USC Digital Folklore Archives / Posts Tagged ‘football’
Festival
Legends
Narrative
Rituals, festivals, holidays

The University of Mississippi, Football Game Attire

Title: The University of Mississippi, Football Game Attire

Category: Legend

Informant: Evan A. Lewis

Nationality: American, caucasian

Age: Upper 80s

Occupation: Retired— Radio Broadcaster, Laundry Mat Owner, Koren War Vet, etc.

Residence: 5031 Mead Drive/ Doylestown PA, 18902 (Suburban Home)

Date of Collection: 4/08/18

Description:

The tradition of dressing up for football games has been popularized by Southern institutions beginning with University of Mississippi (Ole Miss). While a majority of other schools (USC included) usually wear an abundance of sports gear iconic to the University that the fan is cheering for (ex: Football Jerseys, face/body paint, pom poms, College T-shirts, etc.), Ole Miss students attend games in their Sunday best. Clothing found at these games are often still in the colors of the school but often include items such as: Button down shirts with Kahkis, blazers, suits, ties/bow ties, heels, formal cowboy boots, dresses, pearls, etc. Students wake up early on game days and wear formal attire throughout all tail-gating activities and throughout the football game itself to show support for their team.

Context/Significance:

The tradition of wearing formal attire to football games is believed to stem from around the late 19th century after the end of the Civil War. At that time, almost the entire undergraduate population of the University was enrolled to fight for the Confederacy. When the Confederate army was called away to fight, the “greys” marched through town as the women and children dressed up in their “Sunday best” to show the men off into battle, knowing they weren’t likely to return.

By the conclusion of the Civil War, almost the entire undergraduate population of the University was eradicated. The university then had to close and restructure their system before being able to re-open. In solidarity for the lost men after the war, on the first football game of the next season, the entire town of Oxford and the student body dressed in their “Sunday best” as they once again sent their football team off into battle against their opponents.

The tradition has remained a part of the University since the late 19th century and the practice is obeyed by students, parents, fans, and even some visitors.

Personal Thoughts:

Growing up, I often participated in this tradition but never knew the story behind it until recently. Both my mother and older brother attended the University of Mississippi. My grandfather was actually “The Voice of the Rebels” on the radio before TV took over. Almost every year, since I was a child, my family would drive into Mississippi for a game and visit old relatives.

It wasn’t until this project that I asked my grandfather why it is that Ole Miss is known for dressing up for football games. Since a majority of Southern schools have since adopted the practice, I wasn’t entirely sure which school started this first. Being the super fans that my grandfather, mother, and brother are, they since informed me of the history and the significance behind the dress code.

The tradition is meant to pay homage to the lives of the soldiers lost during the war. Dressing up is seen as a sign of respect, solidarity, and class.

Customs
Festival
Game
Gestures
Holidays
Material
Rituals, festivals, holidays

Homecoming Mums

Title: Homecoming Mums

Category: Clothing/Object

Informant: Rebecca Reinehr

Nationality: American, caucasian

Age: 21

Occupation: Student— Food Service Industry, Medical Group Volunteer, etc.

Residence: Austin, TX

Date of Collection: 4/14/18

Description:

Homecoming mums are worn by high school students and differ from person to person based on status, gender, relationship, etc. The practice is most common in Southern high schools- Texas in particular.

Homecoming mums are meant to be received as a gift from someone significant to the person wearing the object. An individual might receive a mum from the following persons: A friend, an organization, a parent/relative, a significant other (boy friend/girl friend), homecoming date, etc. A person is not limited by the number of mums they can give or receive and some people (women in particular) will often even make them for themselves if they want to be sure to have one for the day.

Typically, the age of the recipient and grade level will determine the size of their mum. Women’s mums are always larger, but Seniors mums are also usually larger than underclassman mums. Seniors mums are also sometimes made will all white ribbons, decorations, and flowers.

