Everyone had their special techniques that they used as kids to make it through the seemingly endless hours of boring class that comprised their education. I'm not talking about Gym or Chem Lab--but rather (probably) about History, Math, and English. Depending on the teacher, those latter classes could be among the most fun (like they were with Mr. Chalke, Mrs. Bendrihem, and Mr. Gori) or they could be mind-numbingly dull and unengaging (like they were with many, many other teachers). In order to survive those moments without attempting to drive a pencil through your eye simply so that you could excuse yourself to the nurse's office, certain approaches needed to be applied. If you were lucky, you could be a sleeper (I once sat next to a kid who claimed to have arthritis (at thirteen) and all sorts of chest and bone ailments...I was GLAD when he went to sleep!) but depending up on the teacher, the layout of the classroom, and your location in it, this could be difficult to impossible. I was not so lucky because I was paranoid about getting into trouble and I figured that the one time I would fall asleep would be the time something important would actually be discussed.
For me, having a watch was of the utmost importance, especially in junior high school. I hated junior high and couldn't wait to be done with each individual day let alone the three years of hell I had to endure. As such, I knew the bell schedule by heart and would calculate it down to the second when the bell would ring and when to start packing up. Sometimes I used this knowledge to my advantage by asking a series of inane questions (usually on Fridays) that seemed relevant (or feigned an interest in the topic at hand) hoping to stall the teacher, usually because he or she had threatened us with homework for the weekend. I'm sure it seems mean-spirited to some but at the time I felt like a temporal Robin Hood, stealing time from the teacher and giving it back to me and my classmates in the form of free time on the weekends.
Note to all teachers: never assign homework as a punishment...at least not if you want your kids to actually do whatever else you assign throughout the year!
Second note to all teachers: even your nicest students will connive against you at one point or another. It doesn't mean they don't like you...it's just in their evil, pubescent nature.
With that said, there has been one tried and true technique that I have used throughout the years to survive the most boring of classes. It began as a genuine exercise in edification (or at least in memorization) but it grew into a way to disconnect myself completely from my surroundings and focus entirely on this single task-at-hand; in essence, I have trained myself to reach a completely meditative state (without chanting Ohm!) while maintaining an awareness of my surroundings and the goings-on therein. The activity was attempting to name all (then) twenty-nine professional basketball franchises and its genesis was found in a genuine interest in learning all of the different teams.
It was a great approach...at least at first. You see, the problem with trying to do this more than once a day is that you will invariably continue to forget the same teams and frustrate yourself by being unable to recall them, or, more likely, you will come to remember them all and the activity thus loses its lustre (British spelling, holla!) I think I started to do this in eighth grade, which was good because the time I got to high school I really opened up my sports palette. As a natural evolution, I began attempting to list baseball and football teams as well. I knew things were bad (meaning having yet another terrible teacher in a terrible class) when I attempted the most difficult of all (for non-NHL fans): listing hockey franchises.
I could lose myself for a good ten to fifteen minutes attempting to do all of the teams, which might not sound like a lot (in terms of time) but it represented anywhere from 20-30% of an entire class session. If employed at the right time, it could get me through the bulk of the worst part of any given class (the middle twenty - thirty minutes), which, on some days, was like a godsend. I'm sure to some if not most of the people who will read this entry, this mundane task seems more like a chore than a fun activity, or, perhaps, even more boring than the class I was trying to escape; I suppose it all comes down to one's nature. Mine is always to challenge myself to improve my memory the speed with which I can recall information. I enjoy examining data, finding patterns, and discovering their meanings, if any. Though I abhorred doing research throughout my elementary and secondary school years, by the time I reached my undergraduate collegiate years, I grew to enjoy it and, by the time I reached graduate school, I found that I loved it.
I remember a moment during my student-teaching when my cooperating teacher asked me what I liked to read. He mentioned non-fiction and I made a face and shook my head, citing fiction as my preferred medium. Ironically, since that moment, I have read far more non-fiction than fiction for pleasure let alone pedagogical pursuits or requirements. I suppose that I enjoy learning as much as I possibly can and I have found that non-fiction affords that in ways that fiction either can't or won't. There is always a natural sequence that one can follow when reading non-fiction that is perhaps endless. My first professor in graduate school said that the most important part of any paper (or piece of research) is the footnotes--often the source text. It makes a great deal of sense when you think about it: you're reading a paper that someone wrote and who, in their research, read other works to influence or inform their writing; eventually, you will always reach the source text, which, in many ways, is likely the most important and interesting material that you'll come across anyway.
