Pitt is It! Never have truer words been spoken. We've been partnering with the Pitt Athletics Marketing team for a solid two years now creating everything from schedule posters to web ads to social media packages. Chris Bain, Assistant Athletic Director of Marketing, is one of those guys our designers really look forward to collaborating with. We get to work with multiple teams and on multiple concepts. It's all-around awesome for our creative minds when Chris comes our way with a new project.
Now let's talk about Chris' answers to the 20 Questions survey: Simply amazing. Karaoke choice? Stellar. Boy band name? On point. Spirit Animal? Best response so far. Well played, Chris. Well played.
1. NAME: Chris Bain
2. OCCUPATION/TITLE: Assistant Athletic Director – Marketing at Pitt
3. HOMETOWN: Albany, NY
4. PREGAME RITUAL: Too superstitious to make public.
5. FAVORITE THING TO SNACK: Not sure you would call it a snack but I love to chew gum. Sugar-free of course. Juicy Fruit Starburst or Trident Layers are my go-to.
6. FAVORITE THING ABOUT YOUR JOB: I love traveling to away football games with the team to see what game day is like on other campuses. It’s an opportunity to see what makes them unique and see if there are others things you’re not doing that we should be.
7. LEAST FAVORITE THING ABOUT YOUR JOB: Work-life balance. We have so many games and events we need to be at you need to tell yourself every now and again that it’s ok to miss a game or an event since family comes first.
8. HIDDEN TALENTS/HOBBIES: I really like to cook and BBQ. I got a smoker a couple of years ago and love trying new things in it. Ribs and chicken wings are my favorite.
9. ADVICE TO YOUR YOUNGER SELF: Learn to play the guitar. I always wanted to and never got around to it.
10. YOUR GO-TO KARAOKE SONG: Since U Been Gone by Kelly Clarkson
11. FAVORITE MOVIE: Back to the Future
12. FAVORITE TV SHOW: On now has to be This Is Us. Of all-time definitely Seinfeld.
13. IF YOU WERE IN A BOY BAND WHAT WOULD IT BE CALLED: Bane Of My Existence
14. FAVORITE PLACE TO EAT: Barrell Junction
15. WHAT DO YOU ORDER THERE: Cubano with a side of fries and baked beans and an IPA.
16. FAVORITE DISNEY PRINCESS: Rapunzel
17. WHAT’S YOUR SPIRIT ANIMAL: Goat King – didn’t know that until now.
18. WHAT’S THE STUPIDEST THING YOU’VE EVER DONE: Quit a job without having a fallback plan.
19. WHAT’S THE LAST SHOW THAT YOU BINGE-WATCHED: Homeland Season 5
20. IF YOU WEREN’T DOING THIS JOB WHAT WOULD YOU BE DOING: I’ve always dreamt of owning/running a sports bar.
In the summer of 2004, I took my first trip to Chapel Hill, NC. I had just started Old Hat and Rick Hart, then on staff at Oklahoma Athletics but now the AD at SMU did me the favor of calling UNC on my behalf to see if they might have some work for me. Fortunately, they did and we’ve been working with UNC ever since. I made my way out there to discuss the details of what we’d be doing for the Tar Heels and afterward, I went over to the nearest apparel shop to grab a souvenir or two. I picked up a navy blue Nike hoodie that had the word “CAROLINA” embroidered across the front of it and more than a dozen years later I’m still wearing that thing as often as I get the chance.
On a recent trip to Charleston, SC, I happened to be wearing that very sweatshirt as I made my way to get my wife some yogurt from the market down the street from our hotel room. A fella was walking my direction and as we got closer he pointed at me and said in a louder-than-expected voice, “Go Heels!” I’ll be honest. I was a bit startled and it took me a minute to figure out what he said and why he said it to me. I had to remind myself that I was wearing an UNC sweatshirt. Fortunately, I was able to gather my thoughts quickly enough to offer a stuttered, “Yeah! Go Heels!” back at him before my confusion became too obvious. This exchange served as a good precursor to the one I had no more than 2 minutes later when I was actually at the market and another man gave me a hearty, “Go Heels!” when he saw me. I was more prepared this time and was quicker with my response. I walked out of the market fired up ready to shout my support for UNC at the next passer-by but unfortunately, I didn’t pass any more Heels fans between there and the hotel room.
