Sunday, September 2, 2018

Animals, People, and Things – How Do Sports Mascots Shake Out?

Well, there sure are a lot of tigers, and bulldogs, and eagles out there. And pirates, and knights, and raiders as well. Heck, there’s even jets, and thunder, and athletics, and browns, and hoyas (whatever those are) too.

Ever wonder how they all shake out? Are there more animals than people? Where do things fit in? And how would you actually characterize a devil, or a phillie, or even a little heat?

Let’s take a gander …


The most obvious group to look at are, of course, the four major North American sports leagues. And that’s MLB, along with the NFL, NBA, and NHL.

Everyone else seem to play soccer. Unfortunately, they’re really not all that into mascots. Heck, most of the teams are just known as a city name, plus “FC” or “United” or “Athletic” or even just “City.” And if they do have nicknames, they’re never official. Heck, they’ve usually got several. Manchester City, for example, is known as City, the Citizens, and the Sky Blues.

Given soccer’s out, the next most likely group is colleges. As I don’t have all the time in the world, I thought I’d limit them to Division I – in particular the Football Bowl Subdivision. And to keep the number of pro and college teams somewhat equal, I limited it to just bigger conferences – the SEC, ACC, Big 10, Big 12, and PAC 12. Sorry, Mid-American. Sorry, Golden Hurricane.


Overall, animals do rule (68), followed closely by people (62). Things are definitely in the running (28), but really don’t compare to those first two. 

Undefined are actually not that far behind with 18.  These are things that simply don’t seem to have a real-world equivalent outside the team itself. What, for example, is an astro, or a bill, or a hokie, or an aggie?

The two remaining categories both come in at 6. These include mythic creatures/characters-(titans, devils, angels …) and adjectives (athletic, metropolitan, wild …).

Interestingly, there is quite a bit of difference between the pros and the amateurs. To wit, colleges are just slightly over half animals (perhaps reflecting the average student body):

Professional teams, on the other hand, are a lot more balanced, and with a ton of things (particular colors of socks, various means of transportation, weather phenomena, and much more):


Like I say, these are the most popular. As for particular leagues, the PAC 12 and the SEC are both close to 2/3’s non-human creatures:

(Wondering who those mythic creatures are? Why, sun devils, of course.)

Overall, though there are more than their fair share of tigers, eagles, bears, wildcats, and so on, we also have some odd birds (ravens, penguins, pelicans), unusual rodents (gophers, beavers), and assorted ducks, dogs, and buffalo.


Two leagues are half people, the Big 10 (which actually has 14 teams) and the Big 12 (which only has 10):

And Major League Baseball has almost half (37% to be exact).

Overall, people are a lot more unique than animals. In addition to state-wide demonyms (Tar Heels, Jayhawks, Hoosiers, Sooners), there are also some unique occupations (commodores, boilermakers, cornhuskers), as well as various Native Americans, religious figures, and rebels/patriots


Things are not equally distributed. Only 2 leagues, the NBA and the NHL, account for 78% of all things out there:

Why so many things in those two? My guess is that there are a lot more new teams in those leagues. Why go with fusty old animals or people? Let’s do something different! 

Heck, why bother with those silly old plurals. Let’s go with mass, instead of count, nouns. You know, things like Lightning, Thunder, Heat, Magic, and Jazz.


So, who does that leave? Well, would you believe there was one pro league (the NFL) and one college one (the ACC) that actually had some real balance? Both were almost equally divided between animals and people (14 to 12 for the NFL, and 6 to 5 for the ACC):


Soccer aside, there are actually two foreign leagues that do a pretty good job with mascots. Interestingly, they’re both based on American sports: the Canadian Football League and the Nippon Baseball League. 

The NBL fits in easily with the overall animal theme:

These include standards such as tigers, bears, lions, and hawks, but oddities such as buffaloes, swallows, and carp.

The CFL, on the other hand, is a little more balanced: 

Thursday, August 2, 2018

The US Supreme Court - Nominees' Ages

The upcoming nomination of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court got me thinking. I know a few years back, there was quite a hullabaloo about the youthfulness of some SCOTUS nominees. In particular, I remember a lot about Clarence Thomas, who was nominated at age 43. I think the thought was that selecting younger judges was a kind of way to pack the court. The younger they are, the longer they’ll stay on the Court, the more influence the president nominating them will ultimately have.  


