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Volume 22 No. 31
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These two friends aren’t afraid to talk about the origin of popular Milwaukee Bucks slogan

This much we know … or at least we think we know: “SportsCenter” anchor John Anderson was the person who popularized the “Fear the Deer” slogan that has been adopted for the Milwaukee Bucks’ playoff run this year.

But is he the one who first came up with the slogan? That’s a question that has gone unanswered this season as the phrase has become synonymous with the team’s postseason run.

Ian Busch, a 46-year-old animation writer currently working on “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles,” claims he is the one who came up with the “Fear the Deer” slogan. He says he texted the saying to Anderson in 2010 as part of a Bucks conversation, which led Anderson to use it on “SportsCenter.”

Anderson says he doesn’t recall how it all started, though he allows that Busch’s version is plausible.

“I have always thought that I was the guy who said it first, but Ian and I text frequently about the Bucks, so maybe he was first,” Anderson said. “This isn’t like Einstein’s theory of relativity where I know I can pin it down to one guy. It’s more like the wheel — somebody did it, it’s totally brilliant and the world is a better place for it.”

Fear the Deer has been the team’s battle cry since first being uttered in 2010.
Photo: nick williams / milwaukee business journal

(An aside: It should be pointed out that there is no animosity in this debate. It’s entirely good natured, as one would expect with two Wisconsin natives. Neither is looking for money, copyright or even fame. I initiated this story and reached out to both; neither pitched me to write this. Busch and Anderson have been and will continue to be friends.)

Here’s Busch’s story:

Busch and Anderson met in 2008 when they worked together on the TV series “Wipeout” — Busch as a writer and Anderson as host. They bonded because they both grew up in Wisconsin and loved the Bucks.

In March 2010, they were texting about an upcoming Bucks game against the Cleveland Cavaliers. The Bucks had won eight of the previous nine games, and Cavs star player LeBron James would not be playing that night.

“I said in jest, ‘Yeah, you know Fear the Deer,” Busch said. “John said it on ‘SportsCenter’ that night. After he said it, ESPN’s NBA show picked it up later that night as well. They sort of ran with it.”

The Bucks’ playoff run this season again put the slogan on display.
Photo: getty images

About three weeks later, billboards sprouted up around Milwaukee with the Fear the Deer saying. Later that season, the team’s Brandon Jennings held up a sign with the saying on the court.

Anderson recalled that the team handed out “Fear the Deer” T-shirts during its first-round series with Atlanta in 2010.

“I remember saying, ‘Look at that. That’s become a thing,’” Anderson said.

Busch says he views his role in Fear the Deer as little more than a fun story — he has no interest in trying to make money off the slogan.

“Early on when they started putting it on T-shirts, friends would ask why I’m not copywriting it,” he said. “Early on, I felt like, ‘Gosh if I can have any connection to my favorite team in all of sports …’ I never needed to monetize it. That is in no way how my mind works.

“But my mind did go to ‘Oh God, nobody’s going to believe me.’ This is going to be one of those old grandpa stories that I’m going to tell my kids, and they’re going to be ‘Sure Dad, you thought of Fear the Deer.’”

John Ourand can be reached at jourand@sportsbusinessjournal.com. Follow him on Twitter @Ourand_SBJ.