Working in collegiate athletics for as long as I have and with as many different universities as I have, my wardrobe is full of team apparel that has been given to me over the years. It is not unusual for me to be wearing an SMU sweatshirt and Kennesaw State hat one day only to be followed up by a Texas A&M t-shirt and Michigan basketball shorts the next. There have been more than a few times that someone has approached me in a public place and commented about how great “that game” was last night, referencing some sporting event featuring the team I am representing with my wardrobe. Problem is, I rarely recall what I happen to be wearing that day so I have to look down at my shirt or take my hat off to remind myself who they think I’m a fan of. Then, I either express my agreement with their statement or have to admit that I missed that particular event.
Believe it or not, though, the point of this is not to talk about my wardrobe or my interactions at the local grocery store. It’s to talk about the bonds we form as fans. Hunter S. Thompson’s quote references football fans specifically but the idea applies to any fan of sport. We share a universal language that cuts across many cultures and many personality types. We are never alone. We are a legion and sports is often the only thing we have in common.
When was the last time you were wearing your favorite Aerosmith t-shirt and some stranger yelled, “Sweet Emotion!” at you? Or the last time you were wearing that old Incredible Hulk t-shirt and passed a guy that gave you a hearty, “RAAARRRRRRR!!!!!” No, sports fans are in a justice league of their own. And for some reason, though startling, we don’t question it when a random person yells, “Go X!” at us in the restroom at the bar just across from Xavier University’s campus.
Sports creates a bond between people who would otherwise be complete strangers and gives them something to share in common. I recently met a fella on an airplane and we spent the entire flight talking about sports. We didn’t even share the same team in common though. Our bond was formed over the fact that I’m a Sooner fan, Barry Switzer used to coach at OU, Barry Switzer played at Arkansas and that guy on the plane is an Arkansas fan. We connected over a former coach of my team that is a former player from his team. Sports fans are just searching for something to connect over!
The camaraderie that is felt between sports fans is obvious. I’m not uncovering any brilliant revelation here. But I did want to see how many sports fans recognize it themselves. In our fan survey, we asked how many of the participants felt a sense of camaraderie with people at sporting events. We further clarified the question by adding that they should not include people they were attending with. In other words, to what extent do you feel connected with all of the people at those events that you don’t even know. 75% of them said that they feel “a lot” and/or “a great deal” of connection with all those strangers with whom, beyond wearing the same color and cheering for the same team, they have no known commonalities.
Isn’t that kinda nuts? 75% of sports fans feel a connection with people they don’t even know, if for no other reason than that those people are cheering for the same group of people on the field wearing red to score more points than the other group of people on the field wearing blue!
Like I said, the connection between sports fans isn’t breaking news. Every sports fan has experienced it. What you may not have realized, however, is the positive effect sports fans can have on an athletics program. The ever-important home field advantage is because of fans. The scholarships student-athletes receive through the athletic scholarship funds wouldn’t exist without the fans. A department's primary source of revenue (ticket sales) would obviously disappear without fans. Apparel sales, sponsorship dollars, local economy boosts, etc... All because of fans. 80% of those polled think that fans can either “probably” or “definitely” affect the outcome of the game. There’s no doubt in my mind that fans affect outcomes and could do so even more if we focused more on developing relationships with fans.
