Tag Archives: Sports

USC Good-luck Sweater

Background: R is a proud grandmother of a USC student and she routinely watches USC sporting events in support of the school. R is a Mexican immigrant and loves to support her grandchildren in all their endeavors.


R: “I always, always wear my USC ….cómo se dice…sweater….always no matter how hot it is! I am convinced I gave USC football and uh… Caleb… Williams good luck last year when they won all the games. The only game I didn’t wear it was the USC and… Utah game…that was when they lost!”

Interviewer: “Do you wash the sweater?”

R: “Si, I’m not crazy. The sweater‘s powers activate when I put it on… it can’t come off in the washer.”

Interviewer: “Why are you so invested in USC sports?”

R: “Because I want to be supportive of my grandchild and their success of getting into such a good school. I’m so so proud!


Sports superstitions are among the most common superstitions in American contemporary life. Sports fans like to feel like they have some control over the game, even when they’re watching from the stands or their living rooms. They pretend that they take part in the action through insignificant routines/gestures/sayings/or performative rituals, such as wearing the same lucky sweater. In R’s scenario, her sports superstition transcends just wanting to take part of the athletic event, she wants to take part in the success of her grandchildren.

Phrase: “A Senior is Half a Teacher”

Text: “一个学长,半个老师”
Pinyin (Simplified): yi ge xue zhang, ban ge lao shi
Translation: One senior is half a teacher.

N is a junior at USC, majoring in Communications. N is an international student from China, Anhui Province. When N was a high school student, he was in a soccer team on campus which is the community he refers to in this phrase.
N: “There’s this sort of tradition, more like a phrase. The phrase is ‘一个学长,半个老师’ (yi ge xue zhang, ban ge lao shi). It’s like, ‘a senior is equal half a teacher, or half a coach. It’s part of a tradition in my soccer team when a junior would just, like, make the freshmen do whatever they want them to do. That’s just a tradition, I guess.”
Is that like a criticism of experience?
N: “I think it’s because in China, the people who go to sports, they don’t need to have really good grades. They just go to high school or college with their sports, they just go to practice. They’re more like a street gang, like a clique. So, because they’re bad, they want to control the people who are new.”

This phrase is circulated throughout the students. It isn’t a proverb which relays some form of wisdom or life lesson to the listener and it is also not a joke, as there is no humor behind the reality of the statement. It observes a complex power dynamic and metaphorically summarizes it in a concise way, likely as a call to how unfair such a hierarchy is and an acknowledge about the inevitability of its insistence in the school system. It’s a stereotype of athletes at this school widely known and accepted by the students, a blason populaire of this community of soccer players. Such speech is usually created by an external audience, the students who are not in the soccer team themselves but are familiar with it. When asked why the juniors bully the lower classmen, the answer could be this phrase. It is a lighthearted observation of the corruption and power play at school and its unfair treatment of the students, so much so that N associates this phrase with his specific team. Simultaneously, it encourages no revolt against such a system, already knowing full well the impossibility of change that could come from speaking up. This acceptance adds to the stereotype, almost perpetuating its truth.

UCLA Gesture “Fours Up”


“At all of our sports games we would do “fours up.” You would hold up four fingers.”


MM is a 24-year-old American Missionary from a town in the middle of California. She attended UCLA for college, and I asked her if there were any specific UCLA sports traditions that she remembered. She wasn’t sure what this tradition meant – she said she just walked into it and that originally, she thought it was for fourth down in football but then they did it at basketball games too. She ended up looking it up and telling me it was for the four letters in UCLA. 


This example of a tradition that you take part in but don’t know what it means is probably pretty common in places like a college. When you get to college, you are thrown in to a bunch of traditions that everyone else seems to know, and you are often on your own to figure them out. When everyone else seems to understand a tradition, it seems silly to ask about it, so it’s better to just pretend. This can show us how important it is in our society to fit in and avoid doing things that could put you in the outgroup. It also shows us how traditions and their meanings could evolve – if my informant told someone else their theory of the meaning behind “fours up” being for fourth downs in football, that meaning could spread as well if other people didn’t know what it meant. And certain traditions can take on different meanings for different people, even if born out of the same context. Even if looking up what “fours up” means would be an easy solution, our tendency is to try to figure it out ourselves because we want to take part in the tradition naturally so we can really feel like a part of the group. 

