Every spring, March Madness sweeps the nation, turning even the most casual basketball fan into a rabid, number-crunching, bracket-obsessed enthusiast. But at COSI, we're in on the hoops hype every day, year-round, with fierce showdowns of our own.
We're talking rat basketball.
Three times a day, COSI's Atrium and Little Kidspace are transformed into booming arenas, as pint-sized fans cheer on a pair of Japanese Black Hooded rats going one-on-one in a live game where the players are fueled by an intense drive to win...as well as a few Cheerios. They're also far more competitive than you would probably think, scoring an average of 15 to 20 baskets per game, according to Victoria Nogay, a COSI volunteer and trained rat basketball referee (how cool would it be to put THAT on your resume?!)
So how exactly does rat basketball work? To address a common misconception, the rats don't actually wear black hoodies—despite what their name suggests—and we don't dress them in miniature jerseys either, though we do agree that would be a hoot. But besides that, these furry hoopsters are real, bred athletes. Nogay said it takes two to three months to train the rats, which happens right here at COSI. Only female pairs of sister rats get to play because they are the most cordial and non-aggressive. During the three-minute games, the basketball "courts" are sprinkled with Cheerios, which coerces the players to keep scoring (does anyone else think it would be awesome if the NBA starting doing this?). Nogay said Cheerios work well because they're dry, salty snacks that are nutritional enough for the rats to eat a lot of in a short period of time. Plus, it's entertaining to watch rats eat Cheerios and play basketball simultaneously.
Rat basketball is a unique COSI staple, and definitely something you have to see for yourself. So while you're anxiously waiting for the Sweet Sixteen round to get underway (even though your bracket is likely already busted), remember that the most intense basketball can be seen right here in Columbus, led not by a Craft, but by a Rat.
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