Imagine Mick Jagger wearing baggy pants. Or Tom Brady playing hockey instead of football. Or Barack Obama deserting his beloved White Sox to become a Yankees fan.
Can't picture it, right? Somehow, those scenarios don't seem to fit.
On the surface, Marblehead High sports and the moniker "Magicians" don't appear to make for a proper mix, either. As nicknames go, Magicians might as well have been picked out of thin air. It has absolutely nothing to do with Marblehead's place as a seaside town.
But even though some people might think that the Marblehead Seahawks, or Yachtsmen, or Vikings would have a better ring to it, the Magicians have 75 years of history on their side. And the Marblehead football team, which is playing for a Northeastern Conference Small Division championship today against Swampscott (10 a.m.), is embracing that history.
"For a long time, they didn't have an official nickname," said super fan Esso Haines, 79, who was a two-way player for the Marblehead High football team, graduating in 1948. "I have a picture of Trem Robarts from the old days wearing a brown jersey with gold ship wheels on the front.
"The team had various (nicknames) back then — Yachtsmen, Headers and Whippers were some of them. Different sports teams at the school had different names. But that all changed in 1934."
That year, Marblehead coach Charlie McGuinness had himself a football wagon. Led by quarterback Dick Wells, Marblehead was so good, compiling a 8-1-1 mark and outscoring its foes 252-47, that it was offered a $1,000 guarantee to make a trip to Miami, Fla., where it played Edison High.
The Miami newspapers speculated that the "Marblehead grid warriors from rock bound Massachusetts" might get whipped by the heat for their Dec. 8 game. However, Marblehead destroyed Edison, 52-12, while "displaying the most weird and dazzling assortment of plays ever seen on a Florida gridiron," according to the news account.
Wells, who had an 83-yard run among other highlights, was referred to as "Houdini" down south and when the Marblehead players arrived home by boat, they were dubbed the Magicians.
"They had an amazing offense," Haines said of Marblehead. "They would hide the ball and fool people. Officials would blow the whistle inadvertently. They were dumbfounded in Miami; hadn't seen anything like that before. Marblehead went down there with a party of 26 — 23 players, two coaches and a faculty manager. Wells was a fantastic athlete and went on to play at Princeton. But that Magicians nickname (was born) because of that game in 1934, and it has stuck through all these years."
So different and unique
Marblehead might've been a bit fortunate in picking up that nickname; it's so rare and sets it apart from virtually every high school and college athletic program in the country. Minot High School in North Dakota and LeMoyne-Owen College in Memphis have teams named the Magicians, but in a large part of the nation, Marblehead owns it.
The players on this year's Magicians team, which is 8-2 heading into today's Thanksgiving Day game, are very fond of the nickname.
"It's unique and has a lot of history (attached) to it," said linebacker Matt Evans, one of the team captains. "I think we enjoy being called the Magicians. I like it because no other team is called that. There are so many different puns that can come off that."
Another Marblehead captain, Evan Comeau, indicated that the Magicians nickname is much more imaginative than, say, the Big Blue of Swampscott.
"It's just so different," said Comeau. "Salem has the Witches, which is also kind of different, so we kind of have a nickname rivalry. I'll take it (over the Big Blue). We also have some trick plays, so it kind of fits us."
Bob Roland was a Marblehead High coach who never bought into the idea of the Magicians. The long-time hockey coach, who was on the eccentric side, insisted that his team be called the Headers. He might not have minded that other Marblehead teams called themselves Magicians, but he wanted his teams to be different.
"The hockey team still likes to be called the Headers," said Alex Kulevich, who coached the football team from 1970-80 and was the Marblehead athletic director until 2000. "Bobby Jackson (current Marblehead hockey coach) played for Roland, and he's used to the Headers.
"Basically, I think the Magicians became synonymous with the football team after what happened in 1934. It just stuck. When I was there, we wanted it to be uniform with all the Marblehead teams being called the Magicians, but it wasn't (mandatory). But I really like the Magicians because it's so unique."
Former football official Carl Siegel, 76, who has followed Marblehead's gridiron fortunes for half a century, would like to see the Magicians moniker belong strictly to the football team. Then again, he realizes that it would cause considerable confusion if other nicknames were affiliated with Marblehead.
"Bobby Roland went with the Headers, and that's fine with me," said Siegel. "To me, the football team picked up (Magicians) a long time ago, and they should be the only team with that name. I've been saying that to (athletic director) Mike Plansky — that the other teams would be better off with the Headers or anything else. I know it would be tough to do it that way, but if you go back into history, it should just be the football team.
"This year's team, they're the new Magicians. I run the clock at the games and I just see these kids improve every week."
Don't mess with history
Plansky said he's received suggestions such as Red Storm and the Militia from his coaches for different Marblehead teams. For sure, those are uncommon nicknames, but in his estimation they don't measure up to the Magicians.
"It's hard to mess with 75 years of history," said Plansky. "The fact that it has stuck this long kind of tells you that it's a good fit.
"The great thing about it is that there was a certain talent level (on the football team) 75 years ago and now there's a similar talent level. It came from the ability to compete at the highest level back then, and that's what this team has been doing (in the NEC). And it's appropriate to revisit where the Magicians name came from this season."
Head football coach Jim Rudloff has become the unofficial custodian of the Magicians nickname and takes that role very seriously. The defensive coordinator at Marblehead from 2001-04 and then an assistant at Beverly High for four seasons before getting the top job at Marblehead, Rudloff was sort of mystified by the whole Magicians thing until Haines clued him in.
Now, he says, the objective is to build a program that is worthy of the nickname for a long time to come.
"When I first got here and saw the Magicians emblem, I thought it was a strange and eerie thing," said Rudloff. "I wasn't the biggest fan. But then I met Esso and he told me what it was all about and I thought, really, there's a good story behind it. It wasn't just an M word to go with Marblehead.
"But to have a great nickname like that, I think you have to back it up. If you have a losing team and you're the Magicians, you leave yourself open to some potshots, but if you're a winning team, it's a heck of a name."
No matter what happens today against the Big Blue of Swampscott, they'll still be the Magicians. And they're proud of it.