I spend a fair share of my time on social media. I enjoy staying connected with people I know (or maybe, more accurately, creeping on people I know to see what they’re up to), and for a time I found myself interested in what celebrities were up to on different platforms. For the most part, I didn’t bother trying to communicate with people I didn’t know on social media, and my interactions online were fairly controlled and expected. However, sometimes you have interactions on social media that are completely unexpected, interactions that surprise you and expand your world in ways you didn’t know were possible.
This is a story of one of those occasions.
In the spring of 2014, the Manhattan College men’s basketball team beat Iona in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference (MAAC) championship game to earn an automatic spot in the NCAA Tournament. Entering as a 13 seed, the team squared off against Louisville in the first (technically second, but really the first) round. I remember nothing from the game; a wikipedia search showed that Manhattan lost to Louisville 71-64, ending their season with a 25-8 record.
After the game, I found myself curious as to where the school was located. Obviously the school was from Manhattan, but which one? New York? Kansas? A different Manhattan entirely? Smart money was on New York, since I suspected it would be difficult for Manhattan, Kansas (home of Kansas State University) to be home to two Division 1 basketball teams.
A Google search revealed a shocking plot twist. It turns out that school hailed from neither Manhattan, New York, nor Manhattan, Kansas; in fact, the school wasn’t in any Manhattan at all. Manhattan College is located in the Bronx. Being that I was in a state of surprise and that it was late at night, I decided to share my findings with the world on Twitter before shutting my computer and going to sleep.
“Just found out that Manhattan College is located in the Bronx #whatistruth #shouldsomeonetellthem”
I felt quite proud of my hashtags, but thought nothing of the tweet itself until I checked Twitter the next morning.
Even though I hadn’t tagged the school, the official Manhattan College twitter had found my tweet and tweeted back at me.
“@mn_mohawk We have an explanation for that bit.ly/1iyN11x ”
The tweet came complete with a link to a YouTube video explaining how Manhattan College had come to be located in the Bronx. After being founded in Manhattan in 1853, the school purchased land in the Bronx in 1902, moving campus to that site in 1922. (Now, it’s been almost 100 years, so it seems that there was plenty of time to update the accuracy of the name of the school, but that’s just me).
My surprise at the response from the official Twitter feed for the school was pretty large, especially since I (intentionally) hadn’t tagged the school. It only took a couple of seconds before I decided to try to one-up the school (and continue to be funny) by responding to this tweet with another of my own:
“@ManhattanEdu Thanks for the tweet! I guess the only question left is what the heck a #Jasper is”
Yes, the mascot for Manhattan College is the Jaspers. Of all the things in the world a school could choose to be, Manhattan decided to be represented by a Jasper.
Curious as to what a Jasper is? I had pondered the possibilities, and found that my new (and surprising) interaction with the school was about to bring me the answer. The school wasted no time in responding to my tweet:
“@mn_mohawk We’ve got that covered too! bit.ly/1juGbKe #GoJaspers”
The tweet once again came complete with a link, this time to the school’s athletics page. In my memory, the link led directly to the page explaining what a Jasper is, but now it leads to the home page for the athletics program. A very brief search led to the rediscovery of the “What is a Jasper?” page.
It turns out that the mascot is the namesake of a former faculty member of the school, Father Jasper. A true renaissance man, Father Jasper wore many hats at Manhattan College. Originally starting as the head of resident students, Father Jasper went on to found the school’s first band, orchestra, glee club, and various literary clubs. His greater impact on the wider world, however, came through his involvement in the athletics program.
Father Jasper, Manhattan College’s first athletic director (obviously), brought baseball to the school, starting the first team and serving as the school’s first baseball coach. While serving in both of these roles, Father Jasper was also the Prefect of discipline for the school, supervising the behavior of the students attending the game while coaching at the same time.
One fateful day in the late 1800s, Manhattan College found itself in a tight game with the semi-pro Metropolitans heading into their batting half of the seventh inning. Noticing that the students were getting restless, Father Jasper called timeout and instructed the students to stand up and stretch for several minutes before continuing the game.
That’s right: Father Jasper invented the seventh inning stretch.
The school team played the professional New York Giants annually during the late 1880s and 1890s at the Polo Grounds, and thanks to these games and the continuation of the tradition, the seventh inning stretch soon spread into the major leagues. Thanks to his impact on the school, Manhattan College chose to name their mascot after this priest, a man of many talents and inventor of the seventh inning stretch.
At this point in the Twitter interaction, I had no response. What could I possibly write that could top Father Jasper? I spent the rest of the tournament excitedly telling partygoers about the interaction I’d had with the school on Twitter and the story of Father Jasper. Now, whenever I go to baseball games and whenever the NCAA Tournament gets closer, I think of this interaction, Father Jasper, and the unexpected things that can happen on social media.