Mums are ornamental fake flowers that are usually around 6-8” in diameter and are attached to a back that has ribbons surrounding the flower on top, and dangling ribbons with  decorations and letters. High schools in the area will have custom ribbons made with the high school logo or mascot as well. These ribbons and materials can be bought at craft stores in the region and even larger nation-wide craft stores will seasonally carry these items in their fall season. An example of stress that sell these items include, but are not limited to: Hobby Lobby, Michaels, Grocery Stores, etc.

Mums worn by women typically have ribbons extending to a yard in length and are worn via safety pin over the heart. Men’s mums are approximately half a yard in length and are worn on their arm attached to a ribbon garter. These objects will often include materials that make them distracting and challenging to wear all day. Attached items may include: bells, whistles, mini-LED lights, trinkets, stickers, etc. Sometimes a person may receive more than one mum and will either attempt to pin them all to their shirt, switch them out during the course of the day, or pin them to their backpacks.

Homecoming mums are worn on the day of homecoming to class and then later to the game. These flowers are also usually worn to a pep-rally that day before the homecoming game. Each mum is expected to be personalized with inside jokes, hobbies, or resemble the receiver’s/giver’s personality.

Mums may also be given by a parent’s club of an activity or sold in smaller forms by a student organization. Examples of smaller mums are: Finger mums, hair mums, children’s mums, etc.

Mums are usually kept and hung on bedroom walls by high school students. Women will often compare mums in class and use it as an almost competition to see who can get the most.

Mums can add up in expense quickly. While all of the items individually are fairly cheap— the main flower only costing around a dollar or two. But as is the slogan for Texas, “Everything’s bigger…” the more trinkets, ribbons, and bells that can be fit on are better and considered more impressive. Small, simple mums usually cost around $40 where larger and more intense mums can range in the $100-$200 range.

Context/Significance:

Mums are a very specific tradition, popular only in Texas (and parts of Oklahoma) and are huge, ginormous corsages. The NCAA recognizes the University of Missouri as the official place of birth of homecoming. In 1911, Mizzou athletic director Chester Brewer encouraged alumni to attend the game, and he gave them incentive to attend by having a huge celebration around the game that included parades and rallies.

At some point not too long after this first homecoming celebration in Missouri, the tradition of a boy giving a chrysanthemum to his homecoming date as a corsage was born in Texas. For decades, mums were simple, comprised of just a small flower with perhaps a few ribbons.

In the 1970s, homecoming mums became more elaborate and have continued to grow to the mammoth size they are today. Now they include a huge flower (albeit a silk flower has replaced the real chrysanthemum as the centerpiece), tons of large ribbons, charms, bows, bells, cowbells, stuffed animals, perhaps the high school mascot, and even LED lights in some cases! Even guys have their own version of the mum, called the garter – an elastic band worn around the upper arm that has the same features as the mum only on a much smaller scale.

Personal Thoughts:

Mums are also not only worn for homecoming. Mums are sometimes given as decorations for the home. Before coming to USC, I made a USC themed mum to hang on our common room door in my dorm room. Expecting mothers may also receive baby shower mums that will hang on the door of the delivery room. These are often themed for either a girl or boy and have baby trinkets and ribbons attached (sometimes even baby toys or pacifiers).

My cheerleading team sold mums the week of homecoming and provided a service for gentleman to order mums from our organization to be delivered the week of homecoming. At the game, each cheerleader also received a mum to wear on their leg for the game as athletes are not allowed to wear mums on the field. The football team will often wear a small carnation pinned to their uniform. The presented homecoming court will also remove their mums during the half-time ceremony.

Personally, I also just love them. Upon graduating high school, I tallied up a total of around 12 large mums and a few other smaller mums that I pinned to a bulletin board. They’re a fun way to remember that year’s homecoming celebration, friendships, and interests over the past four years.

Image:

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Annotation:

For additional history behind homecoming mums, see:

https://www.themumshop.com/history-of-mums/

MLA Citation:

“HISTORY OF MUMS.” The Mum Shop, www.themumshop.com/history-of-mums/.

Folk medicine

Football Folk Medicine – Pickle Juice

Knowing sports are highly ritualistic and superstitious I ask my informant, a football player of many years if he had any experience with folk remedies. This is what he said.

