April 15, 2024

As the sports editor for the Torch, I am sure most of you will not be surprised to know that I am a huge sports fan. Fandom, for me, has always been a way of building community and representing that community to the outside world. Sports allow us to do this in so many ways, and while team nicknames pale in comparison to the importance of action on the field, they nonetheless are a clear and tangible characterization of the community being represented. That is why I would argue “Tigers” is a bad nickname for Wittenberg’s athletic teams.
First, I feel like I need to address two counter-arguments I am sure this piece will generate. I understand that for a school with as long a tradition in athletics as Wittenberg, for sure branding purposes alone, changing the school’s nickname would be nearly impossible.
Second, I understand that because of the university’s athletic success, many readers have warm association with the name Tigers. That is why I ask you, the reader, to come at this issue with an open mind and willingness to evaluate our school’s athletic nickname in a vacuum.
According to wittenbergtigers.com, the school opted for Tigers after abandoning the schools original nickname, The Fighting Lutherans, based on a photo caption in a newspaper which referred to the football team as the “Tigers of the West.”
This origin story already reveals some problems with the nickname. First of all, we, as school, should not give so much power to someone who writes captions for a newspaper. As someone who writes captions for this paper, I think it unwise to let someone whose primary focus is to grab attention and spell everyone’s name correctly dictate such an important tradition of the school.
This misjudgment aside, the Tigers is a bad nickname of its own merits. The primary problem with the name is that it is far too common. According to mascotdb.com, Tigers is the second most common sports nickname in America (behind only Eagles). Even I, the sports editor for the school’s student newspaper, have to admit that Wittenberg is far from most college sports closest association with the name Tigers, behind the University of Missouri, Clemson and Auburn, to name a few.
Furthermore, Wittenberg is not the only school boasting the nickname even in its own conference! Every year, each Wittenberg team has to play DePauw at least once, and those games shouts of “Go Tigers!” become just noises and sounds with absolutely no meaning at all!
The lack of a unique nickname becomes a problem even more so pronounced when compared to some of the nicknames in our conference. While Tiger fans surely hold a respectful disgust with all Wittenberg’s conference opponents, even the most ardent Tiger supporter has to admit that nicknames like the “Little Giants” or “Big Red” are at the very least unique to the schools they represent.
Apart from lack of originality, there is another persistent problem with the school’s nickname. Wittenberg’s colors are the attractive Red and White (or Cardinal and Cream, as the colors were originally called). Real tigers on the other hand, are not.
While, again, I understand the practical difficulties and I am sure the very suggestion will draw the ire of alumni and athletes who have actually contributed to the success of Wittenberg athletics, unlike me. If I were made dictator of Wittenberg, I would restore the school’s original nickname. The Fighting Lutherans would be unique and reveal something about our school community.

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