Ah, March Madness.
The annual event where millions of people fill out brackets hoping to win millions of dollars … and where most of them are disappointed on the very first day.
It’s a grand spectacle and since I’m a basketball fan, I love the drama of the whole thing. Whether my team wins or loses, I’m always fascinated by one part of the tournament.
I have a hard time understanding how schools of higher education come up with some of their mascots. Then again, since the Big Ten Conference has 14 members, the Big 12 has 10 members and the Atlantic 10 has 14 members maybe I’m expecting too much out of higher education. Don’t get a math degree at the schools in those conferences! The Pac 12 is OK, though, there actually are 12 teams there, although apparently none of them can play basketball with any proficiency.
So today we’re going to have a little fun and explore some of my favorite mascots. The teams may not go far but at least they’re interesting and they’re not Wildcats or Tigers or some other animal picked by schools with little imagination (don’t get a fine arts degree at any of those schools!)
• St. Bonaventure Bonnies: What’s a Bonnie? Well, apparently it’s short for Bonaventure. He was a 13th century Italian theologian and who knows, maybe his friends called him Bonnie for short. His feast day is July 15, too late to help with the NCAA tournament.
• Keeping with the religious theme, probably the most gentlemanly game would be one between the Providence Friars and the Penn Quakers. If they lived up to their names, they would spend the last minutes of the game trying to figure out how to let the other team win.
• Then there’s the other side of the coin — the Duke Blue Devils (blue because hell has frozen over?) and the Arizona State Sun Devils, who come from a place almost as hot as hell. I’m not sure why any school would name themselves after demonic powers, but I expect they would meet their match if they had to play the Friars or Quakers.
• The Iona Gaels. The school describes a Gael as anyone of Irish ancestry, apparently with the idea that no one loves a good fight like an Irishman. I took a look at the names on the team’s roster, and, gosh and begorrah, it doesn’t look like there’s an Irishman in the lot.
• Virginia Tech Hokies. A Hokie is … well, it’s actually a made-up word by a student back in the 1890s who wanted a catchy word for a cheer he invented. I guess you have to give them marks for creativity, although the actual mascot — a HokieBird — probably will make you want to take those points away.
• Syracuse Orange. These guys are really mixed up. They started out as Orangemen and Orangewomen. But the school had a not so flattering Native American mascot, so they dropped the mascot and changed their name to the Syracuse Orange. Their mascot is an anthropomorphic orange! The only real oranges in Syracuse are imported from hundreds of miles away or maybe grown in the school greenhouse. I don’t get it, but their uniforms are colorful.
• The Ohio State Buckeyes. It seems strange to people outside Ohio to name yourself after a nut. But Buckeyes can be dangerous – they are toxic for humans (particularly humans from Michigan). And at least we actually have buckeye trees here, which makes a lot more sense than those Orange guys.
But the very best nickname in the tournament this year has to be the Texas Christian Horned Frogs. You have to be good to name yourself after such an ugly reptile. The school’s original nickname back in the 19th century was the Fightin’ Preacher Boys, so I guess you can see why they think horned frogs is an upgrade.
I don’t know who is going to win this year — I picked Virginia before I found out they had an injury problem — but if it were a mascot battle, I’d go with the Horned Frogs, only because the UC Santa Cruz Banana Slugs aren’t in Division 1 and can’t make the tournament. Now, there’s a mascot!
David Lindeman is a Troy resident and former editor at the Troy Daily News. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.