If you take one thing away from this article, let it be this: Sports does not happen without every member of the team working toward achieving success. It does not happen without the athletes. It does not happen without the coaches. And it sure as hell doesn’t happen without the fans. If you are a sports fan, take pride in what you give to the game. If you are an athlete, thank the fans for wanting to watch you play. If you are a coach, try to tune out the criticism of those people that think you should have gone for it on 4th-and-27 from your own 12-yard-line instead of punting and relish the opportunity you have to affect the lives of young people through your job. All thanks to these crazy fans.
Intro Videos have become as expected at the stadium as hot dogs and cheerleaders. Everybody has a video board and everybody is putting stuff on those boards. Let's take a look at five common mistakes that are made with Intro Videos and how you can punch them up a bit.
5. All or Nothing
A lot of times when an Intro has too many concepts it's because you're trying to please several different people with several different ideas. We've all been there. You have one minute. You have to include footage of the players in practice, getting ready in the locker room, walking around campus, and at least 20 highlights. Oh yeah, and don't forget about the fan and stadium shots. Oh and the logo! We need it to explode. One more thing: We need to include a few clips of our team's 110-year history. And let's use that Lady Gaga song "Edge of Glory" because the team is expected to do big things this year!
It's a hot mess.
For the sake of the video (and your sanity) try to get a majority of those cooks in the kitchen on the same page. Ask questions and communicate! What is the purpose of your Intro? Get fans excited? To tell a story with some drama? Is it more important to tell a story or show a minute of highlights cut to "Seven Nation Army"? Does the team have their own theme this year that maybe you just don't know about?
Can you turn this super concept video into a couple of different videos? For example, an Intro Video for the current team and a Historical Video honoring the past. There are so many different platforms for displaying videos nowadays. What doesn't work on the board might work great on Twitter leading up to the game. Eminem was wrong. You've got more than one shot. It doesn't have to be all or nothing with your Intro Video.
4. Length & Pacing
Nobody wants to watch a three-minute Intro. I don't care how amazing the song is or how awesome your highlights are. The exception to this rule is, of course, One Shining Moment. Video viewers' attention spans have dropped about a third from 2000-2015. A good rule of thumb for our partners is between one to two minutes.
On a related note, the pacing is something that is overlooked and underappreciated. We've all seen that video where it feels like three minutes, but it's only been 30-seconds. That's a pacing problem. Sometimes it's because of the music edit. Sometimes it's because of a long highlight. Cut up the tunes. Cut up your clips.
Some important bullet points:
• Epic music doesn't always equal an epic video.
• Sometimes the team or your Coach aren't the best judges of music.
• Just because you can jam to the song in your car doesn't mean it's going to work for an Intro Video.
• The search for lyrics that apply literally to your team is a futile attempt.
• Fall Out Boy can't be expected to put out a new album every year.
• Everybody wants a song that builds.
• Figure out the purpose of your Intro and that will likely direct you towards the perfect style and tone of the music and then onto the perfect song.
• Music is SUBJECTIVE.
2. Let Athletes Be Athletes
Some athletes are naturals in front of the camera. Some aren't. That's okay because they're supposed to be athletes, not actors. Not everybody can be awesome like Peyton Manning on SNL. Most will be like Michael Phelps: AWKWARD. There's a fine line with Intro Videos between awesome and super cheesy. If Coach wants to include all of the starters in the video, but a couple of them aren't comfortable, maybe he or she is more natural in a group with their buddies. Not every player in the video has to go it alone. Put them in a situation where they can succeed. You wouldn't put a 310lb player at the quarterback position when he's obviously more naturally inclined to a lineman position. So why would you put an uncomfortable athlete center stage?
Another tip for filming the awkward-at-heart: Put them in a natural situation. Michael Phelps doing sketch comedy = bad. Michael Phelps training for his final Olympics = AMAZING.
1. Copying Yourself / Copying Others
The #1 pitfall when it comes to Intro Videos is the theory "If it ain't broke don't fix it." It's easy. You know what Coach likes. You know the fans really responded to it. So you essentially paint yourself into a corner. And nobody paints baby into a corner, right? There's only one recipe to make chocolate chip cookies and there's only one equation for the math problem. There's not a lot of creative fulfillment when you template your video each year.
