Tag Archives: sports

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.

Someone Has to Be Dead Last

11 Apr

I got an unusual email at work: turned out I was dead last in my company’s March Madness contest. Now, not really a fan of college basketball, this was not surprising, but the randomness of this particular set of games is fascinating.

The NCAA Tournament is probably one of the strangest events on the calendar year; last year, the whole COVID thing shut it down, so it seemed extra important to get it back up as one of those signs of normalcy. Every year, I catch maybe one or two of those games, and remember to watch my bracket get busted every weekend. It’s fun, but despite the analysis that goes into seeds, the secretary who pays zero attention to the games is more likely to win, because the randomness of the contest makes it impossible to predict.

This year was particularly strange, because the seeds turned out to be dead wrong. Normally, the selection committee has enough games to watch to get a pretty good idea of who has a stronger team than most . Sure, one or two teams upset the expected rivals, but the last several tournaments, it was safer to “play chalk,” or just pick the higher seeded team.

Not this year… A 16 seed knocked off a 1 seed right away and an 11-seed (UCLA) went to the Final Four! I mean… Abilene Christian? Who saw those guys upsetting so many teams? Since I barely pay attention to college ball, this was one of those strange confluence of experiences. So many games had been cancelled this year due to COVID that the selection committee did NOT have its normal history of games to draw from. Without that history, the seeds were poorly chosen, and everyone’s brackets got busted immediately.

So when I fill out two brackets, one sensible, the other wacky, and both go nowhere… I’m honestly not surprised that I’m in last place. But on the plus side, that means I didn’t have to pay the entrance fee, so… yea?

The randomness of the event is what makes it great, but as I said, I don’t have much skin in the games. Have you followed the games and been surprised? Let me know in the comments below! And if you managed to win some money, why not buy one of my books. However, if you didn’t make $1.99, go ahead and download one of my stories for free. It’s not a bad consolation prize. 🙂

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