Originally written on NESN.com  |  Last updated 3/7/13
First of all, let’s tip our cap to Sports Illustrated for this great story looking into how a new fan tradition — waving giant heads to psyche out opponents — made its way into sports. It’s a great piece, and a great take on both the fan spirit behind the tradition and the business moves that accompany such an idea. Second, let’s pick apart one anecdote and make comments about how ridiculous college athletics are these days. The story traces the creation and ascension of giant heads at sports events, and then it talks about the schools that have taken the big floating faces to a new level. At Indiana University, fans are given 75 to 100 giant heads (made by a printer that mounts them on a sturdy backing) to wave during each home game. The school even orchestrates the placement of the faces, moving them from one end of Assembly Hall to another so opponents have to look at them when they’re shooting. The school then rounds up the heads — which they pay to have made and distributed — after the game. The only problem is that, since Indiana and other college teams are quite basketball-crazed, many of these heads are not making it the length of the season. The school has seen several of them destroyed, and they don’t come cheap. “Last year, when we beat No. 1 Kentucky, we lost about 40-50 percent of our stock,” Indiana associated athletic director for marketing Mark Skirvin said. “Kids were tearing them into pieces and throwing them in the air.” Now, the athletic department has created a line item in its budget to pay for more heads, which cost $75 apiece from a local printer. “It’s a significant cost, but it has really caught on with our student fans,” Skirvin said. “How long they will keep liking them is hard to say, but I don’t think they are going anywhere for a while.” So, if we’re reading this correctly, that Kentucky game cost the IU athletic department between $3,000 and $3,750. Now, we understand that thousands has to be spent each year for ridiculous things all across athletics (and that’s not even mentioning buying new uniforms and basketballs, which my high school would have considered frivolous if they were purchased at anything less than 10-year intervals). But popping out five grand or so a year to make giant heads for the kids to wave in the stands? That’s something else. Now, let’s talk about the rising cost of education in Amer — . You know what, never mind. Those heads are awesome, and half of what makes college basketball so great is its fans and its traditions. And when is the last time you heard of a university taking the cost for something like this, rather than making the poor college students pay for it? Get us 20 giant Tom Izzos, IU. We will use them well. Photo via Twitter/@ThatEricAlper
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