This also falls in line with the copying somebody else's creative work route. We get it. People tell us all the time they go to our site for ideas. That's cool and we're certainly flattered. That's the name of the game in the biz. It's one thing to take a concept and make it your own with your own brand spin, but it's another thing to flat out shot-for-shot copy somebody else's video. There are folks who have used our Michigan Football Legends concept for about five years now. There are at least three institutions who copied Auburn's 2014 Men's Basketball Intro exactly. EXACTLY! That's not flattery. That's laziness.
Give your fans and coaches more credit. They deserve more than safe mediocrity. Get out of the habit of saying "no" because you're afraid of taking risks. Become a "YES" woman or man. It's freeing and your Intros will continue to get better each year.
Think about the question above for a minute or two. When a fan arrives on campus or enters your arena, what is the first thing they hear? Is there a specific script or instructions for your staff? Do you rely only on the friendliness of the staff to welcome fans or have you also set up your facilities in a manner that is inviting?
The venues we visit always seem to be friendly, welcoming, and buzzing with excitement. Usually you feel the power and sense of community within a few minutes of being there. These elements help paint the picture of how truly unique your school is when compared to others.
Now, let’s think about the first thing fans hear or see on your website. Did you put as much thought into that greeting? Did you even think about that as a way to greet and excite your fans? The contrast between a website’s greeting and a greeting at a venue can be startling. And yet, the website for your venue or team is most likely the number one way fans interact with your brand.
You can no longer think of your website as just another billboard, brochure, or piece of marketing collateral. Your website is your biggest venue. It has the most information and will see the most interaction of any touch point. With that in mind, what is the greeting fans are receiving on the website? Are you yelling at them about all of your ticket offerings? Has the development team forced you to put five donate buttons on the home page?
When deciding what will be the focus of your home page, think back to the greeting your staff gives people at your venue or even on the phone. Most likely they do not open the conversation by running through every ticket option you have to offer.
Traffic on a website is diverse. Not everyone is coming to the website because they are ready to buy season tickets or put their name on a building. Some are coming just to figure out what options are available or to see what the school is doing. Your website has to be a resource for all different types of visitors. When a fan comes into your venue or calls about tickets, most likely your staff takes the time to figure out what they are looking for and tries to educate them on what is available that could suit their needs. A website is no different, you have to position yourself as that reliable resource. Once a fan views you as a resource, it is much easier for them to decide to buy season tickets or make that financial commitment to your program.
Look at your site. How are you greeting the visitors who show up at your virtual venue? If it doesn’t match how you greet visitors in person or on the phone, it is time to rethink your approach.
Michael Beale, Assistant Athletic Director/Marketing, University of North Carolina, like Michael Jordan, is simply a Carolina Legend. We're currently developing a Beale crying meme generator so in the meantime, this Jordan one will have to do. We assume these are tears of joy for the Tar Heels march to the Sweet 16.
Old Hat has been working with Beale (that's the creative name we call Michael around the office) for nearly 13 years. Which, if you're familiar with Old Hat history, means that he's been a client for pretty much the entire time we've been in business. A former college baseball player at Elon University, Michael claims to have carried the team on his back during his entire time there. Actually, that's not true at all. In Michael's words, "I think a more fair statement would be that I was on the baseball team at Elon. But I didn't do a lot of playing." Despite being the tenth man on the baseball team, he's first in our hearts. So without further ado, we give you everything you'd ever want to know about Mr. Michael Octavius Beale.
No. That's not really his middle name.
NAME: Michael Beale
OCCUPATION/TITLE: Assistant Athletic Director/Marketing, University of North Carolina
HOMETOWN: Richmond, VA
PREGAME RITUAL: Visit with fans and get their thoughts on the game.
