“I was on the Loyola Academy—that was my high school—football team, the Ramblers. At the end of the national anthem, we would always raise our helmets with the Loyola Academy logo out. We would turn our helmets so they were pointing at the American flag. We would also do it at the end of the game. Even when we weren’t in the group, before the game, we would raise our helmets on the sidelines. That was our mantra. That was a tradition that was passed down from previous players. I think it came down originally from one of the original head coaches. He was there for thirty or so years, and after he passed away of a heart attack, it was something that the kids kept going. The coaches go along with it and do it, but it’s really more something the kids keep up.”
As my informant said, this started as a gesture created by the coach for use at the end of the national anthem. After his death, the players adopted it and kept it going as a tribute to him. It has since evolved to become player-driven. Rather than being taught by a coach, it is the players who have already been on the team for a while and are familiar with the team’s customs to pass this gesture on to the new players. Its use has expanded–rather than only being used at the end of the national anthem, it is now also performed at the end of the game and even at various spontaneous, unplanned points during the game. Rather than being a tribute to the former coach, it is now a way for the team to bond. It fosters a unity between them, as they are the only people at a game performing the gesture. When one player uses it, all the others follow suit. It also allows the players to demonstrate their unity to both their fans and the other team, suggesting that they will be more successful on the field because they are working together.