March 3, 2023
In the lead story of the sports section of my local newspaper Christina Long reported on the origin of Sharkansas by the Razorback student section at basketball games. The recent tradition of hundreds of Arkansas students clad in bright blue shark costumes has drawn both annoyance and adoration of fans. This now typically happens when the Hogs play Kentucky at home. Some fans believe the blue shark costumes are too close to the color of blue worn by Kentucky. Others say the sharks remind them of the attempt by Ole Miss’ to switch from Colonel Reb to adopt the animal as its mascot. Regardless, Sharkansas has persisted and is predicted to again make an appearance when the Hogs host the Wildcats for the last regular season basketball game this Saturday.
When I went online, I found the psychology for why we dress in costumes. The adage says, “if clothes make the man, a blue polyester suit can make you Superman.” The question is does dressing up really make you a different person, or does it just change your wrapping. We realize we do not need to put on a costume to switch roles, and we do so several times a day as different situations arise (son, dad, co-worker). We not only judge others depending on the clothes they wear, we also judge ourselves by the clothes we wear. Clothes not only change your opinion about yourself but change your behavior. Thinking you change your self-perception and behavior according to what you wear might seem ludicrous, it is another sign that we do switch roles according to what we are wearing, and each role influences your thinking and behavior. This change may be slight, but it is enough to see yourself in a different light. Sharkansas costumes encourage students to change their role from enthusiastic spectator to an active participant in the event.
The idea for wearing shark costumes began with two sophomores in 2017 who decided to “do something weird at a basketball game.” They started a GroupMe chat that grew to nearly 100 people that decided on the awkward and clunky costume, then cut a deal with the seller for a pallet of shark costumes. The participants concealed their outfits until the lights went down for the opening lineups, and when the lights came back up they revealed 120 sharks in the student section. Arkansas went on to a 95-79 upset win over Minnesota. Sharkansas returned in 2020 when the Hogs hosted Kentucky and this time was sponsored by the university and it appeared again for the Kentucky game in 2022. The originators did not want this to become a sponsored event and envisioned Sharkansas as a one-time event. While the originators have moved on (graduated) the prospect of Sharkansas lives on. We will see on Saturday.
THOUGHTS: While college may not be for everyone, participants find it a time marked by new freedom, new friends, and new experiences. Some say one of the best things about college is how many socially abnormal things become acceptable. It can be like entering a different world where normal adult rules do not apply because we are still figuring out how to be a proper adult. Chase Arnold, one of the Sharkansas originators who now lives in Denver said, “Most of the Razorback community was just really confused, and that was the end goal. We didn’t want it to make sense.” This is at the heart of most college athletic traditions. It is only the proper adults who are confused by these antics. Act for all. Change is coming and it starts with you.