FAVORITE THING TO SNACK: Almonds
FAVORITE THING ABOUT YOUR JOB: The people I get to work for/with on a daily basis
LEAST FAVORITE THING ABOUT YOUR JOB: Emotional highs and lows of winning and losing
HIDDEN TALENTS/HOBBIES: Love to play golf (just wish I could learn to play good golf)
ADVICE TO YOUR YOUNGER SELF: Stay true to your beliefs. Have a career plan you are comfortable with and stick to it.
YOUR GO-TO KARAOKE SONG: Bon Jovi - Living on a Prayer or Curtis Blow - Basketball
FAVORITE MOVIE: Escape from Alcatraz
FAVORITE TV SHOW: Deadliest Catch
IF YOU WERE IN A BOY BAND WHAT WOULD IT BE CALLED: Lefthand Slow
FAVORITE PLACE TO EAT: Alfredo's Pizza Villa
WHAT DO YOU ORDER THERE: Pepperoni pizza
FAVORITE DISNEY PRINCESS: Snow White
WHAT’S YOUR SPIRIT ANIMAL: Great White Shark
WHAT’S THE STUPIDEST THING YOU’VE EVER DONE: Got lost driving from Lexington, KY to a wedding in Northern Virgina and followed a local through the back woods/roads of West Virginia to get back to the highway. Thank goodness I had a couple of bottles of Maker's Mark bourbon to say "Thank You".
WHAT’S THE LAST SHOW THAT YOU BINGE-WATCHED: Fixer Upper (with my daughters)
IF YOU WEREN’T DOING THIS JOB WHAT WOULD YOU BE DOING: Working for the USGA or PGA
Last fall, we asked you to take a survey to help us understand the state of sports marketing from the perspective of those who are involved in administration and marketing for college athletics.
Well, now we want to hear from fans.
We’re conducting a brief survey to try to better understand the impact sports has on people’s lives, whether they were athletes themselves or simply fans who enjoy cheering for a favorite team.
Please help us gather as much insight as possible by inviting your fans and friends to participate in our survey. They might even win one of the Amazon gift cards we’re giving away! But tell them to hurry – the fan survey is only open through March 24th.
It is always interesting to learn how other brands are delivering content. At Old Hat, we get to work with many brands and each one is unique. Each organization knows their fanbase and has ideas on how to get that emotional reaction from them.
I was also able to attend a few different sessions at the conference. One I found particularly interesting was about personalizing the web experience. NBA teams are doing some innovative things with geographically based content. The speaker was from the Trailblazers and he went through their process of serving different ads and content based on the zip code where the user is located. This allows them to not waste fans’ time. If a user on the site is from North Carolina, the chances they will be able to purchase season tickets is very slim. With the website, the Trailblazers are able to serve up content that might be more relevant to a fan in North Carolina while simultaneously serving up different content to fans who live closer to the team. Each fan is seeing the content they prefer, which makes it considerably more likely that the website will become a part of their regular habits. This is a great example of efficient use of a website and how to effectively develop a digital community.
Another session I attended was about Atlanta United, a new team in Major League Soccer. They are in a unique position since they are a completely new team in a city that did not previously have a soccer club. They have been able to create unique content as they have started the team, created their kits, and added players to the roster.
With the conference being located in downtown Atlanta, we were also able to tour the College Football Hall of Fame. It was a cool venue and had some interesting technology. Upon entering, you are given a badge with a RFID chip inside. This identifies your name and favorite team at all of the exhibits. Digital exhibits change to display your favorite team’s content. It creates a unique experience for each visitor and allows all schools to be represented in some way.
We all remember that iconic scene from She's All That - only one of the best Freddie Prinze Jr rom-coms of 1999. Okay, so maybe only if you were a teenage girl around that time.
The New York Knicks went the "be silent, be still" route recently by executing pre-game festivities and the first half of the game WITHOUT any background music or entertainment. Prior to the game, they posted a message on their video board: The first half of today's game will be presented without music, video, or in-game entertainment so you can experience the game in its purest form. Enjoy the sounds of the game.
