It was the summer of 1991. My tenure at Lake Tapps Elementary School had finally come to an end. I felt that I was becoming a man. I mean come on, I was 11 years old! Heading to middle school, thank you very much. And why was this so significant you ask? Because in middle school… you could play SPORTS!!! That’s right, organized team sports for your school. I knew that my destiny awaited. I was going to be the hero of Dieringer Middle School, I just knew it. I was a solid 4’6" tall weighing in at a massive 71 pounds, without a doubt the smallest kid in school. But you couldn’t tell me that, I had a heart the size of a lion’s, and was ready to attack the preteen sports scene.
I showed up for sixth-grade orientation at the school, beaming with excitement. Rounding a corner in a hallway, I found myself face-to-face with a mural of my soon-to-be mascot. I had expected some sort of menacing warrior, or rabid animal. Something I could be equal parts proud of, and scared of at the same time. But there I stood, staring at a ten foot picture of the symbol I would be representing for the next three years. Arching over the top of the monstrosity, in bright green letters, was its name… "The Fighting Shamrocks." I was staring at an enormous picture of a four leaf clover. Needless to say, I was mortified.
Was I seeing things? Had I eaten too many Cheez-Its that afternoon, and was now hallucinating? A shamrock, really? This must be some sort of sick joke. I was to become a proud piece of foliage? How exactly does a shamrock fight? And what does it fight for? Sunlight? Space on my lawn with the rest of the annoying weeds? My mind frantically searched for an explanation. This cannot be happening to me! I’m supposed to be a wildcat, a pirate, anything besides a marshmallow out of Lucky Charms!!!
Suddenly my brain jumped to another appalling realization, the uniforms. Just how were we supposed to strike fear into the heart of an opponent with a glorified piece of parsley emblazoned on our chests? You might as well put a large scarlet letter "A" on us, for crying out loud. How in God’s name could we be expected to compete for our school with pride, when our mascot was an inanimate object? What genius came up with this monumental embarrassment? And how does one cheer on a shamrock? Have cheerleaders hold up signs spelling out photosynthesis? Chlorophyll, maybe?
Little did I know, every team that donned the green and gold of The Fighting Shamrocks dominated their respective sports. It made sense, really. The disdain for the school’s moniker incited an intensity in the heart of every athlete that was immeasurable. Apparently, the leprechaun luck charm brought with it a spark of tenacity that rivaled little man syndrome and ‘roid rage combined. You going to make fun of our mascot? Well, now you get to go home and explain to your friends that you got your ass handed to you by the Shamrocks! I don’t think we lost a single soccer or baseball game that year.
Unfortunately, Dieringer Middle School was condemned after my sixth-grade year, and a new school was built. I lobbied to keep the same mascot, but the powers that be decided that North Tapps Middle School would be the Bulldogs instead. How boring. Granted, the athletic domination continued, but that little chip on the shoulder began to fade. Lucky for me, it would come right back as we entered high school… Auburn Riverside Ravens? An oversized crow, that will do just fine…