What effect does Red Panda have on Notre Dame basketball?
When people like Billy Beane of the Oakland A’s began employing the use of advanced statistics in constructing winning sports teams, they were considered visionaries. No one had used analytics and complicated math to discover trends, advantages, strategy emphases, and undervalued players until then. And it changed the game.
Nowadays, if a team at the professional or even college level isn’t using advanced statistics, they are behind the times and likely not very successful. Stat geeks and whiz kids have come up with the most telling and elaborate measures of performance in their respective sports, and it would seem, at this point, that there is little left to be unearthed through statistical analysis.
If you believe that, then you are dead wrong.
“What is this idiot talking about?”, you ask.
Clearly, I’m talking about the biggest secret behind the success of the Notre Dame men’s and women’s basketball programs. The single factor that has aided the Fighting Irish to many a victory, including against opponents who, by every standard and advanced metric, should have bested them.
Am I talking about Skylar Diggins and Jerian Grant? Troy Murphy and Ruth Riley? Mike Brey and Muffet McGraw?
Nay, none of those players or coaches have been important enough to merit the praise I’m handing out today.
That one secret ingredient in the decadent masterpiece of a dish that has been Notre Dame basketball’s success over the past 12 years?
Red Panda and her halftime show.
And no, I’m not talking about those fluffy little animals you can see at the zoo, although that wouldn’t be a half-bad halftime show either, especially if you give them little basketball uniforms and Playskool hoops to dunk on.
I’m talking about the electrifyingly brilliant halftime act of Rong Niu (stage name = Red Panda), the insane and fearless woman who rides a thousand-foot-high (by my personal estimation) unicycle and flips bowls from her foot to the top of her head while doing so, catching them in a neat stack to the delight of fans of cool stuff worldwide.
Red Panda has performed at all sorts of sporting events, and yet it was in my time as a student at Notre Dame where I first experienced her magic. And I can still vividly remember her role in my favorite basketball game memory as a student, catching all those bowls on her head in between a couple of halves of basketball where the Irish men’s team found a way to bring down #1-ranked Syracuse, enabling my first-ever storming of the court.
After seeing her perform valiantly in ND’s comeback win over #2-ranked North Carolina a couple weeks ago, I knew I needed to investigate what was already a strong hunch I had about Red Panda. Was she the reason we came back and won? Was her death-defying bowl and unicycle stunt the driving force behind many of my favorite basketball teams’ big home victories?
There was only one way to find out, and so I immediately emailed the Notre Dame Basketball Marketing and Communications departments, seeking any and all information on games Red Panda has performed at in front of the raucous Purcell Pavilion crowd. What I was sent back, after some time waiting for Red Panda’s management to get back to those department contacts, were the following dates of Red Panda performances at Notre Dame:
After some quick research and some basic logic applied to dates that didn’t line up exactly right (and the tidbit of info given to me by the Marketing department that Red Panda oftentimes is booked to do a men’s and a women’s game in back-to-back days when applicable), I assembled the following information on those games:
Note the two highlighted rows. As I mentioned, quite a few of the dates did not exactly align to correct game dates. However, most of the dates could be reasonably assigned to the date of a game the day before or after the given date. The 2007 games are highlighted, though, because the date given was 1/15/2007, which is right in the middle of those two. It’s not too likely a busy celebrity like Red Panda stuck around for 3 days in South Bend to work both games, but no matter if she worked one or both, she helped lead the Irish to victory. I mainly highlighted these games to note that one of them might not have had a Red Panda performance.
The other highlighted game is 1/25/2004, a game that the men’s team lost to Kentucky. I highlighted this one because the date given was 1/24/2004, the actual date of a women’s game that ND won in a 38-36 barn-burner over a ranked Villanova squad. However, because we know Red Panda was consistently booked to perform on back-to-back days for men’s and women’s games, we felt this date should be included for honesty’s sake, even though it is not a confirmed Red Panda performance.
So, let’s take the worst-case scenario, using only one of the 2007 games and including the loss to Kentucky in our analysis. That still leaves Notre Dame basketball overall with a 10-1 record (5-1/4-1 men’s, 5-0/6-0 women’s) in Red Panda games. I’ve illustrated this in a shocking pie chart below:
As you can see, Red Panda is having an incredible effect on the games at which she performs.
But what about team morale and momentum? Are her magical abilities able to transcend one game? Let’s take a look at a column I added to that table, analyzing that very question:
The data is overwhelming. Notre Dame teams have had winning records in their next 5 games after Red Panda performs 7 out of a possible 12 times, and more importantly, 6 different ND teams have gone on streaks of at least a .700 winning percentage when the set of games following Red Panda is extended to include at least the next 10.
This cannot be a coincidence.
Red Panda is clearly super-human and magical and harnesses her powers for the greater good of Notre Dame basketball. That is my only explanation for these irrefutable statistics, and it is unyielding in its correctness.
So, what should we conclude from all of this?
It’s really quite simple. Red Panda is the greatest thing to happen to Notre Dame basketball since Austin Carr, and she should absolutely be the next legend enshrined in the Ring of Honor.
So please, share this story with anyone and everyone of note. Share the trending topic #PutRedPandaInTheNDRingofHonor on social media. Share this revelation with the world. She deserves all of the praise and honor Fighting Irish fans can muster, and it would be a disservice and, frankly, an injustice to continue on with our lives without acknowledging Red Panda’s mystique.