Sunday, 20 June 2010

Big Misnomers

I mentioned college sports in a post the other day, and the importance of knowing the rules. Not so important, but maybe of passing interest to some readers is the ridiculous names that some of the conferences have.

For those unfamiliar with the concept, American college sports are traditionally organized into groups of teams known as "conferences”. A few of these are quite logically named after the geographic region of the members. For example the SEC (Southeastern Conference), the Big East, or the ACC (Atlantic Coast Conference).

Showing something of an inability to think ahead, others are named according to the membership size, so there are currently the Big Ten, the Big 12, and the Pacific-10 Conferences.

You might be forgiven for thinking that the Big Ten has ten teams, but it doesn’t. It has had eleven since 1990, with a twelfth team to be added in 2011. The logo (pictured above) is actually rather clever. Note the hidden “11” in the logo, with one ‘1’ either side of the ‘T’. The logo designer will no doubt be getting a call shortly.

The Big Ten actually started life as the Intercollegiate Conference of Faculty Representatives, but was more commonly known as the Western Conference ('western' being a relative term apparently). The first reference to the conference as the Big Nine was in 1899 and it became known (unofficically) as the Big Ten in 1917. Then in 1946 it was the Big Nine again, before once again becoming the Big Ten in 1949, and it has remained the Big Ten ever since. Even when it became eleven in 1990. It has plans to expand to as many as 16 teams. Logo man will be able to retire early.

The Big 12 will be losing two teams before 2012, and while the Pacific-10 does currently have ten teams, that number will increase to 12 in the next few years. The Pacific-10 hasn’t always been named such – it was founded as the Athletic Association of Western Universities (AAWU) (and these actually WERE western universities) in 1959, and went by the names Big Five, Big Six, and Pacific-8, becoming the Pacific-10 in 1978. Why not just name it the Pacific Conference?

So the Big Ten should become the Big Twelve and the Big 12, formerly the Big Eight, should become the Big 10, but that would make things confusing.

Why does everything have to be "Big" anyway? Size isn't everything, but if it's that important, why not use alternatives such as the "Enormous 11", "Massive 12", "Gigantic-14", "Terrific 10" or "Dirty Dozen". On expansion it could become the "Baker's Dozen", then the "Filthy Fourteen".

OK, so complaining about 'Big' could arguably sound a bit rich coming from someone born on an island that prefixes its name with “Great", but that's the name God gave us when he created the Earth 4,000 years ago, and who are we to criticise Him?

It’s not just the USA that seems to lack foresight with their names though.

In Rugby Union there’s the Super 10, no wait, Super 12, I mean Super 14, soon to be Super 15, competition, not to mention the Six Nations, formerly the Five Nations, and before that, the Home Nations Championship. What happens when Italy want to join in and play? What's that? They do already? Oh.

Football had its G14, which then added four more teams before disbanding, and there are probably more examples in sport that escape me for now, (suggestions welcome).

At least the World Cup should be safe from name change for the foreseeable future.

But it’s not only sports that have this problem.

In politics, there’s the G8, formerly the G6 and G7 (Group of Eight, Six and Seven respectively), and in academia there’s the G-13 in Canada formerly the G-10.

And then there's something that affects us all - the calendar. That's messed up too.

In Latin, Septem means 'seventh' month, which was perfect until 153 BC when some idiot decided to move the first day of the year March 1st to January 1st.

How brilliant an idea was that?

In an instant, September, October 'eighth', November 'ninth' and December 'tenth' all became misnomers.

Next time someone asks "What have the Romans ever done for us?" you will know what to say. They screwed up the calendar, that's what.

It's annoying, but I have an idea. My suggestion is that we move July and August to the end of the year. That way, not only can the months of September through December regain their rightful places in the calendar, but we also give ourselves a shot at having some warm, sunny days to break up the long winter. And for those of us who like to take the days off between Xmas and New Year for a little downtime, how great would that now be?

We could rename the two months while we're about it. Julius and Augustus are long gone, they've had a good run, and taking their names away would be something of a punishment for the hurt caused to September through December for all these years. It's time to honour some more recent heroes, perhaps the months of "Jordan" and "Beckham" might be appropriate?

Yes, I understand it would be confusing having the World Cup quarter-finals, semi-finals, third-place playoff and final played after a five month delay, and yes, I can see it might cause problems at Wimbledon with strawberries being out season, and yes, the Tour de France wouldn't be the same with performance enhancing drugs being out of season, and yes, "grouse season" wouldn't be the same with grouse being out of season, and yes, the British Open and British Grand Prix would have to make some changes, but I think the idea has merit, and the grouses I've spoken to like the plan. A lot.

The US is a little unsure about celebrating the "4th of Jordan" though. The suggestion from there is that the "4th of Jesus" would be more popular, but there's the whole separation of church and calendar thing over there anyway.

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