Kavanaugh is pretty youthful looking, but he is also 53. Is that young though? Compared to Thomas it is. How about the rest of the Court? How about historically?

I’m guessing this one’s not that recent
(though it is one on his Wikiepdia page)


So, what I did was divide up all nominations by decade. I figured that would give me decent numbers and also regular intervals. I could have gone with presidents, but some of them were 1 term, some of them were 4 terms, and some of them passed away before their 1st term was even up. 

I then simply counted up all the nominees for that decade, figured out their ages, the got an average. I then simply plotted that over time.


Hmm, looks pretty normal to me. In fact, recent years are nothing compared to the early one. Well, I guess they were a lotta young, hot-headed rebels. I just think it’s a little ironic that those hoary, old Framers were actually such young studs.

Though poor John Jay was bald even when young 

With the exception of those early years, pretty much everybody else falls in a band between 50 and 60. Now, I do notice a slight drop off from the 1950s to today – 58 to 51. And I also see a steady slope from the 1920s, with an all-time high of 60. Even that, though, is less than 10 years.

A couple of other thoughts:
  • I have no idea why the 1840s also had an average age in the 40s. Maybe there was some court packing based on slavery.
  • The youngest nominees were 33-year-olds, William Johnson and Joseph Story.
  • The oldest were two 68-year-olds, Edward Terry Sanford and Charles Evan Hughes.


Charles Evans Hughes

Appointees by Decade

Of course, some of these decades have a larger sample size than others. And here’s how that shakes out ...

The 1st decade, the 1790s, was of course the highest, with 11. I mean, Washington had a whole court to fill out, right?

There were only 2 decades, the 1810s and 1820s, where only 2 nominees were recorded. But that actually makes a lot of sense, if you figure that all those young studs were still relatively young. 

Nor is the jump in the 1830s. That’s when all those young studs were all getting a little long in the tooth. 

In fact, that same thinking would predict a spiky sort of graph from there on out. Indeed, that seems to be the pattern until about the 50s.

And my guess is that may have to do more with increasing life expectancy if nothing else. Maybe I’ll tackle that in my next post.

Thought the oldest to ever sit on the Court was Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr., 
who served from the 1900s to the 1930s

Thursday, July 26, 2018

How White Was My Soccer Ball

So, it sounds like the Interwebs are blowing up with finger-pointing about race / ethnicity and the failure of the German national team to get out of the group stage in the recent World Cup. In particular, Mesut Ozil, a native-born German of Turkish extraction has quit the team, saying that he feels like a “German when we win, but an immigrant when we lose.”

So, I was curious ...  How diverse are each of the teams in the Cup, especially compared to Germany?


Since I don’t have all the time in the world, I thought I would limit myself to Germany (on the losing side) and the four teams that made the semis (on the winning side). Interestingly, all were European, so that’s pretty much apples to apples.  I also threw in Sweden, Switzerland, and Denmark - 3 other similar teams that sort of represent the middle, the teams that finished not too badly nor too strongly.

For each team, I simply counted up the number of players who were at least half non-European. I then ranked the teams, based on what percentage of the team that accounted for, in ascending order.

So, how did things wash out?



Well, the first thing we need to discuss is Croatia. They are a real outlier here. 

Most European countries are definitely First World. You could say Croatia is as well, but there really is a difference between the large, rich, stable states that seem to be destinations for immigrants (mostly in the north and west of the continent) and those smaller, less rich and stable countries which immigrants are avoiding or simply passing through (mostly in the south and east).

Croatia definitely fits the latter. I mean, they only have 4 million people, for goodness sakes, date back to only 1991, and have a per capita GDP of less than $15,000 (less than half of the others we’re looking at).

Notice how everyone’s name ends in “ic”

As for the rest, the one thing I’m struck by is that the most diverse team was also the champion.  Yup, only 1 in 4 of the French national team was a “real Frenchman.” 

For Germany, it’s just the opposite – 1 in 4 were “foreigners.” Hmm … Perhaps Germany ought to take just the opposite approach (to whinging about their auslanders), and beef up their non-European presence.

