Tag Archives: Sports

Crazy Towel Guy

Context: The subject of the interview is an older man who has been a fan of Duke basketball and in attendance for most of their games for the last 30 years. Additionally, the subject worked at the university. 


“Crazy towel guy is an older gentleman in his 70s who happens to have been a fan of Duke basketball for the last 50 years. And he would come to games, never ever would miss a basketball game. And everytime he would come, he would have the same seat and in the middle of the game when it looked like Duke wasn’t playing as well as they should or they were a little tired, he would grab his towel he had on his shoulder and stand up and waving the towel. What that meant to the students at Duke in the stadium, everybody would see this and start going crazy. They would raise the emotional level in that stadium from like below zero to over a hundred”. 


This piece of folklore is indicative of all the folklore existing within an athletic environment. Additionally, this piece of folklore goes under the category school specific folklore, the urban legends that can develop in and stay specifically within that one environment. 

Tennis Serves

Context & Background:

Informant: High school friend and tennis partner. Collected via telephone. This conversation highlights one of the common beliefs in the game of tennis. As high school tennis players, this belief wasn’t taught like the rules of the game, but rather picked up on by practice and seeing senior players play. RK – informant, SD – collector

Performance: (via phone call)

RK: One thing I remember from tennis is the time I took too long to serve the ball. I couldn’t get the toss right for the serve, so I tried like five or more times to toss the ball. Take in mind that I was a beginner, an absolute freshman, so I didn’t know the unspoken rules. But yea, basically, you’re not supposed to take more than 2 or 3 tosses to serve. I found out when some guy who was watching yelled at me, “you don’t have all day!” (laughs)

SD: Oh my god, I’ve had the same thing happen to me, and you’re right, you aren’t really aware of this until you actually start playing. 

RK: To be fair, I still do that to mess with people sometimes. Just kidding! (laughs again). 


When I first started playing tennis, I felt exactly like RK. I too didn’t know about the toss limit for serving, although it is very common knowledge in the sport. There are unspoken rules in many games and it is a type of folklore to know them, spread it to younger players, and keep the knowledge going. Another unspoken rule might be that, at least in girls tennis in the high school level, before the conference or match, the team captain would pat on the butt for good luck and a sort of ‘you got this’ moment. Sports folklore is there, it’s just hard to know if you aren’t part of the sports community, just like all other folklore. 

Softball Nicknames


Being in a sports team throughout high school, there are many interesting rituals that we practice. The following comes from an interview with a fellow softball teammate as she recounts her favorite small ritual that we practiced in our team.



The following is a story told to me by the interviewee.

“In our softball team, everyone has a nickname. And we would put the nickname between the first name and the last name. So First Name–Nickname—Lastname. There was Riley “Ryebread’ Crocker. Maria “No-Pass” Boone. Holly “Freshie” Cohen. Cindy “Splits” Keogh. My nickname was Freshie because I was the only freshman that year. Not the most interesting one and it stuck all the way till I was a senior. Which is weird to be called freshie as a senior. A lot of the nicknames were either endearing ones that were a play on someone’s name. I remember yours was Val “Pal” Tan. And then a lot of them were like really significant things that someone did on the field. Like with Cindy did the spilt to catch the ball, and so she became Cindy “Spilts” Keogh.



Sports teams build a sense of community very quickly. Getting close to your teammates through practice, going through wins and losses together, building emotional bonds. While some sport team rituals build on the concept of superstition to ensure winning a game, the act of nicknames in this softball team appears to come instead from the attempt to build an even greater sense of community amongst the teammates. This team ritual allows the teammates to bond quickly, nicknames are often reserved for close friends. However, even if two teammates are not that close to each other and would not have otherwise called each other by nicknames, the in-built nickname from being on the sports team forces the two to feel like they have a bond between them.

