So you’re watching the Arizona Wildcats play the Houston Cougars on Saturday morning and ESPN’s cameras pan through the crowd.
You notice a familiar hand gesture, but not one you thought you would see on this particular day.
Hmmm, are the Houston fans doing ASU’s Forks Up to taunt Arizona like VA Tech fans doing FSU’s Tomahawk Chop on Monday?
Well.....no. No they’re not.
As an outsider who lived in Arizona forever, moved to Houston in February, and immediately went to two UH basketball games in my first week in H-Town, I noticed this strange similarity of a hand gesture to ASU’s.
So I went exploring.
And it took me to Houston’s football stadium. Imagine that.
Here I found the legend behind this “Cougar Paw”
As the statue states, it came about because Shasta I (UH’s first live cougar mascot) had a toe severed while traveling to Austin for a game against Texas, and Longhorn fans and players started mocking Houston players by bending their ring fingers. UH fans brought it back when they tied (!!!) Texas 15 years later, and then actually beat them 23 years after the incident.
So while you might think Houston fans are grade A trollers with their Forks Up, it’s really just their ode to a fallen cougar toe.
There will be no live cougar at the Arizona/Houston game on Saturday. The university stopped using a live animal mascot in 1989. However, if you would like to meet Shasta VI, the current UH mascot, you can come visit my workplace (Houston Zoo). Shasta VI lives in the cougar exhibit.
And if you would like to learn about all the Shastas (including the “unruly” Shasta II), read this.