The buzz about The Bee

(Note: The headline is the first of several bee references I plan to pollinate throughout this blog post. You’ve been warned.)

The University of Baltimore reintroduced its Bee mascot on campus Thursday. The Bee has been part of UB since 1937, but was largely extinct from campus for 30 years. It was more of a reflection of the campus demographics (a lot of part-time, adult students who commuted) than any allergic reaction to a mascot.

“I don’t think there was much of a push because people didn’t care,” said Susan Luchey, director of the Center for Student Involvement.

That changed in recent years with the re-introduction of undergraduate classes. The newest freshmen had been bugging the administration about a mascot, drawing bees in the school newspaper and even giving it a Facebook page.

“They’re looking for an identity in their school, and a mascot is one of those ways,” Luchey said. “Students are excited, but they’re almost embarrassed to say they’re excited.”

Spencer Mierzejewski, a first-year law student, is not one of those students. Mierzejewski got stung by mascot fever after he heard a UB alum utter the phrase “Super Bees.” Having never heard the phrase and shocked the school even had a mascot, he decided to find out more and wrote about spotting bees all over campus on UB’s official blog.

“It’s nice to have something recognizable that stands for the University of Baltimore,” he said.

Mierzejewski said he’d like to see the Bee land in a moot court session. Luchey said the Bee will be at many university functions, from open houses to orientations to graduations. Alumni have already inquired about the Bee making an appearance at their events, Luchey added.

“It’s another notch in the belt of UB becoming a traditional campus,” she said.

Today’s rookies, tomorrow’s plaintiffs?

Cy Smith is not planning to watch much – if any – of the NFL Draft, which I believe will end sometime in May. But there is a chance some of these rookies could become Smith’s clients when their playing days are over.

Smith has represented numerous retired players seeking additional compensation from the NFL’s pension system, which he and others believe pays less than it should for disabilities caused by on-field injuries. Smith most famously represented the family of Hall of Fame Steelers’ center Mike Webster, which received a $1.5 million verdict in 2005. Last year, Smith settled a case on behalf of two former players, and he has several more cases at their earliest stages.

Perhaps the greatest danger facing players is head and brain injuries. Smith said research has shown that anyone who plays major college football and then pro football is at “serious” risk for repetitive concussion syndrome; oftentimes it’s not the biggest hit that causes the most damage but the accumulation of blows to the head. (For more on concussions, read Malcolm Gladwell’s story from the New Yorker.)

“It’s not a system of chance,” Smith said. “It’s predictable based on the way the game is played.”

The NFL last year recognized for the first time the long-term effects of concussions. The league has also taken steps to curb head injuries, including coming down harder on a player whose tackle or hit involves contact with another player’s head.

Smith said the NFL should be commended for taking steps to protect the players but that it might not be enough simply because of the nature of football.

“A lot may be inherent,” Smith said. “If that’s true, and we’re willing to have the game played in the way it has historically been played, we have to make sure the players are fairly compensated if they are injured.”