Judy Spooner Viewpoint: Blue devils, tar heels, shockers and wildcats, oh my!When I discussed my NCAA tournament bracket selections with others, I discovered that bias about teams, more than team records, can explain why brackets go south after the first week.
By: Judy Spooner, South Washington County Bulletin
By the time you read this, the first two rounds of the men’s NCAA basketball tournament will have been played and the bracket sheet you filled in for your office pool is either doing well, or not.
When I discussed my selections with others, I discovered that bias about teams, more than team records, can explain why brackets go south after the first week.
For example, friend Ruth and I talked about our choices. “I don’t care how good they are, I’m not taking California,” she said.
“The coach you don’t like retired five years ago,” I said.
“Doesn’t matter,” Ruth said. “I’m not picking them.”
One young man told me he hates Kentucky because they swagger.
They’ve got size, I told him, and could go far in the tournament. They probably will, he admitted, but not on his bracket entry.
Several years ago, an officemate chose her teams because she liked the mascots. She did as well as some of the other entries.
The stories behind some team mascot choices are interesting, except for the original Park High Indians, replaced by The Wolfpack. In the late 1930s, there is one sentence in school board minutes noting the Indians choice. If there are other stories out there, I’d like to hear them.
Many mascots were live animals such as Jack the bulldog at Georgetown University, more commonly called the Georgetown Hoyas. Hoya was the name of a minister’s dog in the 1920s.
By 1980, most teams replaced live animal mascots with students dressed as the animals.
Kansas State is also known as the Wildcats, which is what a football coach called his team in 1915.
The origin of the Kansas Jayhawks, a fictitious bird, is a combination of a hawk and a blue jay that emerged in the mid-1800s when ruffians were called Jayhawkers, a nickname also taken by those who wanted Kansas to remain a free state with no slavery.
Speaking of Kansas, the Wichita State Shockers are so named because students at the college, formerly Fairmount College, found work in nearby wheat fields.
Western Kentucky, near Bowling Green, made an obvious choice. Its teams are called the Hilltoppers because the school is built on a hill.
The University of North Carolina’s mascot is Ramses, a big horn sheep but most people call them “tar heels.”
According to one story, the nickname started during the colonial era. The state’s main product was tar made by burning pine trees, which stuck to workers’ shoes.
In another story, set during the Civil War, North Carolina rebels were said to have chased yankees from the field of battle threatening to put tar on their feet to make them stick.
North Carolina was once known as the “turpentine state.” I can’t imagine what mascot might have emerged from that nickname.
Duke University’s Blue Devils are named after a French regiment from World War I said to have been very brave. In the 1920s, when it was called Trinity College, students chose Blue Devils over blue titans, eagles, polar bears, blazes and warriors.
If there is ever a Jeopardy category about school mascots, daughter Margie says I’d be able to ace it.