Tag Archives: athletes

The Buckeye Jar

Main piece: KP: Our team does have this tradition where usually once a week we’ll have this giant glass container, very pretty, engraved, it says “Ohio State Rowing” or whatever, and Ohio State has the Buckeye nuts, we’re “The Buckeyes”, and everytime you want to congratulate a teammate, or point out how hard they’ve been working, you go up in front of the whole team, you take a buckeye, and put it in the glass jar. So in the beginning of the year we have no buckeyes, and then at the end of the year we have a whole jar of them, and that shows how far we’ve worked, all year, how much we’ve helped each other, how much we like each other and support each other. 

HB: So you just go and find a nut on the ground?

KP: So we have a couple buckeye trees by the boathouse, so we got buckeyes from there. I think we bought some of them, but most of them were collected by our former head coach because he was weird like that and he liked to do that. But yeah, so that’s kind of cute. 

HB: How do you announce it [that you’re putting the buckeye in]?

KP: So you go up in front of the whole team, and be like “This one’s for KP for working hard during lift” and then you drop it in. 

Background: KP is a sophomore coxswain for The Ohio State University rowing team. After coxing competitively in Maryland clubs for four years, she was recruited to cox at Ohio, which she has now done for two years. She seemed proud of this tradition, and has actively participated in it during her time at Ohio.

Context: I asked KP if her team has any “lucky” objects or superstitions they do/interact with before competitions. While this is not either of those things, she believes that this tradition is one of her team’s most important ones.  She believes that it fulfills its purpose of showing how much her team cares for each other.

Analysis: This ritual serves as team bonding. The folk object; the fancy glass jar engraved with “Ohio State Rowing” represents the team itself; the prestige of the institution. Over the course of the year, as team members laud the actions of others, it becomes full. The metaphor there is then an obvious one of togetherness. However, this jar is not (in the opinion of KP) seen as important as the buckeye nuts, which are either gathered by the person who wants to reward their teammate or collected from inside the boathouse. The buckeye nut (and therefore being a Buckeye, as a symbol of the school) in this context has positive connotations. It is accompanied by another team member acknowledging hard work or skill level, and encourages other members of the group to bond or work harder so that they too can be given this compliment. One then wants to and takes pride in being a Buckeye, or a member of OSU, as it is something that has been earned and a title given to them by other members of their group.

The Victory Dance of the University of Texas Rowers

Main piece: When Texas [University of Texas] wins NCAA or they do well or something I think, they dance. They have this little, like, line dance kind of thing. They do this dance in their “unis”, so their rowing unisuits, they’re like leotards but for rowers, and then they have those on, plus these you know, standard cowboy boots. And they get these as part of the gear, so they get their rowing suits, their leggings, their shirts, and a pair of cowboy boots. So they’ll dance in those if they do well, onstage. And it’s kind of exciting, kind of entertaining, but sad if you’ve lost, which I guess is part of the fun. 

Background: KP is a sophomore coxswain for The Ohio State University rowing team. After coxing competitively in Maryland clubs for four years, she was recruited to cox at Ohio, which she has now done for two years. The Ohio State University rowers are currently ranked third in their region for rowing by the NCAA (though those rankings change frequently), but are Division 1. Texas, while not Ohio’s rival (which is Michigan), they are seen as “good” (according to KP), and a serious competitor. 

Context: A couple of months ago, I received a text from KP after a competition, who was upset that her team lost to Michigan. When I asked why, she explained that the loss is particularly “sad” when Michigan, Yale, or Texas wins; Texas because “they dance with their cowboy boots when they win. Which is kinda awesome but sad when they’re line dancing on a stage and you just have to look up at them in sadness.” When interviewing KP for the Archive about folklore in rowing (via Zoom, as she is still on campus in Ohio), I immediately asked her about this tradition. She had watched Texas do their victory dance at previous competitions. 

