diversity training

One of the best parts of the annual NCAA basketball tournament is its clear manifestation of diversity. Too often too many inaccurately boast of their all-accepting, diverse nature; then they reject the one who does not embrace diversity, meaning the original boaster isn’t as diverse as he or she might believe.

Not true in the madness of March. Each of the 351 Division I men’s basketball teams has an opportunity to make the tournament. It’s a striking, sui generis field…

68 teams fill the benches and brackets. As is typical, we see our share of birds, bears and more.

From the Cardinals of Louisville to a soaring pair of Eagles — with even Golden ones flying from Marquette… not to mention the Hawkeyes and Jayhawks and that team from Temple (although I’m sensing that an Owl doesn’t exactly intimidate one’s opponent all that much). 

Speaking of intimidation, I like Maryland, but few seem fearful of a team named after a turtle.

Bears seem to instill a little more fear in one’s adversary, as I assume Baylor can attest to. Just as formidable, however, are the Bruins and Grizzlies.

The Belmont Bruins are actually represented by “Bruiser the Bruin” — who is not to be outdone by the prowess of VCU’s “Rodney the Ram.” Still more of the furry and fictional will grace the sidelines, noting especially “Kaboom” (the gargoyle), “Pounce” (the blue panther), and “Peter the Anteater” (… yes, I did say “anteater”…). Pete is a popular name, no doubt, also represented via “Pistol Pete” from the state of New Mexico and the muscular “Purdue Pete” from my absolute favorite college in the country.

The “Pistol” is really an Aggie — of which there are two. (What’s an “Aggie,” by the way?)

That pales, I suppose, to the Billikens, another ambiguous name, whose moniker — crazily — is said to have originated from the football coach’s uncanny resemblance to a charm doll 108 years ago.

Let’s not forget, though, man’s best friend and its feline counterpart; the numbers included are impressive. There are four sets of Bulldogs (although only Gardner-Webb’s are Runnin’), a pair of Huskies, and one Wofford Terrier. Then there’s the Queen City’s Bearcats, the resurgence of Phi Slamma Jamma’s Cougars, a pair each of Tigers and Panthers, and four more of the always well-represented Wildcat.

Let’s give a brief shoutout to Abilene Christian’s “Willie the Wildcat.” I love the creativity! Granted, it would be even more fascinating to see a face-off between Buffalo and NKU. We would then witness the sweet, semantic duel between “Victor E. Bull” and “Victor E. Viking.” (Does the “E” in each stand for “epic”?)

There is more of course — the homologous mammals found in the Wolf Pack and Wolverines. Forget not also the Catamounts, Golden Gophers, Badgers, and Bison. 

Then come the Ducks. (Right. Another intimidating sports team.) Please don’t let a Gator near a Duck. 🙂

As with any diverse group, no less, the royal fighters and tough-sounding teams abound. This year we find Spartans, Monarchs, and Cavaliers included, in addition to two sets each of Knights and Gaels. 

The tough-sounding teams always sound tougher when opposed by perceived bad guys. We have two sets of Raiders (only one which is Red), one organized group of Rebels, and one band of Pirates. With all due respect, don’t even get me started on the worthiness of a Devil, regardless of whether it’s Sun(ny) or Blue. No worries. The nice guys still show up, Volunteering from the southeast state of Tennessee. 

Still more teams are a little ambiguous, i.e. the weather-representing Cyclones, the actual color Orange, and then the combination of weather and color found in the men from St. John’s. 

Virginia Tech shares its pride on the hardcourt by depicting what most of their buildings are made from — the Hokie Stone, a limestone common in Southwest Virginia — while Florida State and Oklahoma duly honor their Native American heritage. 

To be truthful, as much as I desire to be inclusive and diverse — I greatly respect them — but I struggle with the athletic nuts from Ohio and the tar, pitch, and turpentine created from the pine forests in North Carolina. There the freedom Flames, too… and the Racers… ah, yes, the Racers. Now there’s a basketball name.

What a great representation of diversity. What a great tournament, too.

May the madness now begin.