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Animal House and Cultural Remixing

Yesterday’s NFL game between the Pittsburgh Steelers (31) and the Cleveland Browns (0) prompted one of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette’s sportswriters to note that the Browns’ quarterback narrowly missed a Blutarsky.  The QB, one Bruce Gradkowski, achieved a passer rating — a measure of the player’s efficiency — of 2.8.  If you’re not an NFL fan, that’s an atrocious number.  

It’s not as atrocious as a 0.0, the lowest possible score, which is apparently called a Blutarsky.  The name remembers the legendary academic performance of John Belushi’s character John “Bluto” Blutarsky in Animal House. 

Exactly how that connection was made may be lost to history (is it?), but it leads me to wonder: 

Are there other sports or cultural distinctions that have been similarly honored with names of fictional characters? 

One similar example is the Mendoza Line, usually defined as a Major League Baseball batting average of .200.  Position players who are hitting below .200 are at risk of losing their major league roster spot.  The Wikipedia entry for Mendoza Line reports that the name was bestowed by George Brett, in honor of the former major leaguer Mario Mendoza.  But Mario Mendoza was a real guy. 

A second example is the Oscar, the informal (but now trademarked) name of the statue awarded by the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences in recognition of achievement in filmmaking.  The exact origins of the name are a bit misty.  But all of the stories link the name to someone named “Oscar,” who was a real guy.

“Blutarsky” for passer rating, however, is a remix or a cultural quotation involving a fictional hero (or anti-hero).  Intellectual property policy and theory implications to the side (I’ll leave those to others), surely, there must be others.

And stop calling me Shirley.