Watched a lot of college football today (including a closer-than-it-should-have-been Spartan victory over archrival Michigan) and it got me thinking about college nicknames. Most colleges seem to have nicknames that project an image of strength and aggression. There are lots of wildcats and bears and tigers and other animals, like badgers and blue jays, that have nasty dispositions and just might kill you or at least bite your ear off.
But some teams have chosen a different strategy altogether. These colleges seem to believe they can lull opponents to sleep with their nicknames. They choose nicknames that no one could possibly be afraid of. It's as if they looked around and said, "What's the least intimating thing we can think of?"
Here, in order from not very intimidating to even more not very intimidating, are nine colleges that have this nickname thing completely backward:
9. Indiana Hoosiers--A "Hoosier" is someone from Indiana. That's it. I've been to Indiana and I wasn't scared at all. If you can judge an entire state by the celebrities that were born there (and why wouldn't you?), then Hoosiers are incredibly unintimidating. Indiana claims Jane Pauley, Florence Henderson, "Mustard" Evan Bayh, Orville Redenbacher, and Indiana Jones as natives. So why are they number nine? Blame two people: John Dillinger and President Benjamin Harrison. Not all hoosiers are saints or popcorn magnates.
8. Tennessee Volunteers--I respect volunteers. Really, I do. It takes a special person to pass up hours of riveting cable television to help total strangers. But I do not fear the volunteer. In fact, if you are a volunteer, scary is kind of the last thing you should strive to be. When I think of volunteers I think of people serving meals to the homeless or those people that shove pamphlets for their politician brother in your hands at Memorial Day parades. Annoying, yes. Intimidating, no.
7. Texas A&M Aggies--"Aggie" is short for "agricultural," which is a fancy word for farming. So "Aggies" are farmers. Like Hoosiers, farmers have the potential to be scary folks, but most of them aren't. I actually know a few farmers and when they're sober there's nothing to fear. They would rank higher but for the frightening machines they drive. I mean, have you seen a cultivator lately?
6. Oregon Ducks--Who loves ducks? Geriatrics, children, and college guys who pretend to enjoy spending quiet afternoons feeding them so their relatively new girlfriends think they're the harmless, sensitive type. Ducks are so not scary, they were long ago rubberized to assuage the trauma children regularly have while bathing.
5. Nebraska Cornhuskers--I don't know much about farming, which is sometimes called "agriculture," by the way, but while husking corn is probably a job I wouldn't want to do because it sounds like it would maybe give me blisters, I'm not exactly terrified of the corn husker. What's he going to do? Throw ears of corn at me? Rub that clear stuff that leaks out of blisters on my new jeans? Hop in a cultivator and run me down? On second thought...
4. Syracuse Orange--Not that it would change their ranking at all, but they used to be called the "Orangemen." Orangemen are what guys who spend too long on a tanning bed are called. Tanning guy. Real intimidating. Dropping the "men" just gives us a color, and not a very threatening one. I could see going with Black or even Gray, but Orange? The scariest thing I can think of that's orange is those nasty peanut spongy candy things you see around Halloween. Oh, and Agent Orange. That stuff's not good.
3. Hawai'i Rainbows or Rainbow Warriors or Warriors (although for purposes of this ranking, I'm ignoring "Warriors")--Hawai'i's nickname was so lame (Rainbow Warriors) that they decided to let their sports teams pick among the above three. Guess which one the football team picked? Here's a hint: It doesn't have the word rainbow in it. I'm not going to get into this one much further because the whole thing just sort of speaks for itself. Rainbows. Jeesh.
2. Pennsylvania Quakers--Nothing like naming your teams after a group of people synonymous with pacifism. Maybe instead of competing against the other Ivy League schools, they could get together for some diplomacy, hold hands, and sing Whitney Houston's "Greatest Love of All."
1. Georgetown Hoyas--Needed research on this one. Like you, I thought a hoya was some kind of bulldog-like dog. That's what their mascot is. The truth is far more interesting. Way back in the early days Georgetown's nickname was "The Stonewalls." Back then, when America still cared about educating its youth, the students had to study Greek and Latin, and one creative Stonewall started a chant that translates to "What Rocks!" He used the Greek work hoia and the Latin saxa because he was pretentious like that. So hoya (the spelling was changed) means "what." The Georgetown Whats. Actually, I kind of like it.
Note 1: I included only schools most Americans might have heard of, which is why the "Dolphins" (five different colleges), the "Manatees" (State College of Florida), the "Banana Slugs," and the "Battlin' Bishops" do not appear.
Note 2: All schools with bird nicknames were automatically eliminated. Birds, even the pretty ones, are scary.
Note 3: All schools with Indian nicknames were also eliminated. Those people have been denigrated enough.