bulldog. The Slicer nickname was used because there was a knife factory in town. There is no known relationship between a bulldog, the knife factory and the Slicers — other than they all are part of the LaPorte High School brand.

There are several others that I like: River Forest Ingots (a block of silver, gold or other oblong shape of metal), Renssealer Bombers (not sure of the origin) and the Morton Governors.

The worst nickname, simply because it could apply to just about every school in some ways, is Indians.

That’s why Lake Central should take the opportunity, now that it’s opening a new school and building a field, to rebrand itself with a new nickname.

Northwest Indiana has multiple Wolves (Boone Grove and Michigan City) and Eagles (Bowman and Lake Station) and Warriors (Bishop Noll and Calumet). There are also two sets of Panthers (Griffith and Roosevelt) and two sets of Trojans (Highland and Chesterton).

Snyder should vigorously study the issue of the “Redskins” nickname. Some media outlets have already decided to stop using the term “Redskin.”

From a purely pragmatic standpoint, I’d suggest changing it, but only to something that is unique and generational. That might be as hard as coming up with a mascot for the 59ers.



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