On Changing One’s Habits, and a School’s Mascot

Photos by David Laurell
Memorial Field, which is usually a hotbed of activity fueled by New Year’s resolutions during the beginning of January, is now a quiet place.

From the window of my home office, I have a great view of Memorial Field on the campus of John Burroughs High School. For the past 26 years, that view has always given my wife and me a good laugh during the first two weeks of January. That amusement stemmed from the front-row seat we have had to a slice of the human condition.
Beginning on Jan. 1 of each year, to manifest on the resolutions they made the night before, Burbankers would make the track and field on the Burroughs campus one of the most popular places in the city. From the break of dawn on the year’s first day on into the evening, the track became a human traffic jam composed of runners, joggers, fast walkers and sashayers. On the field, even more people claimed a spot to do situps, pushups and all sorts of other forms of calisthenics.

The John Burroughs High School field does not usually look like this during the first few weeks of the new year.

That congregation of well-meaning souls who resolved to drop some weight and get into better shape usually continued to show up over the following day, or two, or three. It was at that point that an interesting dynamic began to take place, the one that gave us the giggles.
By the end of the year’s first week the number of those taking advantage of the school’s athletic facilities usually thinned by half, and by the time the calendar’s pages had fallen to the ninth or 10th day of the month the traffic on both the track and turf had usually returned to where it was on most every day of each year.
This year, due to the pandemic and the closure of school facilities, those hoping to adhere to their resolved physical fitness regimes had to find other venues in which to carry them out, just as my wife and I had to turn to other options for our January entertainment.
As I write this column, and look out over the desolate field and empty track, it is yet another reminder of just how different our lives are today than what they have been during the first days of every other new year. And while it is a change that has been forced upon us, when the day comes that Memorial Field does once again open it will be with a change that the school’s student body made conscientiously. Instead of the Burroughs campus being the Home of the Indians, it will be newly christened as the Home of the … well, some other name.
This past year, asked if they wanted to change the name and mascot of the school’s teams, a majority of the students said they wanted to move forward in a new direction. By a vote of 981 to 559, a process to choose a new name and mascot will soon take place.
As is always the case with change of any kind, passions have been piqued on both sides of this issue and the debate, arguments against and support for the change will continue to rage on social media.
Regardless, as we have heard so many times on the national level over the past few months, “the results of this election have been finalized” and the school is now in need of suggestions for a new identity. And so, with the hope that every Burbanker will feel compelled to weigh in on a new name and mascot, allow me to use this column to put in my two cents.
My thinking is that there may be a few different paths to take in finding a new name, one of which may be to simply pay homage to the name of the field, as the Memorialites, or offer a nod to the school’s namesake, as the Naturalists.
They could also go in the direction of the NFL’s Seattle and Atlanta teams or the Toronto, Baltimore or St. Louis franchises of MLB and go with a bird name. While Burbank doesn’t have an official bird, we do have that legendary flock of parrots who make the rounds from one neighborhood to another and, as I can personally attest, spend a lot of time around Memorial Field. I mean, come on, couldn’t you just see the homecoming game rally signs for the Parrots that would depict a flock of the squawking birds descending on a Bulldog, the mascot of Burroughs’ crosstown rivals at Burbank High School?
Another idea would be to adopt a name that would be a tip of the hat to the school’s most famous alumnus: actor, director and producer Ron Howard. While I can’t believe that anyone would be too thrilled with the selection of the Opies as a name, it would be kind of cool to pay homage to one of his films and be known as the Splashers, Night Shifters or Infernos.
I guess that if a name can’t be agreed upon, the school would always have the option of going the Prince route and simply identify themselves as a symbol. The problem with that is the teams would then be known as “The Burroughs Athletes Formally Known as the Indians,” a moniker that, along with defeating the intent, doesn’t lend itself to any mascot, cheer or rally cry.
If none of those ideas resonates, I have one more suggestion – one that would be my personal choice. Being that Burbank is colloquially known as the Media City, and that Burroughs has carved out a nationwide niche for its media, music and show choir programs, I would propose the name Mediarites.
That name, a play on the word meteorite, would lend itself to both strength and blazing star quality, two things that could make for not just a great name, but all sorts of mascot and logo imagery.
So, there ya have it. I have now done my part in coming up with a new name and mascot. And I know, whether they go with one of my suggestions or something else, I look forward to the day when students, no matter what they are called, once again take to the field and track to live lives of normalcy.
And as for my wife and me: We look forward to next January and the hopeful return of those who always give us a chuckle. Those who will never change their name: the Resolvers.

David Laurell may be reached by email at dlaurell@aol.com or (818) 563-1007.

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