“For football, we all drink pickle juice before a game or in the middle of it because it stops cramps, like we fill Gatorade cups full of pickle juice. The salt helps absorb water because of the salt. Or eat mustard, it has the same effect. Our trainer has us do it. Cramps will make a player come out of the game, it sucks to come out, so we try to prevent them or make them go away so we can get back out there. Cramps are a stupid way to leave the game so yo drink pickle juice. You get used to the taste, it’s not great, but you chase with gatorade, but it’s worth it. It also works, I mean if it’s between taking a shot of pickle juice or not playing we would all take the pickle juice because paying is important. And it works”

Analysis:

Usually folk remedies turn into scientific remedies and vice versa. Or often they are placebo effects, and people believe that what they are doing will cure them. Neither are truly the case here. This is simply a long standing practice in sports where there is a lot of quick actions and muscle cramps are common. Salt does help reduce water in a body’s system, but it is unclear whether it truly helps reduce cramps. It may just all be in the mind or it may not. However, the players believe it, the trainers believe it, so it works. It’s a folk remedy that works for this team and many, but is not a part of conventional western medicine. However, someday it may evolve into western medicine or some medical product may be on the market for muscle cramps, but this team uses pickle juice. Pickle juice isn’t sold to reduce cramps, in fact just pickle juice isn’t sold, pickles are sold then the juice is re-appropriated for medical use.

 

Festival
Holidays
Rituals, festivals, holidays

Pasadena New Year’s and New Year’s Eve

JH is a senior at an all-boys Catholic high school in La Canada Flintridge, CA. He lives with his parents in Pasadena, CA.

JH talked to me about some of the traditions and rituals that surround New Year’s and New Year’s Eve in his hometown:

“New Years is probably the biggest event in Pasadena…first of all there’s the Rose Parade and Rose Bowl game…for the Rose Parade you always know it’s coming because in like, late November they start putting up the grandstands down Orange Grove [a major boulevard], and I live right above the Rose Bowl so they start setting up for events around then too in the neighborhood. They put up these giant white tents down there where they start building some of the floats, and you can go down and help decorate them with flowers – I’ve never gone, but I know some people or their families go every year. The floats are really cool.

There’s also the Rose Court and they’re a big part of the Rose Parade. My sister tried out a few years ago. I think in like September, or really early in the school year, all the girls who are seniors can try out, and they go to this really big mansion called the Tournament House and have a bunch of rounds of interviews. Obviously like, not all the girls are really interested in being on the Court, but it’s just a tradition they all do together. Everyone who participates I know also gets two tickets to this ‘Royal Ball,’ which is basically just a huge dance they have. That’s why a lot of girls do it I guess, just to get the tickets. But I don’t know, maybe it’s also just fun for them to participate. And then they eventually pick like six or seven girls, and one of them is the Queen, and they spend the rest of the year doing charity work and being like, the representatives of Pasadena, and then on New Years they have their own float and they kind of “preside” over the Rose Bowl game later that day.

A lot of my friends don’t really go to the actual parade though…it’s the kind of thing you go to a few times when you’re little and your parents want to take you and it’s exciting – they have free donuts under the grandstands, and hot chocolate – but once you’re like, 10 everyone’s pretty over it. And then when you’re older, the best part about New Years is New Years Eve. The night before, everyone usually gets dressed up, not fancy or anything but girls wear dresses and heels sometimes, and even though it’s freezing outside, like less than 50 degrees at night, everyone goes to parties near the Parade Route. They bring some of the floats onto the street the night before and block it off to cars, to everyone’s just walking up and down Orange Grove looking at floats and hanging out with their friends, there’s some people camped out for the parade on the side, and kids are going back and forth between other people’s parties. It’s really funny because everyone is drinking too. Besides the kids, you see a lot of cops and a lot of people’s parents just really really drunk on the street, and everyone’s just having a good time…if you lived off of Orange Grove you would feel kind of obligated to have a party or open your house up. And then everyone would obviously like count down to midnight together and all that, and then you’d usually crash at someone’s house and wake up the next morning and watch the parade on TV, if you wanted to, or just walk up to the parade route and see it from there. But after awhile no one really got tickets to see the parade. But if you were really lucky, you got tickets to the Rose Bowl game, which was always a big deal. My friends and I really like football, and usually someone’s dad knows someone who can get us tickets, so we try to go whenever we can.”

