Friday, March 16, 2012

March Madness Has Gone Wild!

My husband and I are big NCAA basketball fans, him more so than me.  He keeps track of all the teams, fills out his brackets, and is at one of the tournament games as I write this.  I get to go with him on Sunday and I'm very excited. 

I didn't get a chance to fill out a bracket this year, but as we were discussing some of the match ups and potential match ups for Sunday, I noticed a theme.  There are a huge number of teams in the tournament this year that have wildlife-related mascots.  Now, I realize that if you're not a wildlife geek like me, you may not have picked up on this. But I did and, after some investigating today, here's what I found.  Out of the 64 teams in the tournament, almost half (30) have a wildlife-related mascot.  Here's a more specific breakdown of those 30*:
  • 9 are characterized as some type of non-domesticated feline, aka Wildcats (3), Cougars, Bobcats, Tigers (2), or Catamounts. And throw in the Bearcats too if you want, I'm not sure where to put them.
  • 5 are characterized as some type of raptor, aka Golden Eagles (2), Mountain Hawks, Owls, and if you want, you can put the Jayhawks in there too.
  • 3 are characterized as some type of bear, aka Bruins, Grizzlies and, uh, Bears.
  • 3 are characterized as some type of songbird, aka Cardinals, Blackbirds, and Bluejays.
  • 2 are characterized as some type of wolf, aka Lobos (Spanish for wolf) and Wolfpack.
  • 2 are the Rams with mascots that look like Big Horn Sheep.
  • 2 are in the Mustelid Family with the Wolverines and the Badgers (as a Buckeye graduate, that was really hard to type.)
  • Finally, there are 1 of each of the following wild critters to cheer for: Jackrabbits, Gators, and Buffalos.
Why would I take the time to add all of this up?  It's because I think, culturally speaking, it shows the value and the esteem with which we, as a society, hold these animals.  Now, don't get me wrong, I don't think that the Kentucky Wildcats are going to go the whole nine yards simply because of their name.  But, if you're going to pick something to be a mascot, what kinds of characteristics do you want your mascot to embody?  Strength, fearlessness, beauty, courage, etc.  We tend to apply these anthropomorphic characteristics to wild animals because as we learn about their habits, we learn to respect them and maybe even fear them a little bit.  But, regardless of how you feel about an animal, picking it as a mascot can be a sign of respect and admiration. 

By the way, if you're sitting there wondering what is so powerful and intimidating about a cardinal, ask the caterpillar that it was trying to eat this morning.  Or ask the wildlife rehabilitator that is nursing a bite from its powerful beak.

As we move forward in the tournament, there have been some match ups that mimic real life, and some that do not.  For example, a Badger could never defeat a Grizzly in real life.  And a Golden Eagle probably couldn't whip a Couger.  However, a Bear could definitely take it to a Jackrabbit and a Golden Eagle would have its talons full with trying to take down a Wildcat.  So here's to the excitement and drama that is wildlife both on the court and out in the field.  And may the best critter win! 

Personally, tonight I'm hoping that the Memphis Tigers beat up the St. Louis University Billikens because WHAT THE HECK IS A BILLIKEN? Look it up! I did, and no offense to any of you Billikens out there, but if your mascot requires a full page definition, you might want to think about picking a new mascot.

Have fun everyone and Go Bucks!

(*If you're doing the math and you find I've only counted 29, that's because I threw in the Buckeyes because they can take out anything as a poisonous nut. ;-p)

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