The University of Alabama – Rammer Jammer Yellow Hammer Sports Chant


Informant AA was a current undergraduate student at The University of Alabama at the time of this collection. Both of AA’s parents are passionate Alabama fans which meant that AA was practically born into the already prevalent game-day culture. Alabama game-day culture finds its peak during football season as The University of Alabama tends to beat just about any team they play. Tailgating, parades, and ritualized viewing are all aspects of this widespread game-day culture that can be especially observed in Tuscaloosa, AL where the university is located.

Upon attending The University of Alabama themself, AA was granted access to the student section of the Bryant-Denny Stadium where the university’s home football games are held. Admission into this section is limited and students have to reserve their place for a select few games before the season even begins.

When speaking with AA, they told me a chant the student section and other Alabama fans yell out just after winning a football game.


The chant is known as Rammer Jammer Yellow Hammer and it goes as follows: “Hey __________! We just beat the hell out of you! Rammer Jammer Yellow Hammer give em hell, Alabama!” This chant is repeated three times and is accompanied by the university’s “Million Dollar” marching band.

The ________ in the chant changes from game to game so that Alabama fans can direct the chant directly at the team they just beat. For example, if Alabama were to beat Auburn University, the chant would say, “Hey Tigers! We just beat the hell out of you! Rammer Jammer Yellow Hammer give em hell, Alabama!” If Alabama were to beat Georgia, the chant would be changed to “Hey Bulldogs! We just beat the hell out of you! Rammer Jammer Yellow Hammer give em hell, Alabama!” The target of the chant is the losing team’s mascot making the chant more appropriate and personal for each circumstance it is yelled.


After hearing about AA’s description and experience with this chant, I am lead to believe that this example of game-day folk speech serves to showcase victory, celebration, and unity. According to AA, the chant can be heard all across campus and many tailgaters outside of the stadium will even participate. While this chant has become traditional when the team is victorious, it functions to connect/unite Alabama fans. By participating in this chant at its appropriate time, each fan’s scream is contributing to a singular voice that is more powerful than could be achieved individually. Similar to the sport itself, teamwork and communication are the driving forces behind large-scale victories. By chanting, the students and fans become a kind of team themselves. Campus communities and cultures thrive when comradery can be attained. In becoming a traditional folk saying, the Rammer Jammer Yellow Hammer victory chant successfully celebrates victory while simultaneously strengthening the moral and bonds between Albama fans.

Senior Night

Main Text: 

Senior Night 

Background on Informant: 

My informant is a current student who has shared with me his experiences of childhood folklore and traditions that he grew up with. In a series of interviews he has shared with me his knowledge. 


He explains:

“So in high school I did a couple of sports, but the one I stuck with was track and field. There’s this tradition every year that at the end of the season, we celebrate this kind of ‘senior night’. Now it wasn’t just the track and field team, it was something that all the sports teams would do for their graduating seniors. 

We would have underclassmen make posters and cutouts, while each junior was assigned a senior they would make a speech for. 

For me it happened my last home meet, which is the last ‘game’ at the seniors’ home turf. So before the meet began, we would be lined up in a row, usually with our parents, and called one by one for recognition and a picture.  

A junior would give a speech to us and then we would receive a small gift, usually a basket of things like candy and snacks. Afterwards our coaches would say a few words, and then the meet would begin. 

After the meet ended, we went out to a restaurant to celebrate and it is a bittersweet moment. It’s a simple tradition but I always looked forward to it when I was an underclassmen and I think it’s cool that it’s a small way to send a token of appreciation for the seniors. A kind of final goodbye.” 


Having had my own senior night, I understood very well what he was sharing with me. I love how it’s a tradition that has remained the core of high school sports for a very long time. It’s almost an initiation of seniors into the ‘real’ world before they part off and I think it’s a wonderful way to honor their hard work over the past year or years. Although I did not do track and field, I see similarities between my senior night and his and how each sport has developed its’ own culture and way of performing senior night. Overall, I think it’s a very important custom that is practiced in high school sports as a way to say goodbye and appreciate the seniors and the traditions that came before them.