Analysis: Texas’s victory dance is a way to celebrate their (Texan) identity, distinguish themselves from other teams, bond with each other, and also glory in their victory in a semi-taunting way. The addition of cowboy boots to their uniform apparel, a stereotypical “cowboy” attire, is a way of representing the University of Texas and distinguishing them from the other teams, who are dressed in an otherwise similar way (it is important to note that while KP has only seen the Texas team perform this dance wearing cowboy boots, there have been videos posted online where they do the celebratory victory dance barefoot or wearing flip flops). While line dancing is not exclusive to Texas (and in fact its origins are believed to be from European folk dances), there is a connotation that line dancing today is accompanied by country/western music and performed by cowboys or ranch hands (i.e., working-class people). This is interesting because rowing itself has often been viewed as an elitist/classist niche sport, as it is an incredibly expensive endeavor in which to participate (in a later part of our discussion, KP refers to rowing as “classist” and “pretentious”). However, after further research, I discovered that the Texas team’s dance is often accompanied by the song “God Bless Texas”, so in this instance, the rowers choose to align their identity with state nationalism, and as an extension, their school (University of Texas is part of the State System, which is a governmental entity). Furthermore, the older rowers teach the incoming freshmen the dance. In a video I found online entitled “Texas Rowing Dance Tutorial”, the sophomore rowers were teaching the incoming athletes the dance. This practice would normally occur in person, but due to COVID, this rehearsal was done over Zoom, recorded, and posted to YouTube. The dance then also serves as a ritualistic bonding between members of the group and is perhaps even an incentive for them to practice harder in order to win so that they can then perform the dance in front of an audience. Finally, KP found the dance to be “sad if you’ve lost, but I guess that’s part of the fun”. Historically, victory dances have been used to both celebrate a victory and antagonize the losing participants. KP finding the dance sad, so much so that she believes that losing to Texas to be a particularly upsetting loss, shows that the victory dance is also used to make their fellow competitors feel lower, therefore elevating themselves. The dance is performed on a stage during the handing out of awards; all of the teams are required to stay there and watch. The practice of line dancing by the University of Texas rowing team therefore serves to show both state and team superiority over their competitors.

“Way Nuff”: Rowing Slang

Main piece: There are a lot of terms in rowing that are kind of – I wouldn’t say “outdated” but they are kind of outdated, and they don’t really make sense – um, especially in a modern context, and with the technology we’re using now. Because a lot of the terms we use come from shipping and sailing and stuff like that, which obviously isn’t very relevant now, but it’s kind of stuck around. So like, instead of saying “stop” when we want the rowers to stop rowing, we say “weigh enough” (how much you weigh and then enough), so people will say that like “way nuff” or “way off” and that just kind of like dialect and where you are in the country. Because what terms you use sometimes differs from what country you’re in and [in the United States] what part of the country you’re in. So for example, I say “way nuff” because I’m from the East Coast, but a lot of people from Ohio will say “way noff” like that’s enough. 

I think it’s cause it’s just pretentious. Cause rowings’ pretentious. It’s kind of like traditionally a rich white sport, rowing isn’t accessible to many people cause you need to be by water, you need to be able to afford boats which are tens of thousands of dollars, literally. And then oars are expensive. The coxswain technology, like speakers and microphones, those are also very expensive. So it’s very expensive to start rowing. And then there are membership fees and stuff. So the whole thing is very classist. So I think that’s why a lot of the language is still outdated. And there’s a part of “if you know, you know” so like rowers will be talking about these different terms and terminologies in stories and things and unless you’ve rowed you won’t know what they’re saying and it’s kind of like a club. 

Background: KP is a sophomore coxswain for The Ohio State University rowing team. After coxing competitively in Maryland clubs for four years, she was recruited to cox at Ohio, which she has now done for two years. KP is a Korean-American woman, who would not describe her financial situation as affluent. 

Context: When asking KP about different rowing traditions, she dropped multiple slang terms, such as “unis” and boating terms such as “port” and “starboard”. When she finished recounting the story, I asked her about different terms she uses as a coxswain. She then prefaced her explanation of “way nuff” with the clarification that these things are often outdated. I then asked her why she and other rowers would use outdated terminology. 

Analysis: KP seems to believe that using this kind of terminology is for the purposes of exclusion, to isolate non-rowers as a part of its classist history. Even as rowing as a sport has largely moved away from those origins (especially on the non-competitive collegiate level, where anyone can participate), she finds that in the competitive rowing world, those kinds of terms are still used. However, this slang, as she says with “it’s kind of like a club”, also serves to bond the rowers who are in the know closer together, as they are able to tell stories and use slang terms without taking the time to explain themselves. Additionally, these slang terms can also be taught to new rowers or those who are entering the sport, and serve to cement those who are members, as they are then able to use the terms. Or, as KP said, “if you know, you know”. 

