Where's the swagger in Strawberry Crest?

Strawberry Crest.

That's one of the names being considered for a high school under construction near McIntosh Road and Interstate 4 in Dover. I told a friend of mine the suggested label and she said, "I love it. It sounds sweet."

That's the problem.

I understand the group of longtime growers, headed by former School Board member Joe Newsome, want something that speaks to the area's strawberry heritage because they provided part of the land. From an education standpoint, it would be a fine name, and education is a school's primary mission.

From a sports perspective, however, I'm afraid Strawberry Crest could doom the school's athletic teams to abject failure. How can players take the field with any kind of swagger with the name Strawberry Crest emblazoned on their jerseys?

How are players going to engage in trash talking? USF fans can boast, "Mess with the Bulls, and you get the horns." So the students at the new high school will say, "Mess with the Straw, and you get the Berries?"

Strawberry Crest? Who's going to be the mascot, Strawberry Shortcake?

Thanks to the sci-fi world, we know "killer tomatoes" can do damage, but I've never heard of a killer strawberry. A monster strawberry? A super strawberry? C'mon, a strawberry couldn't hurt anybody. Strawberries are our friends. We love strawberries.

I hear the words "Strawberry Crest" and I want to grab a can of Reddi-wip. No, I want go skip through a field on a bright sunny day.

But it doesn't make me want to go out and play smash-mouth football.

Think of the headlines:

Strawberry Crest Gets Devoured … Again

Hillsborough Feasts On Strawberry Crest.

It's not just the Strawberry that has me worried. It's the "Crest" part of the name. I think it sounds too much like "crust," which takes us back to being devoured.

One of the definitions of crest is ridge — so if we're definitely going with "Strawberry," I think I like Strawberry Ridge better. This lends itself to bolder proclamations like, "Don't Come On The Ridge Looking For An Easy Game." But that name is already taken by a mobile-home community for seniors in Valrico.

You also need the right nickname.

A school called strawberry can't be likened to pies, milkshakes or cheesecake — no matter how tempting. How about the Strawberry Ridge Raptors? I'm sure nearby Dinosaur World will lend a replica to put in front of the school.

The other primary name being considered for the school is Griffin, as in O.M. Griffin, who provided the other part of the land and was a pioneering farmer and one of the Strawberry Festival founders.

Griffin is okay, but to truly strike fear into the hearts of opponents, it also has to be coupled with the right nickname. The Griffin Ghosts? Anybody who has been out there at night has to admit it gets pretty spooky. The Griffin Growers? Don't laugh. I know some growers who'll pick up a gardening hoe and kick your butt.

Or how about the Griffin Moccasins? Now that's a name you can take into the battle.

The deadline for submitting suggestions to the school district is Oct. 15, and the School Board will tentatively vote on the name Nov. 6. They will consider plenty of community input and probably choose a name that best reflects the interest of those who will be most closely associated with the school. By the way, my kids could end up at the school, so I don't enter this conversation as a bystander.

In the end, since we're talking about a school and not a game, I doubt the board will consider the potential impact the name could have on athletics.

But ask yourself this: Do you want something sweet or something intimidating?

That's all I'm saying.

Ernest Hooper also writes a column for the Tampa Bay section. Reach him at hooper@sptimes.com or 226-3406.

Where's the swagger in Strawberry Crest? 10/02/08 [Last modified: Monday, October 6, 2008 2:05pm]

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