[Editor's Note: Today we have a guest entry from Thomas Juettner, who's interested in the ways our nation's most wrenching war continues to affect uniforms and team names. Enjoy — PL]
By Thomas Juettner
The Civil War was the bloodiest cataclysm ever fought by this nation, and its impact continues to echo throughout the sports world — including the some of the aspects of sports that are routinely discussed here on Uni Watch.
Sometimes that impact is overt, such as in the case of a Confederate flag patch worn on a baseball jersey. Other times it’s more subtle. For example, the Morill Act, which was signed during the war by President Lincoln — and whose passage was made possible by the secession of several Confederate states that had opposed it — created the land-grant system, which gave birth such popular NCAA schools as Cal, Michigan State, Illinois, Kansas State, and Wisconsin.
We also see the Civil War’s impact in team nicknames. The most obvious case was the University of Mississippi Rebels’ mascot, “Colonel Reb.” This mascot was finally discarded after it was deemed too offensive, although the school still uses “Rebels” as a name. Despite a fine effort to make Admiral Akbar the new mascot, the school settled on a black bear wearing a grey wide-brimmed hat. Ole Miss also has the distinction of wearing an all-gray uniform against a navy blue-shirted Auburn team, echoing the Civil War’s military uniform colors. And of course there was also the now-discontinued Blue-Gray game.
North Carolina also uses a nickname of Civil War origin, the Tar Heels. While Tar Heel has become a moniker for all North Carolinians, there are at least two stories about the term’s origin that come out of the war. The first was that as one of the last states to join the Confederacy, North Carolina was reluctant, or stuck, as though it had tar on its feet holding it in place. Another account records that Robert E. Lee remarked that North Carolina soldiers stood their ground so well it was as though they had tar on their heels.
The Civil War also plays a prominent role in the rivalry between Kansas and Missouri. While both states technically stayed within the Union, partisans and militias raided deep into both states in some of the most ruthless guerrilla fighting of the war. Both schools wound up selecting names from the time period. Union militiamen were often called Jayhawkers, a name originally referring to settlers in the anti-slavery Kansas. In Missouri, one local home guard, formed to defend citizens from partisans of both flags, was called the Tigers. The association goes so deep that the annual game between the two football teams is called the “Border War.” A stir was caused several years ago when KU wore red socks for the Border War game. Why? Because Union partisans were also called “Redlegs.”
And there’s more: When the NHL looked to expand into Ohio, the league’s new Columbus franchise chose the name “Blue Jackets,” which symbolized the numerous regiments sent by Ohio to fight for the Union. The team wears a Union kepi as its shoulder patch and has a Civil War-era bronze canon as the crest on its alternate jersey.
In another NHL example, the Calgary Flames started out in Atlanta. Their nickname and the red and gold color scheme were a reference to the burning of Atlanta after its capture by General William Tecumseh Sherman. The franchise kept its name after it moved to Calgary, so the team’s name refers to event that took place thousands of miles away from where it now plays (and ten years before the city of Calgary was even incorporated).
OMFG: My latest One-Man Focus Group piece is about ticket stubs, and how changes in stub format may have big implications for the way people document their lives. Check it out here.
PermaRec update: I have a bunch of new PermaRec items in the hopper, the first of which is about some amazing old papers, photos, and other documents that a Milwaukee woman found in the garage of a home she bought. Check that one out here.
Show & Tell reminder: And in case you missed it yesterday, photos and stories from the latest installment of Show & Tell are now available on the S&T website.
Uni Watch News Ticker: Giveaway of the year last night in Anaheim, as the Angels distributed these awesome Mike Trout caps (thanks, Phil). … The MLB All-Star Game BP jerseys are apparently made from a different fabric than regular MLB BP jerseys. … As several readers have noted, there’s been a bunch of uni-related chatter about whether Cap’n Crunch is really a cap’n. … Reprinted from yesterday’s comments: an article about NFL merchandising. … New NFL policy this year: Fans can only bring one clear, see-through bag to the game (from Tom Mulgrew). … Good piece by Todd Radom about the common historical link between the Yanks’ and Dodgers’ uniforms. … Each Brooklyn Cyclones jersey last night saluted a neighborhood that was hit hard by Sandy (from David Dyte). … Remember about a year ago when I wrote several times about those little paper football dolls called Cubees? Marc Parker has made over 100 of them since then. “I make them when I’m bored at work,” he says. … According to the podcast linked from this page, athletes exposed to the color pink just prior to an event tend to perform more poorly (from Ed Hughes). … I think we’ve covered this before, but just in case: Memphis is inviting fans to vote on new football uniforms (from Steven Knowlton). … The Jazz have a new video board. If you scroll down to the second photo, you’ll get a sneak peek at what appears to be their new court design (from Joshua Davidson). … LeBron James and Nike seem to be jumping the gun just a hair (from Kurt Esposito). … “I had never seen this version of the Cardinals logo character, called the ‘Bowing Bird,’ until this past weekend,” says James Poisso. “The plaque for the image read, ‘Bowing bird logo sign, ca. 1995. This metal logo, along with other images of the classic bird, could be found along the stairwells of Busch Stadium, placed there during the renovations in the ’90s. The origional bowing bird logo was first seen on a scorecard in 1954.” I confess that when I first read James’s note, I thought he said “bowling bird,” and then I was sort of disappointed to see I’d gotten that wrong. Anyway, I’ve never seen this version of the Cards’ character before. … A Giants ballboy was wearing a road jersey and home pants on Monday (from Andrew Greenblatt). … No photo, but Mets pitching coach Dan Warthen was wearing an orange undershirt last night, joining David Wright and Marlon Byrd in that regard. … More Mets news: Catcher Anthony Recker was wearing orange nail polish last night (from Nick LaRosa). … And yet another Mets item: Pitcher Zach Wheeler, who made his big league debut last night, had an odd pregame look, with his game jersey tucked into a pair of shorts (from Terence Kearns). … Check this out: The Red Sox have mowed their outfield grass in a Northwestern-striped pattern. Never seen that before (from Clint Richardson). … Looks like Melky Cabrera blued out the Franklin logo on his batting gloves last night (from Gabe Ortiz). … The old St. Louis Ambush logo has been updated for a new team (from Jonathan Karberg). … New currency signature for Treasury Secretary Jack Lew. … There’s a controversy brewing in Virginia over a proposed new logo for Prince William County (from David Cline). … I have to go see my Mom again today, so I’ll be off the grid. Play nice and I’ll see you tomorrow, okay? Okay.