I asked JH if he thought his experience with this festival was unique, as someone who lived in the community and had people coming from all over to vacation in his hometown:

“Yeah, it was definitely different. Growing up with this happening every year, a lot of it just got kind of annoying, especially living right next to the Rose Bowl and having streets blocked off and so much traffic that entire week before New Years. There’d be a lot of football fans from the Midwest of whatever Big-10 school that was playing, or Stanford people coming down from the Bay for the week, and there’d be just a bunch of people and a bunch of cars all over Pasadena during the end of winter break, a lot of people who didn’t know where they were going. I guess Pasadena isn’t usually a tourist destination until New Years, so it’s weird all of a sudden having a bunch of strangers in your hometown…like Pasadena isn’t small, it doesn’t feel like a small town where everyone knows each other, but you can clearly tell if someone is visiting or someone lives here. And yeah, the Rose Parade gets old after awhile, but I think everyone who lives here would still say it’s one of their favorite holidays.”

My analysis:

Its very different to visit a festival annually and to live in a community where an annual festival takes place – after awhile, the nostalgia and excitement is buffered by some of the logistical nightmares and fatigue that JH describes above. Pasadena New Year’s and New Year’s Eve definitely has similar traditions as other places, like counting down to midnight and getting together with friends and family. The Rose Parade also has elements of other festivals, like floats and a “court” of young women. JH gets to see community involvement a tourist doesn’t, like the selection of Rose Princesses or the decoration of floats that requires residents’ participation and support. This ritual is a great example of welcoming the new year by bringing a community together, while continuing customs that now have come to define Pasadena.

For more information about this festival, see:

“About the Rose Parade.” Tournament of Roses. Tournament of Roses, 18 Feb. 2016. Retrieved from https://www.tournamentofroses.com/rose-parade.
Folk Beliefs
folk metaphor
Initiations
Legends
Life cycle
Rituals, festivals, holidays

The OJ Simpson Metaphor

The informant (A.H.) comes from a Black Christian family. A.H. does not identify with Christianity.

Now well retired from the game at 54 years old, A.H. played football in the NFL from 1983 to 1987; first drafted by the Philadelphia Eagles, then transferred to the Seattle Seahawks, and finally the San Francisco 49ers. Since then he has coached youth football teams, and works now as a financial analyst. A.H. was over house for dinner one Monday evening, and after our meal I interviewed him for football specific occupational folklore. I asked about the superstitions, traditions, and legends A.H. had come across during his career as a professional player.

A.H.: “I remember growing up I was a huge OJ Simpson fan. I think every kid my age that grew up in my area that wanted to be a running back wanted to be OJ. And I remember reading in an article somewhere that he never ate before games. He had said somewhere that he wanted to know what it was like to be hungry, and he thought that it would transfer over into games. I think I might have been in high-school when I read that. It affected the way that I ate, like I would never eat the night before the game or morning before the game. The interesting thing is when I coached, I passed that on to the players that I used to coach. He said something like, if you didn’t eat it would make you like a hungry dog. You would play better. Every guy has his superstition before the game… So I saw one of the kids on Facebook that I used to coach… A lot of those kids are coaches, and they’re passing that stuff on now.”

I found A.H.’s story compelling, because what began as Simpson’s individual superstition was perpetuated by his success, and eventually A.H.’s success. As seen with the OJ Simpson metaphor, a young generation of football players dons the occupational superstitions of their predecessors as a rite of passage in the hopes to achieve similar success on the field. A.H. was well spoken, and seemed to enjoy revisiting memories of his time in the game. He was equally, if not more enthusiastic about the legacy he left behind as a coach.
Not only does A.H.’s story provide an occupational superstition, but also a new interpretation of a popular metaphor. Specifically, in English speech, ‘hunger’ serves as a metaphor for desire or motivation. In this particular superstition, the hunger metaphor is associated with the desire to win the game. For a popular example of the hunger used as a metaphor for motivation, see Suzanne Collins’ novel The Hunger Games.

