Ah, ’tis always one of my favorite times of year, regardless of the resulting madness…
As is typical, a plethora of Wildcats, Bulldogs, and birds tend to show up, and once again, they did not disappoint — as included are five of the untamed felines and two of the smooth-haired canines, with fowl flying in from Brooklyn, Creighton, and Kansas.
It amazes me, too, how the more dawdling animals embrace the court (no uptempo offense here). Hence, beware of those sneaky Bisons from both Bucknell and Lipscomb and Bulls from Buffalo, too.
There exist some perennial favorites, such as the Spartans and Dukies. But did you know that this year, there exists a pair of Spartans, with only one inhabiting the State of Michigan — and Duke, well, they are one of two teams hailing from Durham, North Carolina (… go, North Carolina Central, go… another bird, no less).
Can we talk about the Dukies again for a moment?
Years ago, I made a decision not to intentionally support anything associated with some kind of evil. So, sorry, Blue Devil fans; my loyalty is out. (That includes you, too, Arizona State).
Granted, this isn’t exactly a politically correct kind of field — you know the kind? “Politically correct” means we don’t talk honestly and openly about politics, religion, money, or sex. Thankfully, most of those remain missing, but note the faithful following in the Friars from Providence and Quakers from Penn.
We also have some identity politics that made the cut, albeit such a distinction always omits someone. Check out Iona’s Gaels — with a “Gael” equated to anyone of Irish-Gaelic ancestry — and the Seminoles from Tallahassee and Aztecs from San Diego.
We have the men from Syracuse, too, although they are just a color now. Then again, perhaps they find commonality with Alabama, whose crafting of the Crimson moniker came years ago, when the football team found themselves in a sea of red mud, staining their white jerseys crimson.
But lest we get lost in any one team’s individualization, it’s also true that multiple teams come to us in pairs. We have Raiders and Red Raiders, Cougars and Cougars (no women), Aggies and more Aggies (what exactly is an “Aggie” by the way?), the Wolfpack and Wolf Pack, in addition to an untamed Tiger quartet.
Standard animals are also included — especially the ursine crowd of Bearcats, Bruins and Grizzlies, and the lupine-like Panthers and Wolverines. The bear and wolf families will play among the familiar Gators, Retrievers, and Razorbacks, along with the more bovine Longhorns, Rams, and quite vocal Thundering Herd. True, some animals seem a little less intimidating on the hardwood, but we welcome all — we are an equal opportunity fan base — thinking of those small nibbling creatures closer to the order Rodentia, those mighty Jackrabbits and even Horned Frogs.
Unlike the small creatures, some teams are not animals but their names indeed imply speed. Hence, we welcome Murray State’s Racers and the Ramblers from Loyola-Chicago.
I must admit, some names simply don’t make sense to me. Who are they and why do they talk that way about themselves? For example, how many Pirates have you ever seen in South Orange, New Jersey? And what about Stephen F. Austin’s Lumberjacks? Didn’t the “Six Million Dollar Man” retire eons ago?
Let us not omit the more nondescript terminology, recognizing no matter the ambiguity, they are still endearing to a specific, faithful fandom. You go, Bonnies, Hokies, and Tar Heels!
Some have a more regal or rugged role — the Cavaliers, Titans, and Musketeers, for instance. One group from Southeast Florida actually depicts the weather; another is a little nutty from Ohio. Still more openly hope to climb to new heights (see Highlanders, Radford; and Mountaineers, West Virginia).
Note that once again, I learned much this mad time of year…
- Tennessee’s team is called the “Volunteers” — not due to every Tennessean being so stinkin’ selfless, but rather, in somewhat of a disputed account, the nickname is tied to the state’s citizens’ prominent military role during the War of 1812.
- “Sooners” denotes “can-do” individuals, invoking the spirit and enthusiasm of Oklahoma’s pioneer heritage.
- And Wichita State’s “Shockers” was pegged over a century ago, referring to the summer jobs of many of their football players who harvested — or “shocked” — wheat. Their mascot, “WuShock,” is actually a bundle of wheat.
And last but not least, surprisingly, are my beloved Boilermakers, a name originally intended for insult but yet described the burliness and brawn of those mighty men from the banks of the Wabash in Indiana.
What’s in a name?
Let the madness begin.