A moment's digression, if you will.
Throughout my life I have had numerous, "Hey, I wonder if..." moments that have led to some great inquisitions and results. One of my pet peeves has always been people who I share these moments with and who respond, almost invariably, with "Wow you've got too much time on your hands?" or "Who thinks of stuff like that? or "Where do you come up with this?" Most of the time I just laugh or shrug it off because I'm too polite to tell them that, if, perhaps, just once, they removed their heads from their asses, then perhaps they, too, could reach such intellectual heights--that they, like all of the other worker bees seem content to buzz about without so much as glancing skyward and wondering and insodoing lose an essential part of the very fabric that makes them human...
But yeah, moral of the diatribe: the next time someone shares something with you and your immediate reaction is to say something like the two asinine questions or statements above, realize that you're belying your own sheep-like mentality and would, therefore, probably be better off just smiling politely and saying "Wow, that's interesting. Didn't know that."
With that said, said interest in research, in conjunction with my inborn curiosity, helped me professionally as well. Towards the end of my time at Baruch, I began thinking on a grander scope about how I could help to improve the program that I worked for. I would sit down during the slow moments and try to think of ways that we could improve either the service that we provided our current students with as well as our potential future ones and those who had already moved on from the program. I wound up drafting an ambitious research project that took me weeks to complete but that, I believe, was quite fruitful. I wound up assessing a few thousand students, selecting those who had come through our program and who then went on to enroll in the college. I analyzed their grades in our courses to see whether or not they would serve as a good indicator of potential future success; it turned out there was a strong correlation between the grades earned and the GPAs these students went on to accrue (not to mention the correlation between the subject matter of the courses they took pre-college through our program and the majors they went on to explore and degrees they ultimately attained).
With that said, the whole sports franchise recollection activity appealed to me on numerous levels. For one, it also conjured up images of the various logos of the teams (which I enjoyed attempting to draw in my notebook during my frequent doodling sessions...yeah that sounded bad lol), reinforced my knowledge of United States geography (by helping me to recall cities and their respective locations), and, ultimately, could lead to other similar activities such as then attempting to name the quarterbacks for all of the NFL teams, the starting five for all of the NBA teams, and/or pitchers for each of the MLB teams.
So what does all this have to do with the title of the blog or the overall thrust of the entry overall?
I (once again) recently had a, "Gee, I wonder what..." moment in thinking about the names of various sports franchises. The inspiration for the thought came (appropriately enough, I suppose) from the seeding for the NFL playoffs this season. I realized that the Ravens, Eagles, Falcons, and Seahawks all made the playoffs and that the only team named after a bird not to make it was the Cardinals. I then wondered if they ever had all five bird-teams in the playoffs at the same time and I realized that, though it hasn't happened and is unlikely to happen anytime soon (given the state of the NFC West), it is possible: the Ravens are the only AFC team of the bunch, so they could make it without issue (meaning they would win the AFC North or one of the two AFC wildcards); the Eagles and Falcons would have to win the NFC East and NFC South, respectively; and the Cardinals and Seahawks would have either to split the NFC West and the NFC wildcard or both earn the NFC wildcard. As I said, it's entirely unlikely, specifically because of the deplorable state of the latter's division but it is possible.
The next thought was the one that sent me off on my mission. I wondered simultaneously how many other sports franchises were named after birds, if any single team name spanned all four major sports (Professional Baseball, Basketball, Football, and Hockey), and, in thinking about how many teams there are named after birds, what team name-category was the most popular throughout the four major sports. I realized after some brief cogitation that there was no way a single team name spanned three sports, let alone four but I still wondered about the categories and thus the histories behind each team names. Some are obvious (Philadelphia Phillies?), some are notorious for their anachronistic current nature despite making sense in previous locations (Los Angeles Lakers and Utah Jazz, for two), but many seemed to have an interesting story to tell (San Diego Chargers and New Orleans Saints, for two more). I knew of some of the stories behind the franchises (such as the Dodgers) and was able to piece together some others from ancillary knowledge (the Vikings, for one) but others still had me scratching my head or at least needing confirmation (such as the Twins).
So I did what I enjoy doing: I spent some time researching it, compiled the data, and then analyzed it. I was surprised by what I learned about the various teams (and the way the names are distributed across a series of categories). I must note though that there are two somewhat major flaws in my methodology (with regards to the categories. The first flaw is that the categories are completely arbitrary, meaning that they are not the sole, absolute possible categories that the team names could be broken up into. The second flaw is a subdivision of the first in that some teams could have fit multiple categories and were thus arbitrarily placed based on my caprice. As such, I cannot vouch for the scientific validity of my research...
