Birding, we can all agree here, is pretty terrific. Football, and by this I mean the kind we play in the U.S. of A., is rather outstanding in its own right. Why is then that the combination of football and birds doesn’t deliver a new level of success?
Obviously (it is obvious, isn’t it?) I’m not talking about birds playing football, although I’d be terrified to tackle a Cassowary. Rather, I’m referring to those soulful teams that have adopted birds as their totems. The National Football League boasts no fewer than five teams with bird names: Cardinals, Eagles, Falcons, Ravens, and Seahawks.
While each of these teams, with the possible exception of the Arizona Cardinals (who sports writer/public intellectual Gregg Easterbrook believes should be named the Pyrrhuloxias for reasons that should be obvious to this audience), has a vast, passionate fan base, they are not exactly heaped with glory. This weekend’s coming Super Bowl reminds me of how poorly bird-named football teams fare in the big game. In fact, in 44 Super Bowl match-ups from 1967 to 2010, only once has a football team named for a bird emerged victorious in the championship game. The Baltimore Ravens crushed my beloved New York Giants in Super Bowl XXXV (2001) to become football’s finest feathered franchise. Teams named for Homo sapiens just do better in this game. In an astonishing 31 of 44 contests, an organization named for a meat (not cheese) packer, chieftain, cowpoke, steel worker, indigenous American, gold miner, U.S. nationalist, servant of a deity, or some species of pirate has won it all. This year’s game will continue that trend as the Packers play the Steelers. Boo birds.
With hope, this essay on the intersection of ornithology and athletics has sufficiently prepared you for a Super Bowl-special edition of I and the Bird perfectly presented by Mike at Slugyard. Dig into his delicious football-flavored edition of I and the Bird CXLIII. And go Pack!
If birding or wild birds are your game, get in the big leagues with I and the Bird. Our next mighty host is Greg Laden, science blogger supreme and presumably a bitter Viking fan. Get your links and summaries to me (mike AT 10000birds DOT com) or Greg (greg AT gregladen DOT com) by February 15 for the 2/17 edition.