EDGERTON -- It’s safe to say that several Edgerton residents have been following the Minnesota State High School League nickname challenge that has been featured on the organization’s website over the past several weeks.
Perhaps a few of them were disappointed that the Flying Dutchmen did not advance to the semifinals, which include the Blooming Prairie Awesome Blossoms, the Thief River Falls Prowlers, the Moorhead Spuds and the Two Harbors Agates.
But the nickname exercise -- where fans are allowed to choose what they consider to be the best school monikers in Minnesota -- nevertheless highlights the unusual and sometimes location-specific names schools call themselves. Relatively few southwest Minnesota towns were represented in the MSHSL challenge, but there could have been more.
Perhaps there was no real chance that some of the more common names in this corner of the state -- Eagles, Cardinals and Bluejays among them -- were going to be offered as candidates. But there are other good ones. The Adrian Dragons, Pipestone Area Arrows and Mountain Lake Area Wolverines, though we may have learned to become indifferent to them by our familiarity, still are unique among the state’s many other possibilities.
The Flying Dutchmen, at least according to the MSHSL, may be a cut above most of the rest. Certainly, Edgerton is a town where people with Dutch backgrounds are numerous. It has always been the case, and residents are justifiably proud of the nickname.
“I do think that’s a pretty neat name,” said EHS boys basketball coach Doug Van Kley. “And it has a lot to do with our heritage.”
Indeed so. But despite the nickname, the Flying Dutchmen accept athletes and fans of all persuasions, be they Germans, Swedes, Irish, etc., etc.
“You don’t have to be Dutch,” Van Kley said. “But I do imagine that back in the day, it didn’t hurt to be Dutch.”
No doubt. I asked Van Kley if town leaders, or school administrators at least, ever considered applying a loyalty test to athletes who were unable to claim Dutch ancestry. He thought about it for a second, then played along.
“You should have to take some type of pledge, or oath, to be a member of the Dutchmen,” he declared.
But nicknames are fun. Not just high school team nicknames, but nicknames of all sorts. Perhaps the most amazing names of all have existed in professional and town baseball, which of course goes back to the 19th century.
This writer penned a short novel a few years back entitled, “The Old Man in Section 129”, and in it he included a short list of nicknames that would make modern sports fans laugh or cringe, and sometimes both.
Here are some of the actual nicknames of teams: Findlay Natural Gassers, Shenandoah Hungarian Rioters, Canon City Swastikas, Decatur Commies, Omaha Kidnappers, Asheville Moonshiners, Hopewell Powderpuffs, Salem Fairies, Lima Bean Eaters, Memphis Fever Germs, St. Joseph Clay Eaters, Amsterdam Carpet Tacks, Paris Parasites, St. Paul Apostles, Wilson Bugs, Petersburg Goobers and Worcester Worcesters.
Wait, it gets weirder
Imagine, for a moment, if some of those nicknames were still around today. Well, of course, many of them wouldn’t be. And the Swastikas would be the first to go.
Here’s a few more unusual nicknames of minor league ball teams: Beloit Snappers, Albuquerque Isotopes, Omaha Storm Chasers, Lakewood Blue Claws, Brevard County Manatees, Modesto Nuts, Lansing Lugnuts, Richmond Flying Squirrels, Montgomery Biscuits, Lehigh Valley Iron Pigs, Batavia Muckdogs, Hartford Yard Goats, Amarillo Sod Poodles (slang for prairie dogs), Florida Fire Frogs, New Orleans Baby Cakes and Savannah Bananas.
Well, OK. Enough of that.
Back to our little corner of the world, it’s interesting to consider how many nicknames have been lost or changed. Remember the Jasper Quartzsiters? Consider, if you will, the various pairings made with the towns of Heron Lake, Okabena, and sometimes Lakefield, Round Lake and Brewster. We once had the Heron Lake Falcons and the Okabena Blue Hawks. After consolidation/pairing, we at one time had the Scarlet Knights, the Silver Bullets and the Quasars. Heron Lake-Okabena is currently together again as the Wildcats -- certainly a proud nickname, but also certainly not as creative as some of the others.
We cannot guess whether there will be movements to change some of Minnesota’s high school nicknames in the near future. Many of us would agree that it would be a travesty for Moorhead to be forced to abandon their “Spuds.” Unless, of course, you are concerned that the name is offensive to potatoes.
In this age of toppling down old statues and protesting the lives of past U.S. presidents, perhaps it’s only a matter of time before “Flying Dutchmen” will be deemed offensive to somebody, though it certainly isn’t likely to offend the Dutch who live there. We might say, on the other hand, that a good handful of rival teams defeated by the Dutchmen, since their historic 1960 one-class state basketball championship, might be offended by the nickname.
But, of course, that’s just sour grapes.