Folk Beliefs

Kicking the Flagpole

Information on the informant: The informant is my mother who is currently 50 years old and lives in Palos Verdes. She attended USC in the 80’s and was actively involved in a sorority. She also is a huge sports fan and regularly attended USC football games. She has been going to games since the time she attended USC up until current time.

From the informant:

“Ever since I first attended my first USC football game, I remember it being a tradition to kick one of the bases of the flagpole leaving campus going towards the Coliseum. I believe the pole is right near Exposition and close to the business buildings. I wasn’t exactly sure why everyone did it but I think people just did it initially as a superstitious thing and then it caught on and became more of a tradition. Even though it’s weird I still take part in it and kick the base of the pole every time I walk from campus to the Coliseum on Game days. USC football has fluctuated since I’ve been there but I’m guessing a lot of people kicked the flag pole while Pete Carroll was the coach.”

Analysis: As a fellow student who attends USC games regularly and who has since I was born, I have seen this tradition take place first hand. It is a fairly strong rooted USC tradition and could be a symbol of the fans who are truly USC fans who partake in this. I also remember being told about this tradition while taking a tour of USC in the Spring of 2015 so clearly it is an undocumented tradition of the school that many people know.

Customs
Folk speech

“Blood Makes the Grass Grow”

Informant: I’m from Oklahoma, and back home at football games, we always chant, “Kill, kill, blood makes the grass grow” whenever we’re winning or, like, about to make a big play.

Me: Like at professional games?

Informant: No, mostly at high school ones. And some college games.

The informant is a student at the University of Southern California and loves to attend and participate in sporting events.

This chant, in the context of football games, seems to mean that a brutal victory over an opponent will serve to make the field look better during the next game. However, variations of the chant also seem to be associated with the US military; it receives a nod in the title of author Johnny Rico’s memoir—and account of the year he spent fighting the Taliban in Afghanistan—Blood Makes the Grass Grow Green: A Year in the Desert with Team America. Another version of this chant appears in the 1987 war film Full Metal Jacket. The Sergeant asks, “What do we do for a living?” To which the platoon replies, “Kill, kill, kill!” The Sergeant continues with, “What makes the grass grow?” And his men reply, “Blood, blood, blood!”

Citation 1: Rico, Johnny. Blood Makes the Grass Grow Green: A Year in the Desert with Team America. New York: Presidio, 2007. Print.

Citation 2: Full Metal Jacket. Dir. Stanley Kubrick. Prod. Stanley Kubrick. By Stanley Kubrick, Michael Herr, and Gustav Hasford. Perf. Matthew Modine, Adam Baldwin, Vincent D’Onofrio, and Lee Ermey. Warner Bros., 1987.

Customs
Folk Beliefs
Initiations

Kicking the Flag Pole

“When USC students go to football games, as they head off of campus they kick the flagpoles on the edge of campus. It’s suppose to be for good luck. It’s supposed to help the team win. I heard about it when I was at orientation and the guide pointed at the poles and told us that ‘All the students kick theese poles on the way to the Collesium.’ It’s like a superstition thing. I have done it once during freshman year when I went to a game and sure enough when I did it I saw tons of other people doing it too. It’s definitely caught on.”

As a fellow student at USC I know this tradition to be true. It is interesting to note that this was taught during the orientation process to the university. During orientation at USC students are not only taught official protocols of the university but they are also taught about the unofficial culture of the campus, through an official medium. The kicking of the flag pole could even be considered a ‘right of passage’ for students attending football games. As if only the true fans and devoted students partake in this good luck ritual. This tradition is not only to ensure success for the football team during the game, but also an initiation into true fandom.

Customs
Rituals, festivals, holidays

Football Games at UC Davis

The informant is a 19 year old computer engineering student at UC Davis. He is currently a freshman there after graduating high school the previous year. He grew up in Rancho Cucamonga, CA and has no strong religious ties. His family has been living in Southern California for many generations.