The Jargon of Hockey


The informant is a 25-year-old who grew up playing hockey his entire life. He began playing hockey when he was only three years old and played until age 24. We were teammates for two years in the BCHL, a junior hockey league in British Columbia, Canada. The informant has used jargon from the hockey community for most of his life.


The Folklore was collected through a scheduled zoom meeting with the informant where we discussed memories of playing hockey together, and common jargon used by the hockey community. He learned most of it through other hockey players. There is not really an origin point that can be located for any of the specific parole, but it is all widely circulated and known jargon. I experienced and partook in some of this jargon as well throughout my 19 years of playing hockey, and we discussed some very strange, almost humorous jargon that somehow was universally known and used among the hockey community.

Main Piece:

‘Huge Tilt’: A major fight in a hockey game. “Mike and Kleysen had a huge tilt last night”

‘Chirp’: To trash talk another player. “Mike has been chirping me all game”

‘Dangle’: To deke or outmaneuver another player. “Did you see me dangle that defenseman?”

‘Muffin’: A shot on goal that was very poor or weak. “Mike was throwing muffins on the net all night”

‘Lettuce’: Nice hair of another player. “Mike has the best lettuce on the team”

‘Gong show’: A game that gets out of control from big hits. “Our game against Penticton last week was a gong show”

‘Grocery Stick’: A player that doesn’t get much playing time. “Mike chirps way to much for a grocery stick”

‘Apple’: An Assist. “Mike had an unreal apple last period”

‘Bingo’: A goal. “Mike had three bingos last night”

‘Biscuit’: The puck. “Hey Mike, you got to get me the biscuit more often in the offensive zone”

‘Cheese’: Scoring in the top portion of the hockey net. “Mike went cheese on their goalie”

‘Barnburner’: A high-scoring game. “We had a barnburner last week… everybody was putting up points”


The Jargon of hockey players is something that many people find humorous. Some comedy tv shows such as “Letterkenny” have even been created making fun of the parole used. Personally, I did not find any of this language funny when I played hockey growing up. It was just the way we communicated with each other. However, being a few years removed from the sport, it seems almost ridiculous that the informant and I spoke this way for most of our lives. What is very interesting to me is that this specific parole is widely known and used among the hockey community, and almost all the jargon is comprised of real English words, yet none of them mean their literal English definitions. If someone were to use this jargon with anyone outside of the hockey community, they would not understand what you are saying and most likely view it as very abnormal speech. Although within the hockey community, nobody would bat an eye at the obscure phrasing of these words and perfectly understand what you are communicating to them. Many of the words are typically used together as tropes among the hockey community, and these tropes would surely confuse a person unfamiliar with this hockey jargon.

For another version, see Jacob Tierney, February 7, 2016, “Letterkenny”.

The Curse of the Billy Goat

Folklore/ Text:

TM: “You can’t be a Cubs fan without knowing the lore surrounding the curse of the billy goat. During the world series in 1945, the owner of the Billy Goat Tavern (William Sianis) brought his pet goat, Murphy, to the game. The goat was messing with some fans in the stands, so Sianis and the goat were asked to leave the stadium. But before they left, he declared a curse upon the Chicago Cubs to never ‘win no more…’ The Cubs lost the game that day and never won another World Series again until 2016. It took 71 years for them to win, all because of the curse of the billy goat.”   

Explanation/ Context: This is an interesting piece of sports folklore, and gives Cubs fans everywhere an explanation as to why they hadn’t won the baseball World Series for such a long time. It’s lore that has been passed on since that unfortunate day in 1945– it certainly helps justify the team’s lack of performance in their games.

Annotation: The unfortunate story of the Curse of the Billy Goat has been adapted to authored literature, like The Cubs Win the Pennant!: Charlie Grimm, the Billy Goat Curse, and the 1945 World Series Run by John C. Skipper. The novel recounts the curse and its effects on the Cubs team over time.