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September 19, 2000

Another Perry-Blackwell gridiron donnybrook has come and gone. It's our version of the much-hyped OU-OSU Bedlam Series. I don't know when or how so much feeling came to be wrapped up in these high school athletic endeavors, but those games always enliven the season. Whatever the sport-football, wrestling, basketball, baseball, softball, track, golf - you name it - they all bring out the most spirited effort by both schools not only to win, but also to avoid losing. Bragging rights go to the victor along with a claim to the title, "the REAL Maroons."

My friend Mel, the sports editor of this newspaper, attempted to learn last week how long that nickname, Maroons, has been used by both schools. As best I can tell, Perry has never had any other nickname. That much was confirmed to me several times by the late Kenneth Coldiron, who was an authority on many kinds of such trivia. My earliest personal recollections go back to at least 1930 and I know the name was used for Perry teams at that time.

A related question that seems to surface periodically has to do with the meaning of the name, Maroon. I've attempted to answer that on several occasions, so let me toss this out again in case you're still wondering. Webster's New Collegiate Dictionary defines the noun, maroon, as "a variable color averaging a dark red." That's fine, but it doesn't help us understand why athletes would be called by that name. Dig a little deeper. Another Webster's dictionary on my shelf has something else to say about the noun maroon. It comments: "A modification of the Spanish/American word 'Cimarron, or the French word with the same spelling, meaning 'wild, savage'." Now, with that in mind, think of the rampaging Cimarron River at flood stage. The application to an athletic team then seems to make good sense.

It is quite possible that both Perry and Blackwell high schools have always used Maroon as a nickname. Both cities are products of the 1893 Cherokee Outlet land rush, so they are exactly the same age, but still it is peculiar that two schools so close together would take up the same moniker. To the best of my knowledge, the only other team using that name, Maroon, is one of the major Mississippi universities. At one time, when the University of Chicago had a football program, they also were known as the Maroons, and they were the terrors of the Midwest.

This looks like a puzzle that may never really be satisfactorily resolved, so perhaps we should just leave it alone and let our Perry high school representatives earn the right to claim that they are "the REAL Maroons." In my estimation, they will always deserve that title.