I asked him about the customs and activities associated with the football games at UC Davis. UC Davis is located in Davis, CA. This is northern California, which is slightly different culturally than the informant’s hometown. Though UC Davis has had an almost continuous football program since 1918, the team was only established as a NCAA Division I team less than a decade ago. This contrasts greatly with other universities who have structured themselves around their football team, like USC.

The football games are free for students to attend, but the informant says that the main draw for students to attend the game is the free giveaways of UC Davis apparel from various sponsors before and during the game. He said that he knew of giveaways of clothing such as scarves, beanies and t-shirts. There does not seem to be much hype for the games themselves. In other words, the students do not seem to be going because they are interested in football or supporting their university’s team, but just as something to do on the weekends. There does not seem to be as much pressure on students to actively support sports teams as there is at other universities that are more famous for their teams. When asked how he decided to go the game and who he went with, he replied that the decision was pretty spontaneous. A couple of his friends asked if he wanted to go and he said sure. He did not look forward to the game in advance.

Tailgating is found at UC Davis, but the informant said it was relatively minimal compared to other universities and takes place mainly in an empty field outside of Aggie Stadium. Aggie Stadium seats roughly 10,000 people and opened in 2007. The informant does not personally take part in the tailgating.

During the game, the student section is called the Aggie Pack. There is no assigned seating and people come and go as they please. There is a student leader in charge of leading cheers, but the mascot (a horse named Gunrock) plays a relatively small role in the games and is merely a person dressed up in a typical horse mascot costume. The informant said that the most exciting part of the games is the UC Davis tube sock giveaways, in which pairs of tube socks are thrown into the student section randomly.

When asked about half-time, the first thing he mentioned was that people like to leave then. This reinforces the idea that the students attend the games merely as something to do and not to actively watch the games.

All in all, there does not seem to be much hooplah surrounding the football games at UC Davis. Football is not the defining feature of UC Davis and this is evident in the blasé attitude towards the games. This is also evident in the attendance of other sports, including basketball. Even when ESPN was going to be filming one of the games, the students had to be lured in with free items to fill in the usually pretty empty stands.

Customs
Folk Beliefs
Gestures
Protection

Kicking the Flagpoles

Item:

“Oh my family would kill me if I didn’t kick it. I know when I was younger and obviously just distracted, I’d forget, and they’d make me go back and kick it.”

At USC, it’s a tradition to kick the base of a specific set of flagpoles as you move from the tailgating portion of a football game day to the Coliseum. As told by the informant, a member of the Trojan Knights, there’s a history to the tradition. When the flagpoles were installed and large crowds moved past them, the sound of feet accidentally hitting them was very distinct. Because they are placed right in front of the most logical exit toward the Coliseum, this repetitive sound became so commonplace that the crowd began intentionally doing it. Now, it serves as a necessity for true Trojan fans to kick the flagpoles. Not doing so brings bad luck for the team that day.

 

Context:

The informant began following this tradition when he was 6 years old. He learned it from his grandfather, who attended USC about 60 years ago. He says that it’s very important to it’s family — if he neglected to kick it, they would give him flak for it. If the team lost after that, he would be considered partially at fault by his family. As a Trojan Knight, this is especially important to him.

 

Analysis:

It’s interesting to see where people think traditions start, especially in cases where the reason it started is relatively arbitrary but the tradition itself has gathered so much meaning over several decades. The idea of flagpole placement leading to people bumping into it and making a distinct sound against the metal turning into a long-standing tradition that determines the success of a team is, arguably a bit ridiculous. But perhaps it develops from confirmation bias — if the team wins and you kicked the flagpole, then people like to make the association. But if the team loses, there are a lot of other factors than the hypothetical flagpole correlation to blame. So, people lean toward associating success with the action they took to wish for it. Whether or not the origin story is true or not, it’s fascinating to think about what will happen as the geography changes. What if the school moves the flagpoles in a construction project? Or if the road is closed and an alternate route has to be taken? The degree of the tradition’s importance is hard to gauge when it is so physically convenient to participate — you almost HAVE to walk past it. That’s why it developed. So what happens when the convenience isn’t present?

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