Thursday, October 10, 2013

Lady Rams

I was driving into Kirskville last evening (for my weekly fix of duplicate bridge) when I idly tuned into the local radio station, hoping to catch the front end of the decisive Game Five of the National League Division Series between the Cardinals and the Pirates. Instead, I caught opening round action of the high school girls Class 2 District 12 softball tournament.

While that wasn't exactly what I was looking for, it sure beat The Huckabee Report (the syndicated aw shucks conservative rantings of the ex-governor of Arkansas). As it turned out, I'd stumbled upon a barn burner: a seesaw battle pitting the 4th seeded Schuyler County team up against the determined 5th seeded squad from South Shelby.

The thing that most caught my attention was not the boatload of strikeouts piling up at the hands of the fireballing hurler from South Shelby; it was the oxymoronic nickname of the nine from Schuyler County: the Lady Rams. (I'm telling you, you can't make shit like this up.)

You can kind of see how it happened. Way back before Title IX (enacted in 1972), there were way more sports options for boys than girls, and most high schools and colleges had tough, masculine nicknames, such as lions, or tigers, or bears (oh my). Then, when the girls started getting their fair share of the action, there were some awkward moments. Teams needed to choose from among: a) girl team nicknames that were distinct from the boys (thereby diluting school identity); b) gender inappropriate nicknames that were consistent with what they boys teams went by (reinforcing identity, but causing biology teachers to gag); or c) gender appropriate nicknames that didn't convey the right message (imagine being the Athletic Director from the University of South Florida—where the football team is called the Bulls—who had the unpleasant task of explaining to irate parents why their daughter, who happens to be the star forward on the field hockey team, is referred to in the school paper as a high-production "Cow").

While there probably isn't a perfect solution, it appears that most schools have held their nose and gone with Door #2: taking whatever the boys teams are called, slapping "Lady" in front of it, and calling it done. Whence, the Lady Rams. Ewe can see how goofy this can get.

Some schools, of course, never had anything to worry about. Witness:
North Carolina Tarheels
Stanford Cardinal
Oregon Ducks
Evansville Aces
Alabama Crimson Tide
Nebraska Cornhuskers
Hawaii Rainbows
Dartmouth Big Green

Others though, faced a tough choice:
o  At South Carolina would you prefer the Lady Gamecocks or the Gamehens?
o  At Bradley they had to choose between the Lady Braves (which doesn't have the same cachet as the Brave Ladies) or the Squaws, which comes across as more stolid than solid.
o  At Virginia, would it be the Lady Cavaliers (much better than the Cavalier Ladies) or the Debutantes?
o  At Amherst the Lord Jeffs could become the Lady Jeffs—in this instance the "Lady" part is actually consistent with the male honorific, though I never met a women named "Jeff." (Maybe they could be the Lord & Lady Jifs, known for their smothering, sticky defense... )

Finally, there's at least one college sports team that started with a feminine nickname: the Toledo Mud Hens. They're good to go with no adjustment for either gender. I reckon with a name that goofy, distinctive, you want to get as much mileage out of it as you can.

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