So what did that mean?
Player intros were done with lights on and no background music
No team intro/hype video
No clap-along music beats during possessions
No filler music or video board segments during timeouts
No video board sponsor animations/promotions (NO KISS CAM??) (Or this awesome mom??)
As expected, there were many opinions and viewpoints on this little experiment.
Old School Fans - appreciated experiencing the sport in its purest form. #Classic, if you will. Fans could focus on the intricacies and strategies of the game without distraction. These are the fans who think the game is enough and the music is too loud. However, these basketball purists probably are not the demographic the NBA is hoping to target. The Knicks aren't trying to convince these fans to come to the game. They're going after those casual fans, who might be perfectly content watching the game at home on their big tv. The fans that have a lot of other options for entertainment in the greatest city in the world.
Players - You would think the players would also appreciate the game without "distractions," but players from both teams shared their concerns and said it was weird and different than normal. It was Golden State's Draymond Green, who said, "That was pathetic. It was ridiculous. It changed the flow of the game. It changed everything. You get used to playing a certain way. It completely changed it. To me, I think it was completely disrespectful to everyone from [NBA senior VP of entertainment and player marketing] Michael Levine to [Warriors president and COO] Rick Welts and all these people who've done these things to change the game from an entertainment perspective."
Who knew what happens off the court has so much impact on the court? Personally, as a competitive gymnast, I learned to block out the noise while I was up there balancing on that beam. Sure, people were cheering for me, or more likely the three other gymnasts simultaneously competing on the vault, bars, and floor complete with loud floor music, but I didn't hear any of that.
Team Employees - You would assume those responsible for in-game production were thinking how nice the first half was having nothing to worry about. However, the Knicks organization, like the first half in Madison Square Garden, have been silent on the matter.
Here's a video of one of the timeouts during the game. It is eerily silent.
MSG is going old school and playing no music, video or in-game entertainment for the first half. This is what it sounds and looks like: pic.twitter.com/PxYJp1CpIt
Since starting these 20 Questions posts we've had some quality go-to karaoke song answers, but we believe that Abilene Christian University's Dave Kinard would really put on quite a show. Seriously, who picks David Allen Coe's "You Never Even Call Me By My Name"? A seasoned karaoke man, that's who. It's all about crowd involvement, folks.
Do we primarily work with seasoned karaoke-rers? No. Maybe? Well, I know we really enjoy working with them! And that's likely one of the reasons why we work so well with Dave! Also, he has an incredibly adorable baby. So, karaoke and cute babies. Those are the secret Old Hat ingredients.
Old Hat has a partnered with ACU since 2013 and with Dave the last two years. Hannah says Dave brings a lot of energy to each new project and if you know Hannah that's really saying something.
Below is one of our latest projects with the fine people at ACU.
It's only a four-hour drive to Abilene and they've got that 72oz steak challenge at The Big Texan. We'll see you soon, Dave!
1. NAME: Dave Kinard
2. OCCUPATION/TITLE: Senior Associate Director of Athletics
3. HOMETOWN: Tulare, CA
4. PREGAME RITUAL: It’s a long day, so I start it off with some hype songs in the truck on the way with a Dr. Pepper or Mountain Dew in hand.
5. FAVORITE THING TO SNACK: See previous answer…
6. FAVORITE THING ABOUT YOUR JOB: It’s fun! We get paid to go to games people pay to go to. More importantly, we get to have an impact on the people and students around us while we do it.
7. LEAST FAVORITE THING ABOUT YOUR JOB: Meetings about solving an issue that shouldn’t have happened in the first place.
8. HIDDEN TALENTS/HOBBIES: My wife and I love live music and always are up for anything from a concert or listening to a guitar player around a campfire. I have also been called a “human jukebox,” being able to name an artist and know lyrics to just about anything on the radio.
