The flying fickle finger of foam

The 6/1 Wayno/Piraro Bizarro collabo, a medical cartoon:


(#1) (If you’re puzzled by the odd symbols in the cartoon — Dan Piraro says there are 5 in this strip — see this Page.)

The crucial thing here is a pop-cultural reference, involving that huge hand (in the drawing) and the reference to being a fan at sporting events (in the text); if you don’t know that connection, the cartoon is just baffling.

That connection is a folk practice originating about 50 years ago in the U.S., and still, I think, predominantly an American thing. From Wikipedia:


(#2) A fan raises a foam hand at a Cleveland Indians game (Wikipedia image)

A foam hand, commonly known as a foam finger, is a sports paraphernalia item worn on the hand to show support for a particular team. The most common version resembles an oversized hand with an extended index finger, and slits in their bases allow them to be worn over the hands. Usually the surface displays a silk-screened team name, logo, or other graphic or slogan, such as “We Are #1.” Foam hands are made of open-celled foam.

… The first prototype foam finger was created in 1971 by Ottumwa High School student Steve Chmelar, who constructed a giant hand out of hardware cloth and papier-mâché for the 1971 Iowa High School Athletic Association Boy’s State Basketball Finals, between the Ottumwa Bulldogs and the Davenport West Falcons.

… In 1976, Texas high school teacher Geral Fauss created foam fingers to show support for the team at the high school where he taught, to raise funds for the industrial arts club, and as a project that his industrial arts class could produce themselves. His first prototype foam finger was actually made out of plywood and had a painting of a “number one” done in the school’s colors.

Fauss first sold his foam fingers at the 1978 Cotton Bowl in Dallas (University of Texas vs. Notre Dame), and he later went on to found Spirit Industries for the large scale manufacturing of foam fingers. In 1979, the first polyurethane foam version of the product was produced by Spirit Industries.

The title of this posting. A play on an already playful name, The Flying Fickle Finger of Fate (with all those /f/s, the echo of vulgar slang a flying fuck, and of course the obscene gesture of giving someone the finger, communicating ‘up yours, fuck you’ (though that involves the middle, rather than the index, finger).

From A Way with Words (the radio show and podcast), “Fickle Finger of Fate Origins” by Grant Barrett on 11/21/16, the sumary:

The television show “Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In,” popular in the late 1960’s and early 1970’s, was famous for awarding its goofy trophy, the Flying Fickle Finger of Fate. But the term fickle finger of fate is actually decades older than that.

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