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Team nicknames are all about tradition, insists former Tilden coach

September 18, 2023 Andy Furman
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Tradition. Perhaps the first thing that comes to mind is the opening scene of Fiddler on the Roof.

But, for Jeff Schrier, it’s all about teams – and their nicknames.

His teams. And why not?

Team names are being changed for what some say is political correctness: the Cleveland Guardians from the Indians, and the Washington Commanders from the Redskins.

“It’s going too far,” Schrier told the Eagle. “In fact,” he continued, “I was just told Canarsie High School has gone away from the Chiefs. Soon, Native Americans will be totally forgotten in American society.”

Jeff Schrier taught — and coached — at Tilden High School for more than two decades. Before that, he spent a dozen years at Thomas Jefferson.

“Tilden,” Schrier said, “was split into three mini-schools a few years ago. The three principals, in their infinite wisdom decided to change the team’s name from the Blue Devils. No new name has been selected yet, nor should it be. I am trying to save the name for the school.”

A gargantuan task, for sure.

Schrier says he’s written the following on the Tilden alumni website — and it seems to have churned up a lot of emotions.

“The needless tampering with tradition must stop,” Schrier penned. “LIU Sharks as opposed to Blackbirds? You do not mess with tradition,” he wrote.


“As answered in the play, because it is tradition. Comical, but true.”

Schrier claims that several years ago, the city Department of Education decided that large high schools do not serve its students properly. So, he reasoned, they weeded out the student body as it was and created mini schools within each building.

“Each mini having its own principal, administration and staff,” he said. “So in each building, there are three or four people earning principal’s salaries and so on down the pay scale. Money poured into administration, instead of educational tools.”

And Schrier says a vast majority of the time the principals come from outside of the old school and staff.

“As a result,” he reasoned, “there is no connection to the history or tradition of the old school.”

There’s that word again — tradition.

This just isn’t right, the former coach moaned. “Donations are still solicited from alumni, yet these administrators ignore the history of the building they work at.

“I will use Tilden as an example. The three principals of Tilden have decided to do away with the name of the school’s teams — The Tilden Blue Devils,” he said.

Jeff Schrier, right, and Boston Globe sportswriter Bob Ryan. Photo courtesy of Jeff Schrier

The reason?

A negative connotation was the answer. However, one of the most prestigious universities in the world — Duke University — uses the name Blue Devils for its athletic teams.

Tilden did change its name from Blue Devils about 30 years ago. Some neighborhood people, it has been documented, convinced the principal they were exalting the concept of devil worship.

The then-principal acceded to the demands of the people. For a time, Tilden became the home of the Monarchs.

A few years later, however, the Blue Devils made their return.

“We are the Blue Devils. We should remain the Blue Devils,” Schrier said.

“Because thousands of Tilden alumni are Blue Devils,” he said. “These three principals who have decided on a name change have no connection to Tilden’s past,” is Schrier’s plea.

He adds: “How dare you come into our school and without consideration for or caring about Tilden alumni, even think about changing the name of our teams? That is not your job.”

Schrier says their job is to ensure that our children get as fine an education as those alumni of the past received during their days at Tilden.

What he really is saying is do not mess with tradition.

Andy Furman is a Fox Sports Radio national talk show host. Previously, he was a scholastic sports columnist for the Brooklyn Eagle. He may be reached at: [email protected] Twitter: @AndyFuranFSR

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