Coxswain Toss

Main piece: There’s this thing called a “coxswain toss” where after you’ve won a big race, and only after you’ve won a significant race, the rowers will gather around, chase the coxswain down, grab her by the arms and legs (usually it’s a girl but sometimes it’s a guy – usually it’s a girl because of weight, coxswains need to be lighter) but they’ll grab your arms and your legs and toss you into the water. 

Background: KP is a sophomore coxswain for The Ohio State University rowing team. After coxing competitively in Maryland clubs for four years, she was recruited to cox at Ohio, which she has now done for two years. 

Context: I asked KP if her team has any “lucky” objects or superstitions they do/interact with before competitions. She also said that what constitutes a “big race” is dependent on the team (“for Ohio, it would be NCAAs… it’s almost expected that we win Big 10s or if we lose it’s very sad, and it really depends on the team.”) She also said that the ritual isn’t always enforced due to the contamination of the water. If the water is toxic or has sea life that could potentially harm the coxswain, the ritual is not practiced (“I wasn’t tossed in at all in Baltimore, because if you’re tossed in in Baltimore, you have to take a shower immediately after. Also there were jellyfish and sharks so that’s not great”). However, as a coxswain herself, she doesn’t mind being thrown in the water if able; she prefaced her explanation with “because, you know, we’ve been yelling at them all season and stuff”, and believes it’s a fun and harmless way to let the rowers celebrate their win.

Analysis: This ritual is a way of changing the power dynamic that usually occurs in a boat. The coxswain is in charge of the rowers during practices and competitions, and their entire job consists of yelling at the rowers and telling them what to do. In victory, proving that the rowers have been listening to the coxswain and working hard to win, the rowers “get revenge” and turn the tables by throwing the coxswain into the water. Also it reinforces that while the power dynamic of the sport places the coxswain in charge, the coxswain is always the smallest member on the team, especially in competitive rowing, and therefore easy to physically overpower by the much larger rowers. In a way, this also reinforces the trust the rowers have for the coxswain and their willingness to cede control to them because they know that this will lead them to victory. 

Superstitions Amongst College and Professional Athletes in the Locker Room

Nationality: American

Primary Language: English

Other Language(s): None

Age: 80

Residence: New York City, USA

Performance Date: April 9, 2017 (via Skype)

 

 

Robert is a 80 year old man, born and raised in New Jersey who is a retired business executive.  He played varsity level college basketball at the University of Florida and in the National Basketball Association with the New York Knicks.

 

Interviewer: Good Morning. Do professional athletes have superstations when they are active players?

 

Informant: “Well basically if you had a good game you never change your socks for the next game, you wear the same jock.  if you had a particular outfit that you wore to the game and it was a bad game then you would change the outfit and if it was a good game maybe you would wear it again the second day.  And those are some of the superstitions. If you were parked in a specific spot and you did have a good night then you would want that same spot. Then you would arrange everything you could to make sure you got the same spot all over again.

 

Interviewer:  So this is your recollection when you played ball in College as well as professionally for the New York Knicks.

 

Informent: Correct

 

Interviewer:  Was this about all players?

 

Informant: Most players all have superstitions. Some of the guys would before the game have warm ups. They would want to be the last one to shot the ball in the hoop before the game started. So they kind of hang out when everyone is getting ready to go to the bench before the game started and then they would take the ball and shoot the little jump shot just cause that was a superstition and they wanted to have the last shot.

 

Interviewer:  When did you first start observing these superstitions?

 

Informant: When I was in college at the University of Florida. Most ball players have a superstition. I mean it goes into how you put your uniform on, the same way. If you had a good game you always wondered what made you have a good game.

 

Interviewer: And ah did it ever play out to the point that where your superstition reinforced your belief?

 

Informant: Yes. You would have the superstition and if you hit three or four in a row you would say that’s it, that’s it, and then you would keep doing it until it changed. When it changed you would look for another superstition.

 

Thoughts about the piece:  

Anyone who has played or even been a spectator of sports observes silly rituals that are important to fans and players. This professional basketball player took the rules of luck seriously. For other sports superstitions that famous athletes believe see: http://www.mensfitness.com/life/sports/10-most-superstitious-athletes