The Grays Harbor College Chokers: A Nickname Hard to Live With After Three Wins in Three Seasons

If Seattle is the most miserable sports city in the U.S., what does that make Aberdeen? Its Grays Harbor College basketball team last night lost the 65th of its last 68 games. That's three wins in three years--one each year, in fact: 1-21 this season, 1-22 in each of the previous two. The team won't be at the state community-college championships this week in Yakima (a tournament GHC hasn't won since 1952), where Tacoma CC, 16-0 in league play, is favored. If this is not crushing enough, GHC must endure the catcalls of being nicknamed the Chokers. It sounds like a self-fulfilling prophecy, but it's all a big misunderstanding.

Chain and wire-rope chokers are the tools of the logging industry. They are looped around the end of a log by a lumberman called a choker setter. A pulley line is attached to the choker, and when the slack is taken up, the choker tightens like a noose around the bark. The log can then be dragged from the woods to the log yard by a mechanical winch.

In honor of this dangerous work and the timber industry on which Grays Harbor was built, the Chokers adopted their otherwise-proud nickname. Without explanation, they bravely wear the name on the front of their jerseys, and have come to expect opposing team fans pointing and holding their hands around their necks. They saw a lot of that Saturday in their second-to-last game, losing to Highline by 30 points. Last night was better, losing to South Puget Sound by a mere four.

Charlie Choker.
But on the plus side, the team, like the two before it, has at least one treasured press clipping to post in its locker room each year. This season, after defeating Centralia by one point three weeks ago, the line in the Aberdeen World read "Choker men end skid at 41 games," the editor counting back to the last time the team won, in November 2009, manhandling Northwest Indian College by eight points. In the Centralia Chronicle, the headline said "Trailblazers Fall at Grays Harbor," and began:

Centralia closed the gap a bit in the second half, but couldn't overcome a big night from Grays Harbor's Kevin Stanley in a 74-73 NWAACC West Division men's basketball loss here Saturday. Stanley scored 23 points and hauled in 12 rebounds for the Chokers, who held a 3-point halftime advantage.

Hear hear, that will look quite impressive on the wall. With nary a single Choker pun.

I'm not saying I ever went to school there or anything.

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