Monday, June 18, 2018

How White are the Oscars?

In recent years, there has been a lot of talk about how non-diverse the Oscars typically are. That seems to be right, but I’ve never really seen some numbers on it. Let’s take a look …


There are a lot of Oscars (sound editing, anyone?). So, I made an executive decision to limit it to the big 3 – director, best actor, best actress. Yeah, yeah, I probably shoulda include best supporting, but I like how these 3 are all actually pretty equal … plus I’m really lazy.


Well, the first thing we need to look at is just the raw numbers:

So, a couple of things:
  • For the 1st 20 years, there were no non-white awardees
  • After the 1st, it took another 12 years to get the next, then another 20 to get the 3rd, then another 20 to get the 4th (interestingly, all 4 were for actors)
  • Only in this century did things start to pick up
  • There were still 7 years, though, where everybody was White
  • There has only been one non-white actress


Now, as you can imagine, there have been a ton of these awards given out in the past non-quite 90 years. So, how does all this look percentage-wise?

A couple of observations:
  • Up until the current century, this line was basically flat – at below 2%!
  • Things have improved since then, but we’re still at only 5%.  
  • On the other hand, that line actually does have a real slope now.


Pretty darn white, but let's give 'em a point for at least tryin'.

Thursday, May 24, 2018

What Does Your Tattoo Say About You?

No tattoos

I have a real job

I have tattoos but only in places that would be covered up by business casual attire

I have a real job, but secretly yearn to be cool and rebellious

And then there’s this guy

I have very small tattoos – of birds, suns, stars, butterflies – in inconspicuous places like ankles, wrists, etc.

I am a girl (but not that kind of girl)

I have an upper arm tattoo

I am somewhat conventional

I have a chest or back tattoo

I am somewhat less conventional

Ben Affleck

I have a tramp stamp

I am that kind of girl

I have a tattoo in my armpit, on the soles of my feet, on the top of my head …

I am really unconventional

I have some Chinese characters

I am not Chinese, do not speak Chinese, and really hope this says what the guy said it did

I have a sleeve tattoo

There’s no way I have enough money to pay for this

I have two sleeve tattoos

The only way I can afford this is to have a relationship with a tattoo artist

I have a neck tattoo

I have been in jail

I have a face tattoo

I have been in federal prison

I have "LOVE" and "HATE" on my knuckles

I am a serial killer

I have a swastika in the middle of my forehead

I am a member of the Manson family

So meta

Thursday, May 10, 2018

Nicknames for Financial Services Companies

I’m in the financial services industry. In particular, I’m in the market research side of it. And that means I’m constantly talking about the industry as a whole, and individual companies in particular. 

Not too surprisingly, some of those institutions get nicknames. Usually, they’re just shortened forms of longer names – Wells for Wells Fargo, BOA for Bank of America, Citi for Citibank, CREF for TIAA-CREF (now just TIAA, of course).

Sometimes, though, we have a little fun with them. Personally, I’ve come up with my own for pretty much all of them, really just for fun.

See if you can guess the real companies from their nicknames below. Answers are at the end.


Wells Farrago




Three Fifths



Pee ‘n See

Catapult One

Bank of the Wind




Naval Feddy




American Distress


TD Amerifade

Charles Schlub

Stan Morgan


Eddie Jones



T Pro Rice



Mess Usual





New York Lite


Thieving Financial

Library Mutual

Northwestern Unusual


Snake Farm



Banks (Correct)
  • Wells Fargo
  • Bank of America
  • Chase
  • Citi
  • Fifth Third
  • Santander
  • SunTrust
  • PNC
  • Capital One
  • Bank of the West
  • Ally
  • Region
  • Mellon
  • Navy Federal
  • BB&T
  • BMO
  • USbank
  • American Express

Brokerages (Correct)
  • TD Ameritrade
  • Charles Schwab
  • Morgan Stanley
  • Edward Jones
  • Vanguard
  • Fidelity
  • T Rowe Price
  • Ameriprise

Insurance (Correct)
  • Mass Mutual
  • Progressive
  • Aflac
  • MetLife
  • New York Life
  • Nationwide
  • Thrivent Financial
  • Liberty Mutual
  • Northwestern Mutual
  • Allstate
  • State Farm
  • Farmers

Thursday, April 12, 2018

Yankee’s Worst Free Agent Signings

Ah, baseball is here again. And my Red Sox are at 8-2! Even better, the Evil Empire is at .500, and the Sox are beating ‘em up in their first meetup of 2018.

