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Can't we all root for Strawberry High?

Now that votes have been cast and political fates sealed, a sweet respite and a question out of left field: Should you really name a high school after a fruit?

Tomorrow, the Hillsborough County School Board considers a moniker for a new east county high school that would honor the area's famed agricultural industry.

Suggestions include "Strawberry Patch High" or pretty much anything with "Strawberry" in it. "Strawberry Crest High" has the biggest backing, and, yes, it's hard to resist the obvious.

What, home of the Fighting Shortcakes?

If the crop were artichokes, the Mighty Hearts, maybe?

But strawberries are a serious business with a long history in what's known as the Winter Strawberry Capital. Ask anyone who has stopped at a roadside stand for sweet berries or shortcake, or talked to growers worrying through a night of winter freeze.

And isn't there something innocent, something Archie and Jughead, High School Musical, Saved by the Bell, about that name? Hard to imagine a gang turf war or big drug bust over at Strawberry High.

Others would prefer a place named for an esteemed person like the late John Iorio, beloved University of South Florida professor and father of Tampa's mayor, a man certainly deserving of accolades.

Tricky business, this naming of schools, stadiums and such. Locales — Largo High, Brandon High — seem safest.

Human honorees are easier once deceased, avoiding any potential embarrassment should a former upstanding citizen get into mischief later on. No one wants a school also known as Inmate No. 16543 High.

Enron Field, anyone?

Some argue that the mascot at a school named for berries need not be a problem, since "Crest" could lend itself to something traditional, like Knights or other creative possibilities.

But maybe it's character building to have a name that's odd, or at least not as fierce as the Vikings, Eagles, Yellow Jackets and Green Devils around here.

Talk about testing your mettle. A high school in Kentucky has the Camels. In Cleveland, I am not making this up, are the Lawyers. Imagine the jokes, if not the potential litigation.

Down at Key West High are the Conchs, which, face it, are big snails that are hard to imagine in battle, though quite tasty in a fritter.

Hillsborough's Sickles High has something called the Gryphons, pronounced Griffins, which sounds like a team of smart, skinny boys in glasses and not all that fearsome, until you consult a dictionary and learn this is actually "a fabulous beast with the head and wings of an eagle and the body of a lion," and who talks smack to that?

Sure, you end up explaining a lot, and for your mascot, you can't just order up a couple of standard gryphon costumes. "But I think it's kind of neat to be unique," says principal Jake Russell.

Tarpon Springs High has its Spongers, a nod to a proud history, though they still get the occasional derisive, "Seriously. A sponge?" from outsiders.

"If you don't know the heritage, it's probably a strange name," says principal Kent Vermeer. "But I know in the community here, it talks very much about the heritage and what Tarpon Springs is all about."

Could strawberries in east Hillsborough be equally sweet?

Can't we all root for Strawberry High? 11/04/08 [Last modified: Friday, November 7, 2008 12:50pm]
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