Nine-Year-Olds Got Nothing on These Nine Mascots

I taught nine-year-olds for two years coming out of grad school, and believe me, those kids had nothing on the nine mascots that took part in our recent CAA Basketball Mascot Tour in Baltimore.

The purpose of the tour was to help promote the CAA Men’s Basketball Championship’s move to Baltimore in 2014. I was tasked with manning the conference’s social media efforts during the tour alongside several members of a local public relations team helping lead the day’s events.

Needless to say, given the efforts (and antics) of our nine so-called furry friends, I think we got the word out.

The tour began at the Renaissance Harborplace Hotel, site of our CAA Basketball Media Day. Several mascots arrived earlier than the others, so while we waited, the mascots wasted little time finding their form, greeting (i.e. scaring the hell out of) guests as they got off elevators, getting spanked by security and even taking some time to check in folks at the front desk.

Elevator

Check In

Before heading out to our first stop, we corralled our cast of characters for a photo. The expression “herding cats” certainly applied here. They are a good-looking bunch, though, right?

CAA_0052

Waiting outside for us was Baltimore Trolley, which so graciously carted the group around for the day. There was plenty of room for the gang, including James Madison’s Duke Dog, who if it weren’t for his lack of opposable thumbs could probably start for JMU given that he’s a good 6’6″.

Mascots Trolley

Our first stop was the Under Armour Brand House, where the mascots did everything from play a little hoops to fold some of the apparel. There was also some fooling around with the checkout scanner gun. Oh, and this happened on the counter…

Doc Checkout

It was then off to Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake’s office. While we waited for the mayor to return from some important business, the mascots rested up and took in a little TV.

TV Mascots

We were then led into an immaculate chamber featuring artwork and furniture that had to be well over 100 years old. The mascots took full (and I do mean full) advantage of the space, with each taking a turn behind the podium, including Sammy, who’s got the whole politician thing down.

Sammy Podium

Mayor Rawlings-Blake arrived to quite a sight. After taking in the fur-filled scene and a little one-on-one time with the league’s lone female mascot, Hofstra’s Kate the Lioness (who had just finished dolling herself up in the 19th-century mirror), it was time for what was the day’s premier photo opp.

mayor

Following a quick return trip to the hotel to greet the media and their head coaches, the mascots joined us at Phillip’s Seafood in the heart of the Inner Harbor. A full spread had been set out for us, and it didn’t take long for the mascots to begin cracking crabs and making a complete mess. Even William & Mary’s Griffin was at a loss at the spectacle.

Griffin

At least Kate was there to help clean everyone up.

Duke Dog Kate

With everyone now stuffed full of seafood, we headed to Federal Hill. Along the way, Drexel’s Mario the Magnificent stumbled upon some long-lost family members.

mario dragons

We also discovered that Towson’s Doc the Tiger has some mad skills on the drums. We thought he was just cattin’ around when he first sat down, so this was a pleasant surprise to all of us and the other Inner Harbor visitors who gathered around for the impromptu show.

Doc Drums

A beautiful view of the city awaited us atop Federal Hill, making the hike up the several flights of stairs very worthwhile.

Federal Hill

It was important that we all stayed hydrated after that climb, as Northeastern’s Paws the Husky took to heart.

Paws Fountain

The next stop on the tour was a highly anticipated one – M&T Bank Stadium, where the reigning Super Bowl Champion Ravens’ mascot, Poe, joined us for a shot in the stands. Love or hate the Ravens, they boast one of football’s cleverest mascots.

ravens

We followed up our trip to the stadium with a visit to the Orioles’ historic Camden Yards, which combines classic ballpark beauty and an updated modern feel to create a great stadium aesthetic. Enough about architecture, though, as we were joined by The Bird, who led our nine mascots onto the dugout for this sweet shot.

camden

A few of us got left behind (not because we were perfecting our dugout dances), so the mascots enjoyed some extra time at Baltimore’s Sports Legends Museum.

museum

The four of us stragglers quickly caught up with the group and we then set off for Baltimore Arena, home of the 2014 CAA Men’s Basketball Championship. The league hopes to see plenty of fans in these lines come March.

arena

Our last stop on the tour was the National Aquarium, where the mascots made friends with one of the dolphins.

Dolphin

Sammy made a friend on the way out as well. Yeah, this is pretty adorable.

Sammy Girl

All in all, it was a highly entertaining and ultimately successful day spent with our nine crazy mascots, thanks to a lot of teamwork…

Teamwork

and a lot of fun.

Scared Lady

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When Sports Transcend the Playing Field

Dooling Collins

Working in sports for several years now, I’ve increasingly come to realize how truly sports transcend what takes place on the field, court, etc. I’ve been following a couple of stories recently that I believe exemplify this and wanted to share them here.

The first has undoubtedly been one of the biggest news stories of the year – Jason Collins coming out as the first openly gay active athlete in a major professional team sport (the media has learned to be very precise in its phrasing here). I credit both Collins for his courage and Sports Illustrated for giving him license to self-author his story in its magazine.

While most of us are aware that Collins has come out, I’d encourage you to read his article and some of the ensuing coverage (some found via the link above). His story is a huge step for sports, and I think the overwhelmingly positive reaction to his revelation, particularly from the sports community, speaks volumes for where we as a society are headed. I’d say a personal call from President Obama is pretty substantial as well.