9. ADVICE TO YOUR YOUNGER SELF: Enjoy the process and invest yourself in the people, not the results.
10. YOUR GO-TO KARAOKE SONG: Have to get crowd involvement so I go with “Livin’ on a Prayer” by Bon Jovi, or from my Kentucky days “You Never Even Called Me By My Name” by David Allen Coe.
11. FAVORITE MOVIE: This is hard, don’t know if I can just pick one… Top Gun, Airplane, Old School… pretty much anything you can hear me quoting from throughout the day.
12. FAVORITE TV SHOW: If I can’t say Sports Center, I will go with Fixer Upper.
13. IF YOU WERE IN A BOY BAND WHAT WOULD IT BE CALLED: Why are you laughing at us?
14. FAVORITE PLACE TO EAT: Firestone Grill, San Luis Obispo, CA
15. WHAT DO YOU ORDER THERE: Tri-tip Steak Sandwich with fries
16. FAVORITE DISNEY PRINCESS: Have to go with the original, Snow White.
17. WHAT’S YOUR SPIRIT ANIMAL: My nickname in little league was Gorilla, so there is probably some truth to that. Big and bad on the outside, but a kid at heart on the inside.
18. WHAT’S THE STUPIDEST THING YOU’VE EVER DONE: I found out that my zipper was unzipped during a job interview (wardrobe malfunction). Needless to say, I didn’t get that job. Checking for any malfunctions has since been part of my routine prior to any interview.
19. WHAT’S THE LAST SHOW THAT YOU BINGE-WATCHED: How I Met Your Mother
20. IF YOU WEREN’T DOING THIS JOB WHAT WOULD YOU BE DOING: Many would probably say Pediatrician, since it was my 4th grade dream, but I think I would be best as an A&R Director for a music label.
Underdog : noun /ˈəndərˌdôɡ/ a competitor thought to have little chance in a fight or contest
alternate definition: the team or competitor that nearly everyone is pulling for
Origin of "Underdog"
According to Anoosh Chakelian from a 2011 article in The Telegraph,
"the origin of the term ‘underdog’ can be discovered in the murky depths of ship-building history. Planks of wood labeled ‘dogs’ would be placed over a pit, and one happy ship-builder would saw from above, while the other would have to stand in the pit, sawing from below, becoming covered in sawdust, but doing an equal amount of the work. Weeping. The man above was the ‘overdog’, and the man below, the ‘underdog’. Why the planks were called ‘dogs’, we’ll never know."
Other articles I found seemed to think that the term comes from dogfighting when the presumed winner was called the "top dog" and the presumed loser, therefore, would be the "under dog."
Honestly, I like the first story better and though I haven't spent hours researching which one is based more in historical fact, for some reason it's the ship-building story that rings more true for me. Maybe that's just because that origin of the term fits better with my understanding of what a true underdog is.
Rooting for the Underdog
Think about the last time you were watching a sporting event in which you didn't really have a preference on who won. Remove from consideration any game where your alma mater or favorite team was playing because you're obviously biased toward them. On the flip side, remove any game in which your ex-boyfriend's favorite team was playing because, in that situation, you most definitely want that team to lose. After all, what Alex did to you is completely unacceptable and he deserves for his team to lose every time they take the field so he can feel just one ounce of the pain you feel every time you hear his name.
So those situations aside, when was the last time you were watching an event where there was an obvious underdog and you did not pull for them? When was the last time you saw a team that had historically been underwhelming, scraped and clawed to achieve a place in alongside a historical powerhouse, overcame adversity to be in that game in the first place and were the odds-on-underdogs... and you cheered for the favorite to win?
Some of you obviously fall into that camp. Some of you are heartless scum that only ever want to cheer for the team that gives you the best shot of saying that your team won. The rest of us aren't like you. We're decent human beings. We don't kick puppies or push old ladies down while they're trying to cross the street. We definitely always pull for the underdog.