I gotta admit, though – I did not see that coming. With the Yanks winning the Giancarlo Stanton sweepstakes, I honestly thought it would all be over on Opening Day.

An interesting thing happened though, on the way to the World Series. Giancarlo is hitting .167, has had two 0-5 games, and has been booed at Yankee Stadium. 

Now, it’s early days yet, but there is a pretty storied history of Yankee free-agent signings not panning out – especially with players coming from smaller markets. Hey, not everybody can handle the Big Apple, you know.

Stanton's got some pretty, er, small shoes to fill though. Let's take a look at who else he might be competing with. 


So, here’s how I went about it:

  1. Snooped around the Internets a little to see who might be good candidates
  2. Took the player’s average WAR for the years he was with the Yanks
  3. Took the player’s best WAR scores for the same number of years with his previous teams and got an average for that (I figure that’s what the Yankees thought they were going to get)
  4. If applicable, took the player’s best WAR scores for the same number of years with his post-Yankee teams and got an average for that
  5. If applicable, averaged the pre- and post-Yankee averages
  6. Calculated the difference between the Yankee WAR and those elsewhere
  7. Ranked ‘em

NOTE:  I eliminated Kevin Youkilis and Nick Johnson as they only played 1 year with the Yankees, at the very end of their careers. I also eliminated Kei Igawa, who actually never pitched anywhere else in the majors other than New York.

The Rankings

#10 – Don Gullett (1.8)

Don Gullett was the second free agent the Yankees every signed. A star with the Big Red Machine of the ‘70s, he was also a God-fearing farmboy from Nowheresville, KY.

It wasn’t Babylon on the Hudson that did him in however. In fact, his first year in pinstripes wasn’t bad at all. He actually went 14-4, and led the AL in winning percentage.

Unfortunately, he also hurt his shoulder the year after, going just 44 innings, hanging up his spikes, and retiring to his tobacco farm.

#9 – Jacoby Ellsbury (2.4)

There’s a long history of Red Sox leaving Fenway for the Bronx (willingly or not). I mean, there’s that guy named Ruth, of course. But it also works the other way sometimes as well.  And here I’m thinking Wade Boggs, Roger Clemens, Kevin Youkilis, and this guy …

Though Ellsbury had 2 decent years with the Yanks (WARs of 3.6 and 2.8), he was unbelievable with the Sox. I’m talking leading the league in steals 3 times, all sorts of fielding crowns, and an AL Comeback Player of the Year Award as well. That’s nothing, though, compared to his 2011. And there I’m talking about an All-Star berth, a Golden Glove, a Silver Slugger award, and finishing 2nd in MVP voting.

With the Yankees? Not so much.

#8 – Dave LaPoint (2.6)

Dave LaPoint was a fairly average junkballer who came to the Yanks for 2 definitely sub-average seasons in the 1980s. They would release him with one year still left on his contract. And that’s about that.

#7 – Carl Pavano (2.63)

Hard to believe, but Carl Pavano was one of the most sough-after pitchers in the 2004 offseason. He had just come off an 18-win season and was just 28 years old. He had also outdueled Roger Clemens in Game 4 of the World Series, giving up just 1 run in 8 strong innings. 

And the Yankees love nothing more than signing the guy that just beat ‘em. I figure it’s always been a case of, if you can’t beat ‘em ... buy ‘em. 

Too bad it was then 4 years primarily on the DL. For their $40 million, the Bombers got 26 starts, 9 wins, and an ERA over 5.00. With some iffy injuries and some questioning of his toughness by the media, he was also not exactly a fan favorite.

He would later sign with the Indians, then play 4 final years with the Twins, going 17-11 for them in 2010.

#6 – Pascual Perez (3.0)

Here’s our first signing that got a GM fired. Yup, this was what was behind the swapping out of Harding Peterson for Gene Michael.

