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Wednesday, October 22, 2008
Rayhawks are latest postseason craze for fans

By Thomas Neumann
Page 2

The bandwagon is full for the Tampa Bay Rays as they make their World Series debut against the Philadelphia Phillies.

Rays fan
The surprise success of the Tampa Bay Rays has caught the imagination and the follicles of fans.

Enthusiasm is obviously high among Rays fans, many of whom have taken to wearing Mohawks in support of the team. Outfielder B.J. Upton began the "Rayhawk" craze. Teammates Jonny Gomes, Scott Kazmir, Evan Longoria and others followed suit. Even manager Joe Maddon rocks a modified Mohawk.

Inevitably, legions of Rays fans copied the players, with many of them taking the added step of dying their 'dos blue. One young fan was even suspended from school for having a distracting haircut.

This got us to thinking about other fan fads that were geared specifically toward a team's playoff drive or postseason run. Here's a sampling, with each fad rated from one to five:


Pittsburgh Steelers: Terrible Towels

Origin: Legendary Steelers broadcaster Myron Cope created the idea as a radio station promotion for the 1975 playoffs. Official versions of the Terrible Towel have raised more than $1 million for charity.

Did it last? Yes. More than three decades later, Steelers fans still fervently wave the Terrible Towel at home and road games alike. It's easily the most identifiable and prevalent fan accessory in American sports.

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Detroit Red Wings: octopus throwing

Origin: The tradition was started by the owners of a Detroit seafood shop, brothers Pete and Jerry Cusimano, in 1952. The eight legs of the octopus represented the eight postseason victories required to win the Stanley Cup at that time.

Did it last? Yes. Red Wings rooters still hurl the cephalopods at Joe Louis Arena -- and sometimes even on the road. The NHL threatened a $10,000 fine to keep Red Wings employee Al Sobotka from twirling octopi overhead during the 2008 postseason, but ultimately relented.

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Sacramento Kings: cowbells

Origin: A few fans brought cowbells to Arco Arena at least as far back as the Kings' first-round playoff series against Utah in 1999. The fad grew to the point in 2002 that Mavericks owner Mark Cuban reportedly bought hundreds of cowbells to distribute in Dallas and urged Mavs fans to bring their own to the Western Conference semifinal series against the Kings. The fad officially became a craze when thousands of Kings fans began clanging during the 2002 Western Conference finals in response to Lakers coach Phil Jackson, who called Sacramento a "cow town" and its residents "rednecked, semicivilized barbarians."

Did it last? No. As the Kings have struggled in recent years, the fad has waned … but look for a revival if the Kings ever meet the Lakers in the playoffs again.

Side notes: Rays fans have adopted cowbells this postseason in addition to Rayhawks. … Mississippi State football fans have brought cowbells to games since at least the 1950s, although Southeastern Conference rules now prohibit the use of artificial noisemakers during conference games. … Milwaukee Bucks coach Del Harris asked fans to bring cowbells to a first-round playoff series against Atlanta in 1989.

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Anaheim Angels: ThunderStix
Kobe Bryant
Kobe and Vanessa Bryant got caught up in the ThunderStix craze during the 2002 World Series.

Origin: ThunderStix began to pop up at sports events in Asia in the 1990s. The Angels brought them to prominence in the U.S. by giving them away to fans during their 2002 postseason run to the World Series championship. It's worth noting that the Rally Monkey wasn't a postseason fad at all. It dates to the 2000 regular season.

Did it last? Unfortunately, yes. The Angels have changed their moniker from "Anaheim Angels" to "Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim," but they still give away the tedious noisemakers.

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Minnesota Twins: Homer Hankies

Origin: The Star Tribune newspaper began producing these during the Twins' run to the 1987 World Series title, celebrating the frequency of Minnesota home runs at the Metrodome.

Did it last? Periodically, yes. The Star Tribune revived the idea with Twins postseason appearances in 1991, 2002, 2003, 2004 and 2006.

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Florida Panthers: throwing plastic rats

Origin: Panthers winger Scott Mellanby killed a rat with his stick in the team's locker room prior to the 1995-96 season opener. Then he scored two goals that night. A few fans threw plastic rats in subsequent games when the story was first reported. By the time the Stanley Cup finals rolled around, Florida fans were chucking plastic rats by the thousands after the Panthers scored a goal. The team even secured a sponsorship with Orkin pest control. Team employees wore Orkin uniforms while clearing the ice surface of the plastic rodents.

Did it last? No.

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Edmonton Oilers: throwing Alberta beef

Origin: An Edmonton radio personality suggested that Oilers fans should respond to Detroit's octopus tradition by hurling Alberta beef to the ice during Edmonton's first-round series against the Red Wings in 2006. The Oilers beat the Wings and advanced to the Stanley Cup finals before losing to Carolina in seven games.

Did it last? Undetermined. The Oilers missed the playoffs the past two seasons, but hopefully this fad has run its course.

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Many teams: wearing the same color

Origin: This trend dates at least as far back as the Calgary Flames' Sea of Red, leading up to the team's Stanley Cup finals appearance in 1986. Other fan bases to employ this tactic include the Winnipeg Jets/Phoenix Coyotes' whiteout, which began in 1987; the Philadelphia Flyers' orange crush in 2004; the Miami Heat's white-hot heat in 2006; the Washington Capitals' red out in 2008; and the Chicago White Sox's blackout in 2008.

Did it last? Yes.

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Chicago Cubs: alcohol

Origin: This began with the celebration of the 1908 World Series championship and has been used to dull emotions and numb pain during subsequent 100 seasons.

Did it last? Yes. This continues to be an issue in Wrigleyville.

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Did we overlook your favorite postseason fan fad? Post it to the conversation page below.

Thomas Neumann is an editor for Page 2. You can contact him here.