Okay, before I even get started talking about this, can we just all agree that a Chanticleer is one of the coolest mascots of all time? There's nothing better than out-of-the-ordinary team names and The Coastal Carolina Chanticleers takes the cake. Do you know what a chanticleer is? It's a rooster.
So what's more fun than rooting for the underdog? Yep, you guessed it: Rooting for an underdog with an amazing mascot. As we all remember, we had the opportunity to cheer for and underdog with an amazing mascot just this past summer in the 2016 College World Series as the Coastal Carolina Chanticleers took on the Arizona Wildcats.
Now, nothing against the U of A, of course. They're a client of ours and I have mad respect for the university, their athletic program, and the people who work there. However, in this particular competition for disinterested third-party fans, Arizona had no chance. Arizona may be a lot of things but an underdog, they are not. Let's just look at some things that take them out of the running for underdog consideration:
• Power 5 School • Historically very good in baseball • 4 pevious baseball national championships • National recognition as a top athletic program • They're the "Wildcats"
Now, I'm not sure how many schools out there call themselves the Wildcats, but out of 347 D1 programs out there, I'm pretty sure that about 342 of them are the Wildcats. That's not scientific so don't quote me on that, but it's close. And while there's nothing wrong with being the Wildcats, when it comes down to choosing who we're cheering for in the CWS and it's between the Power 5, historically-dominant Wildcats and the underdog, Cinderella-team Chanticleers, sports fans flock to the roosters.
That's exactly what the majority of the nation did. I'm not a huge college baseball aficionado. I've been known to skip a CWS or two in my time, especially if the teams playing in it are not in my circle of favorites, but the entire country was watching the Chanticleers rise through the rankings. We watched them win time after time and as fans of the underdog, we found ourselves invested in a team that we not only had no affiliation with, we couldn't even tell you what town Coastal Carolina University was in.
It's Conway, South Carolina, btw.
So when our newly beloved Chanticleers won it all, we were ecstatic. We celebrated. We were elated. We were all things that begin with an e and/or rhyme with celebrated.
And then we asked ourselves why in the world we were so happy that the Coastal Carolina Chanticleers won the College World Series.
Related to the Underdogs
So? Why were we so happy when the Chanticleers won? As luck would have it, I was interviewing Matt Hogue, Director of Athletics at Coastal Carolina University for the book I'm writing and I was able to ask him why he thought the story of the underdog was so compelling. Here's what he had to say:
"I think what it is, is that the majority of us can identify with it. There's only a small, select percentage that are going to be the best, especially in the sports world, and they're probably going to be the best for a while. People love to watch Hoosiers. They love to watch Rudy. And I think it's that moment where those of us that knew that maybe we weren't good enough to play in college or aren't much more than weekend softball players... I think the common man can identify with the odds and challenges that are overcome to get to that level."
I agree with Matt. We pull for the underdog because all of us feel that on some level, we are the underdogs. At some point in life, we've all been the guy standing in the pit, sawing from below and getting covered in sawdust. Very few of us can claim that we were never on a team that was the underdog. Maybe we weren't very good and we weren't expected to win. I think a lot of us can think of a time when we overcame that to achieve something great. So we're always pulling for others to do the same.
I don't think it just applies to sports either. I was the underdog when I left my job at Oklahoma Athletics to start my own company. I had to overcome great odds to be successful. I had to sacrifice a lot and work my tail off. I was a Chanticleer. I didn't have a history behind me. I wasn't a member of a powerful group of companies that could help me. I had never won the industry's most coveted award. I was going up against the big agencies that had a lot of financial backing and had a history of having worked with top clients. It was Zac vs. the Wildcats.
I think we can all recall many times when we were the underdogs. And because we've been there –– because many times we probably lost that fight and walked away from it covered in sawdust –– anytime we see another underdog we identify with them. We relate to them. So when they have success, even if we never attended school there or even knew where that team was located before we sat down to watch that game, we feel like we have success. When they win, we win.
The world is a Wildcat. And at some point, we're all Chanticleers.