So, why did the Houston Cougars put up a billboard featuring Case Keenum giving ‘the shocker’ hand gesture anyway?

Well, because it’s not supposed to be “the shocker” as defined by Urban Dictionary. (Warning: link not safe for the faint of heart, parents of any age, or Rick Santorum.)

Here is the picture, and then in true Paul Harvey style…the rest of the story.

houston-cougars-billboard-shocker-cougar-pawImage source: Shirts With Random Triangles

Admittedly, when I first saw the billboard I thought it was just an unfortunately timed photo that some 40-something marketing person didn’t realize had an entirely different and lascivious meaning. It wasn’t until Robert Crowe posted the picture in our MSF Facebook group, and then Josh Tinley – as he is wont to do – let us know about the actual origin of this hand gesture as it relates to Houston sports, that the billboard choice finally made sense.

Here is the basic summary, via Wikipedia, plus the “graphcial representation” of the Cougar Paw:

cougar-pawThe Cougar Paw is a popular hand sign used by University of Houston students, faculty, alumni, and athletics fans to represent camaraderie and support. The Cougar Paw tradition was adopted through several athletics events between the University of Houston and the University of Texas.

The first time UH played Texas in American football was in 1953. Since this was their first meeting, members of Alpha Phi Omega—the service fraternity in charge of taking care of Shasta I, the university’s mascot—brought her to the game. During the trip, Shasta’s front paw was caught in the cage door and one toe was cut off. At the game, several Longhorn players saw what had happened and began taunting UH players by holding up their hands with the ring finger bent, suggesting the Cougars were invalids. Texas went on to win this game 28–7. UH students had been using the victory sign as a hand signal up to that time, but began using the bent-finger sign as a reminder that they would remember the taunts.

The Cougars didn’t play the Longhorns again until 1968. With UH fans holding up the new sign of Cougar pride, UH played UT to a 20–20 tie. They didn’t meet again until 1976, the first year UH was a member of the Southwest Conference. In front of a record crowd at Texas’ Memorial Stadium, UH defeated UT 30–0–a rout that signaled the beginning of the end for legendary Texas coach Darrell Royal. This solidified the use of the Cougar Paw as a tradition.

So there you have it, the rest of the story. Case Keenum is not giving “the shocker” sign to a female in the stands. He’s just showing his Cougar pride.

The story of the Cougar Paw certainly makes the billboard choice much more understandable, though you wonder how many conversations went back and forth considering the unintended interpretations. The Cougar Paw even shows up on the Wikipedia page for the shocker hand gesture.

Final verdict: the University of Houston is vindicated. They have been using this hand gesture his 1953, which I have to assume is far, far earlier than “the shocker” hand gesture earned the stature it has today.



About Jerod Morris

I love words. I write for Copyblogger and founded MSF, The Assembly Call, & Primility. I practice yoga, eat well, & strive for balance. I love life. Namaste. Say hi on Twitter, Facebook, & G+.

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