Go, Fight, Swim

October 10, 2007 at 2:13 pm · Filed under Identity / Systems, Signage / Display

Nathan Hale High School Swim Team logo (stencil) by Daniel P. Johnston

Nathan Hale (NH) High School Swim Team logo; spray paint stenciled on paper / 1994

When I got to high school, it wasn’t a very good scene: I was short, fat, slow, uncoordinated and keenly aware of all of these things. I was also overwhelmed by boredom with my classes and mates and hid myself as well as possible so as not to be dragged into the morass of class discussion. So, how does a chunky, nonathletic, awkward guy with an invisible personality play his cards in high school? That’s right, he straps on a Speedo and joins the swim team. I still remember those first steps out of the locker room onto the pool deck as some of the more terrifying of my life.

Somehow, though, over the next few years, I would get in deep with the team. Aside from the year my leg was broken, I swam in every single practice and every meet. I got into incredibly good physical condition (I grew about eight inches from freshman to senior year, but my body weight remained almost the exactly same throughout). I was even voted captain two years in a row, which probably said more about my personality than my swimming prowess, which was okay, but no match for the purebreds.

All this engendered in me a strange new feeling: school pride. Nathan Hale was home to the Raiders and, somewhere along the way, I actually considered myself as such. But if I was a Raider, I wasn’t one of those red-white-and-blue caricatures in skinny pants, piano coats and a funny hats, reduced to hokey cartoons in the halls. That scene was so far removed from the times that a teenager could barely imagine how or why it happened, not to mention understand what it meant. In a way, it seemed that it must have just been a tale meant to fulfill the requisite mascot needs of high schools around the country 200-some years later…

To me, the L.A. (now Oakland) Raiders had the right idea. They embodied the spirit of the Raiders without hearkening. Similarly, the identity I designed for our team showed a stone-cold killer in battle gear (an NH cap). More menacingly than even L.A. could do, our Raider stared you down through anonymous goggles. The black and white stencil allowed for DIY tagging in any territory.

If I was a Raider, I fought for a revolution, alright, but my cause was only in proving toughness. My guns were attached to my shoulders and my battlefield was the pool, and the blood, sweat and tears were all chlorinated.

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