You gotta admit, though, it was a pretty risky move. Though with tons of talent, Perez was also incredibly inconsistent. I’m talking records of 12-8, 14-8, and 15-8, but also of 9-13 and 1-13. He would go 3-6 in the Bronx over 2 years, with under a 100 innings pitched.

Perez was also a major flake. His nickname was “Orbit,” and the stories are absolutely endless. Oh, he also had a nasty cocaine habit too. 

#5 – Steve Kemp (3.2)

Steve who? And, no, I do not mean the musician or the trade unionist (but thanks for disambiguating that for me, Wikipedia).

Steve Kemp (the baseball player) was the 1st player picked in the 1976 draft, by Detroit. He had a couple of good seasons for them, topping 20 homers and 100 RBIs twice, hitting .300 one season, and making it to one All-Star Game.

His 2 years with the Yanks were totally forgettable, though, with him finishing with season averages of less than 10 homers and less than 50 RBIs. I’m sure getting nailed by an errant fly ball in batting practice and needing reconstructive facial surgery didn’t exactly help any.

#4 – Kenny Rogers (3.53)

Kenny Rogers had a pretty decent baseball career. He played 20 years, won over 200 games, was a 5-time Gold Glover and a 4-time All Star, and also pitched a perfect game.

And none of that was with Yankees. With them for only 2 years, he finished barely over .500, and with an ERA over 5.00. It wasn’t pretty in the postseason either. I’m talking 3 starts, 7 innings, and an ERA of 14.14.

A genuine hot head and not terribly likable fellow, Rogers fought with the press, his teammates, and manager Joe Torre. "He was uncomfortable here," admitted Torre to The New York Times.

#3 – Andy Hawkins (3.7)

Hoo boy, talk about uncomfortable. Andy Hawkins grew up on a ranch in Texas, then began his career with a 7-year stint with the very small-market San Diego Padres. 

So, why not sign for a gazillion bucks with the biggest media market on the planet? No pressure, right?

You know where this is headed, don’t you? Yup, 20-29 record and an ERA over 5.00 over 3 years in pinstripes. And, because the Yanks kinda sucked during this period, no postseason outings either. In fact, the Yanks managed to once “support” Hawkins by committing 3 errors, scoring no runs, and making him take a 0-4 loss while he tossed an 8-inning no-hitter for them.

#2 – Dave Collins (3.9)

For the 1982 season, George Steinbrenner had a vision that the Bombers should ditch their homer-happy template of years past, and get themselves some speed. So, out with Reggie Jackson and in with this guy …

Dave Collins actually had some genuine wheels. Over his career, he would finish 5 SBs short of 400, and would steal 79 in a season two years before he came to the Yankees (with Cincinnati). 

His one year with New York, however, would see him struggle to get into double digits (13). Once out of the Big Apple and back safe in another small market (Toronto, this time), he would nab 60 in a single year.

The New York Daily News calls the Collins signing “a symbol of a George Steinbrenner at his manic worst.”

#1 – Ed Whitson (5.88)

The Yankees had actually had a fair amount of success stealing players from the lowly Pads. You remember Hall of Famers Goose Gossage and Dave Winfield now, don’t you?

That’s also, however, where Andy Hawkins came from (see above), as well as this guy. In fact, Hawkins and Whitson were kind of two peas in a pod. Whitson, was also a country boy (from Johnson City, TN), with extensive experience with small-market teams (Pittsburgh, in addition to San Diego).

And things went south for Whitson as well – in a New York minute. Whitson’s problem may have had less to do with New York, though, than with one New Yorker in particular – his manager, Billy Martin. Yankee fans would side with Martin, though, booing Whitson mercilessly, and regularly phoning in death threats (even when he went back to the NL and pitched at Shea!).

Whitson summed it all very well himself: “Some people can handle it, and some people can't. It can be pretty overwhelming for a guy coming out of a small hometown and smaller media markets.”

Whitson did, however, manage to break Martin’s arm in a fight

You may have some other names in mind – Tartabull, Contreras, the Big Unit, Irabu, Mel Hall, Jaret Wright, Burnett, Spike Owen, Giambi, Clemens – but those guys actually weren’t all that bad .. according to my calculations at least.