Maryland Women's Team Eats Kids
Probably because I've written so many words about men's college basketball this year, and hardly any about the women, I asked a lot of men's-vs.-women's questions after the top-seeded Maryland women pounded 16th-seeded Dartmouth in College Park today.
There are some obvious differences. I don't know of many men's teams that have lucky fingernail polish colors, for example, the way a few of the Maryland women do. (The color is black. As someone who once regularly painted his fingernails black, I completely approve.) And I'm not judging, but I've never seen a Lord & Taylor bag in a men's basketball locker room. That I can recall, anyhow.
But don't call this group soft. Because they have the most ruthless slogan I've ever heard, in any sport, at any level. Sure, when they're breaking huddles on the floor, they say normal things like "Defense!" and "Intensity!" But in the locker room?
"We say Eat Kids!" Anjale Barrett told me matter-of-factly.
Bet you never heard a John Wooden adage about that one.
So here's what happened. Back in the fall they had weekly rehearsals for their Midnight Madness dance routine. To keep the intensity up during these rehearsals, sophomore forward Emery Wallace began shouting out motivational things. A Mike Tyson quote jumped out in her mind.
"What'd he say?" she asked me. "Something about eating kids."
And thus, a motto was born.
"She's not stable," star forward Marissa Coleman pointed out about Wallace.
Regardless, that slogan became a tradition during the dance rehearsals. Then it moved inside the locker room. The players started writing it on the white board before games, underneath the three keys provided by the coaching staff. They began putting their fists together and shouting it before leaving the room. They return to the message at halftime, with Wallace tailoring her exact advice based on the first-half performance.
"She'll be like, 'We're halfway through the kids' body now, keep going,' " Yemi Oyefuwa explained. "It's not like we played bad, you already had the head, you already had the hair."
"I've heard her say, 'Get to the feet,' " Marah Strickland noted.
And I guess you could go two ways with this once the media--or, at least, the D.C. Sports Bog--catches wind of the whole kids thing. One way would be to carefully explain that the slogan isn't literal.
"We try to stay away from THAT definition; the, you know, real definition," Strickland said. "Eat their kids is more a statement of domination. It's a metaphor.
"We're not actually eating kids," Demauria Liles agreed. "We're just dominating, we're stomping them to the ground."
"We love the kids," Barrett interjected, trying to make sure that no one believes the Maryland program to be anti-child. "it's just something that gets us motivated. We're not like Hannibal Lecter or anything like that."
And the other approach? Well, I'll just let Oyefuwa, a very civilized Londoner, speak for the other approach.
"Every month I choose a child," she told me. "Sometimes it's one from back home, sometimes it's someone from this country. You try to pick the juicy ones, the ones with nice hair, delicious ones, pretty eyes, because you know, the eyes are the best."
Ok, look, she was joking too. Everyone loves kids. And because I'm sensing that you want to read more on this topic, here's one final burst of Terp reaction to eating kids.
Marissa Coleman: "The coaches don't even know what it means. We write it on the board before every game, and they're still wondering what it means. So it's one of those trigger phrases that you can say, and the energy changes, and we get ready to play."
Brenda Frese: "I just know what they write, I don't know what it means. They won't give me an answer. I've asked. Have they given you an answer? Kids. What they come up with nowadays."
Marah Strickland: "Eat their kids is a statement of empowerment.
Kristi Toliver: "I don't really understand it, personally. I was not in the inside joke when that was going on. So I'll say it, I'll put my hand in there and say it, but as far as the meaning of it, I don't understand."
Yemi Oyefuwa: "Just because we're girls doesn't mean we're all...I mean, we are kind of prissy, but it's a sport. It's not a women's sport, it's not a men's sport; it's a sport. And if they can go hard, we can go hard as well. It's funny, it reminds us of the past, and all the memories of how we got here, but the meaning is just don't give up."
Their next meal, by the way, comes Tuesday night in the Comcast Center against 9th-seeded Utah. Hide the children.
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