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As the District 3 hoops tournament approaches (preliminary games start Friday!), it gives me an excuse to pull out the below photo:

So why is my boss wearing pigtails? The prelim round of the District 3 tourney used to be referred to as the 'pigtail round.' We don't know why. But back in 2007, Chris gave his best effort to find the answer:(Post repurposed from The Lineup Card, Feb. 23, 2007)For about a week now, I haven’t been able to make it through a day without someone here in the newsroom asking me about it:What’s a pigtail game?What does pigtail mean?Why do they call it a pigtail game?Pigtail game?? Isn’t that sexist?It’s driving me bananas. I have pigtails everywhere. Pigtails on the brain. One pigtail or two? Braided or not?It’s time to find some answers….1. First and foremost, what I tell folks is this: It’s not my word. “Pigtail game” and “Pigtail round” are designations used by District 3 to describe the preliminary-round games in the District 3 basketball tournament. Since the tournament began taking more than 16 teams in some classifications, it created a need for a round before the first round. Depending on the number of teams in a bracket, some higher seeds receive a bye. Everyone else ends up in a “pigtail round.”

2. So, why pigtail?? Well, that’s the million-dollar question. Kind of like the JFK assassination, everyone has their own theory. What do all these theories have in common? It’s that none of them make any sense to me. In the past, before this topic drove me nuts, I simply told people that if you rotate the above bracket 90 degrees, the two lines for the preliminary round resemble a pair “pigtails” hanging down from the line above it. This led to many raised eyebrows and blank stares. I don’t blame them.

3. So where does that leave us, other than hopelessly lost in the midst of a blog entry that’s already sucked up three minutes of our lives? Well, what’s another few minutes of surfing, then?

  • I start by searching for “pigtail” at dictionary.com. The first result seems to be the one people are most familiar with: “a braid of hair hanging down the back of the head.” Other results -- such as “tobacco in a thin, twisted roll,” “a short wire connected to an electric device, as a lead or ground” and “a short-stemmed perennial (Anthurium scherzeranum) of Costa Rica and Guatemala, having a reflex, shiny, scarlet spathe and a spirally contorted, vermilion spadix” -- are decidedly not helpful in our quest.
  • Up next: A Google search for “pigtail basketball.” This yields about 55,700 hits and, at the very least, assures me that this is a common term in the world of sports and not just a subversive attempt by the District 3 basketball committee to see if it can get a silly word into newspaper sports sections.
  • In the usually useful Google, various other searches are not at all useful. I try “pigtail basketball origin.” I try “pigtail basketball round.” I try “history pigtail basketball.” Desperate, I try “please please please tell me why they call it a pigtail game” and I get -- no joke -- a link to an album by Queen.


    Clearly, the investigation isn’t getting anywhere? Do you have any thoughts to help me crack “The Case of the Puzzling Pigtails”?

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