What does a Redbird have to do with Basketball?

23 Apr

America is the only place that has mascots for sports teams. Every other country simply has place names or their corporate sponsors, but somehow we have animals (usually) as our sports team names. How did that happen?

The term “mascot” is only 150 years old; like a lot of English terms, we stole it from the French. “Mascotte” is a word that simply means “lucky charm.” Normally, if you had a single team from a place, you’d go with “the Cincinnati baseball team” or the particular neighborhood that you would be from. It was only when sports got professional that things got interesting. The Cincinnati team hired a much of cricketers from England who wore these long red socks which they wore while they played cricket. So they became unofficially known as the Red Socks. Then they got so successful, the Boston team offered their star players more money, and they went to Boston. Hence they became the Red Sox and the Cincinnati team stayed the Reds.

According to Wikipedia, the first mascots in the US came from the interim entertainment that the promoters brought in to kill time between innings. The Chicago team brought in a bear cub–people liked it so much, the Chicago baseball team became the Cubs. The oldest football team was the Chicago Cardinals… because there already a team called the Chicago Maroons, and they bought their old uniforms which…. had faded a bit. So they called it Cardinal red.

This was a pretty popular color at the time. So when Illinois State Normal College (later my alma mater, Illinois State) named their team, they called them the cardinals. However, that word was one character too long to hit the headlines, so they shortened it to “Redbirds.” The name stuck.

With the tradition in place, every sports team decided they had to have a mascot. However, not everyone had the money to really spend on a whole branding effort. So many schools have red and white as their colors because… it was cheaper. If you have a mustang or a bear or a common mascot, the companies that make the merchandise already have those ready. If you want to be the Campbell College Camels… well, it’s going to cost more. (No, I did not make that up.)

So as with many thing, mascots and team colors depend on cost. After all, the American Army went with a standardized blue because it was cheaper than red, which is what George Washington was used to. However, I could be simplifying this concept–do you have a better theory? Let me know in the comments below! And since you’re here, check out one of my books. However, if $1.99 is too steep for your wallet, go ahead and download one of my stories for free. You’ll be glad you did.

One Response to “What does a Redbird have to do with Basketball?”

  1. Studio Arago April 23, 2021 at 8:51 pm #

    Hello Marcus Johnston. I’m intrigued by the name of your site–we live in a region of France that was the last bastion of the Cathars, a folk who subscribed to what was called in those days the Albigensian Heresy and only wanted to be left alone by the world to practice their heresy undisturbed but were hounded literally to death by French kings and their local ass-kissing counts, especially the Counts of Toulouse. We live literally in the shadow of crumbling castles they built in the ultimately unsuccessful effort to be left in peace. Today the Fenouilledes, Fenolheda in Occitan (which is still spoken, and not just by old-timers–we’ve even picked up a few phrases and can sing along to a song or two, if haltingly) is a backwater wine-producing region tucked into a forgotten space between France and Catalonia. The wine’s great, the people are soft-spoken and tough, and we’ve had practically no cases of Covid 19, though are now well-vaccinated (or on the course to being so). DC and I settled in France twenty one years ago in a different Occitan-speaking and Cathar region known as the Haute Vallée of the Aude River, near Quillan and the mountains of Andora. We’ve been in Fenolheda since 2008 and are here for good. All of which leads to this question: I’ve looked all through your site and can’t find a reason for “Albigensia” in your title. Just curious.
    Then I found a list on Albigensia Press of Authors Worth Following and found, well, you know. I’m mighty pleased with this, as you might expect, but also mighty surprised. Thanks for the listing. I hope it leads to some interest in our work here at studio arago (we live on rue Arago, hence the name–François Arago is the region’s most famous native son, having been a world-famous scientist back in the early 19th century and, among other things, sought to answer once of the top scientific questions of the time, whether light was a particle or a wave–or something else–which wasn’t settled for a long time after he died–he also helped survey the line of the meridian across southern France, but that’s another story, him tromping around in the oak and cork forests).
    I will be taking time do delve into your site and writings, but already I’m interested in the titles list of your Press and the way you’re using this to get your work out into the world.
    If you’re interested, you might begin exploring our fictional world on the studio arago site with the Category titled Assumption Street. All of this is in a state of begin reworked, now that we have re-opened studio arago after a period of being closed due to relocating our life to the house here on rue Arago.
    Your site gives me encouragement to proceed with this upgrade of the Assumption Street project and other exciting studio arago activities.
    Best wishes to you. R Young.

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