Another story that I came across shortly before the Collins news broke was that of fellow NBA player Keyon Dooling in the Boston Globe. Dooling, who I’ve followed for years now given his Mizzou roots, has publicly disclosed that he was sexually abused as a pre-teen. A concerning incident last summer soon landed him in a debilitating mental health care situation until the likes of Celtics head coach Doc Rivers stepped in to intervene.

After undergoing the necessary care and the likely lifelong healing process, Dooling has now not only gone public with his news, but he has also begun speaking out as an advocate for sexual abuse victims.

As Collins notes in his article, it often takes a major event – in his case the Boston Marathon tragedy – to put things in perspective. I applaud him and Dooling for publicly sharing their stories, thereby allowing us to join them for the ride.

There’s a great deal we can learn from athletes like Collins and Dooling. The lessons are many and come in the form of self-discovery, courage and acceptance, to name a few. We all experience joys and challenges in our everyday lives – some more momentous than others – and perhaps their stories go to show we should let others in a little more often.

Moreover, I always enjoy seeing athletes and others largely in the public eye using their platforms to break down stereotypes and to advance the greater good. I’m confident that others will now follow Collins’ and Dooling’s lead, and we as a society will without a doubt be better off because it.

Kimmel Cracks Classic Kobe Joke

L.A. Lakers star Kobe Bryant, who I thoroughly enjoy despite popular sentiment against him, visited Jimmy Kimmel Live this past week. He and Jimmy eventually got on the subject of Dennis Rodman’s recent (and random) trip to North Korea, during which “The Worm” told DPRK leader Kim Jong Un, “You have a friend for life” while watching an exhibition basketball game.

While I could write at length about my views on Rodman’s visit, I’d rather focus on another joke — the one Kimmel dropped on Kobe during his interview. The setup for the joke comes about 1:40 into the video, but the pair’s banter makes the entire vid worth watching.

The Best of the Harlem Shake

In the matter of a few short weeks, Baauer’s “Harlem Shake” has shaken up the online universe like few viral sensations have in history. The 30-second flash mob trend whose titular song is currently No. 1 on the iTunes chart has caught fire across the world, taking workplaces, college campuses and sporting venues by storm. Heck, the trend has even gone underwater and taken to the friendly skies.

Since I’ve watched my fair share of Harlem Shake vids these last several weeks (counting the hours would be pointless), I thought I’d share some of my favorites from the thousands that exist and the more than 4,000 now uploaded each day.

While I’m gladly riding the wave of the phenomenon, I think we’re quickly approaching the point where this is no longer a new trend and the videos are becoming old news. This seems to be the growing sentiment I’ve found in my long hours of recent informal research.

Nevertheless, the trend isn’t over yet, which is why my workplace is planning to create our own Harlem Shake video on Monday. With viral videos like these serving as essentially free, proven methods of gaining instant viewership, there’s no reason not to jump on the bandwagon, especially when there’s a means of publicity behind it.

If you’re interested in learning the dance (like I’m attempting to do), then wait no longer. And I came across the Daily Beast’s interview with the man behind the Harlem Shake, Baauer, whose take on all of this is definitely worth the read.

The video that supposedly began it all

Georgia Swim & Dive goes underwater…

A group takes the shake to the sky…

Maryland may have set the bar for college campuses. They do a range of dances, but the Harlem Shake begins at 1:30 mark…

Jon Stewart’s twist on the trend has been a definite success…

Even Lucy and Linus are into this thing…

The Coast Guard is one of many military schools to create a video, but theirs is the only one featuring a guy who falls off the stairs (guy in brown jacket to left at :20 mark)…

And I can’t leave out my alma maters…

Doggin’ on the Huskies: The Worst Half in History

Northern Illinois didn’t do my home state proud after putting up just four points in the first half of its game against Eastern Michigan on Saturday, resetting its own NCAA record for fewest points in a half (previously 5). The Huskies’ futile effort can be best summed up by one of the game’s TV analysts, who stated simply, “This is ugly, ugly basketball.”

This ESPN Stats Info tweet puts the team’s play into further perspective…

Nevertheless, I’ve got to give it to the NIU Athletics PR folks for finding a positive spin to put on all of this…

Screen Shot 2013-01-27 at 1.16.36 PM

Well done, NIU. Well done.

One Freakin’ Amazing Freakout


Please check out this phenomenal freakout by Minnesota Lynx head coach Cheryl Reeve. Was this a tantrum? Indeed. But more importantly, was it effective? Undoubtedly, as Reeve’s Lynx responded accordingly and won the game to tie its WNBA Finals series with the Indiana Fever at 1-1.

I’m going to argue that we need to see more fire like this in the WNBA, and in women’s sports in general. While some fans are turned off by such displays (boo you whores), the vast majority of true sports fans enjoy seeing this kind of passion in their coaches. As evidenced in this case, players are often times receptive to this kind of behavior in their coaches as well.

Plus, coming from a PR perspective, it’s also an incredibly effective way to generate buzz around your team, as Reeve has done with multiple replays of her display on ESPN and well beyond in the realm of social media. While tantrums don’t always necessarily trigger positive storylines, they’re certainly memorable and women’s sports should be fighting for all the buzz they can get.

You go girl.