...but let's be real, it's a list of friggin' sports teams broken up into categories, all of which pertain to said teams without any question. Plus, there wasn't a single team that didn't fit into at least one category.
Anyway, the categories, in alphabetical order, are as follows:
It reads like some sort of crazy list of Mad Lib responses, doesn't it? Okay, so most of these categories are self-explanatory but some could use a little explication. For all of the animal ones the decision was made to place the teams in that category if either the team name is explicitly an animal (the Chicago Bears, for example) or if its logo has a distinct animal in it, the name implies an animal, and the history of the team's name notes specifically the animal in question.
As for the other names, here they go:
City Nickname: if the name of the team applies specifically to an established nickname for the city it plays in
Geography: if the name of the team refers to a geographical feature
Local History: if the name of the team is in reference to something of American historical importance localized in that particular city or region (e.g. San Francisco 49ers referring to the Gold Rush of 1849 in California)
Local Industry: if the name of the team refers directly to an industry that is identified or linked explicitly with the area (e.g. Milwaukee Brewers and beer)
Local Miscellaneous: if the name of the team refers to something that pertains to the city that it plays in but that which cannot be easily or separately listed in another category
Local People: if the name of the team refers specifically (usually as a nickname) to the people who reside in that city or locale
Miscellaneous: the dreaded catch-all category that captures the misfits that did not fit neatly into any of the other categories
Transportation: if the name of the team refers specifically to some form of transportation or something related intricately to a mode of transportation
So my approach to discussing my results will be to identify each category and the teams that comprise them in increasing size order (from smallest number of teams to the largest), to elucidate why the teams are either so named and/or are included in that particular category, and then to provide my reaction to the results.
NB: all information regarding the history of the team names came from each team's individual Wikipedia page. Where reliable information was lacking or where suspicious naming histories were present, further research was performed. If consensus was found regarding the origin of a team name (and it seemed legitimate) then said team was categorized accordingly; all teams for which reliable histories could not be located were designated "Miscellaneous" and placed in the eponymous category.
New Orleans (née Charlotte) Hornets
Utah (née New Orleans) Jazz
St. Louis Blues
Most basketball fans are aware of the fact that the "Utah" Jazz makes no sense because the team originated in New Orleans--the origin site of the musical form--and then moved to Utah whilst keeping the team name.
The St. Louis Blues (again, according to Wikipedia) are named after the W.C. Handy tune of the same name.
Indianapolis (née Baltimore) Colts
Here we have the first controversy in terms of my categorizing. The Colts (originating in Baltimore) were so named for "...the city's long history of horse racing and breeding," according to the Baltimore Colts' Wikipedia page. As a result, I faced a dilemma: do I place the Colts in one of the "Local" categories or in the more obvious one of Equines (since their logos blatantly belie an association with the animal). I went with the latter for two reasons. First, pretty much every team is named because of something that has local relevancy and, if I were to begin taking that relevancy into consideration for every team, almost all of them would wind up in the "Local" categories (Florida Panthers being so named because of the indigenous population of said cats in said state). Second, the question regarding the name is, "What do people associate most with the team name?" If it's some sort of local history or relevance (say, with the '49ers), then they should be so placed...but if the most obvious category is with an animal, type of transportation, or whathaveyou, then I felt that the team should be placed in that category.
The Denver Broncos, for instance, were named based upon a naming contest that was held (as were MANY teams, as I have come to find). Now, though Colorado is renown for its populations of wild horses, should THAT fact be the associative element taking the greatest level of import with the team name? NO! Clearly, in this case, the Broncos are associated with the eponymous animal, particularly as a result of their various logos (aside from the hideous orange color of their uniforms...but that's a separate issue entirely).
New York [sic] Jets
Los Angeles Clippers
I had a difficult time categorizing the Jets and the Clippers and ultimately had to go with the information that I found. The Jets were originally the Titans and changed their name only when they moved into Shea Stadium. Now, Shea's proximity to LaGuardia (and, to a lesser extent, JFK) Airport might have influenced the team's name, which would thus render it a local industry category. However, I couldn't find ANYTHING to support this other than my own analysis, so I went with the transportation category.
The Clippers' name-origin is even more esoteric. The best I could come up with for them was that, when they left Buffalo (originally as the Braves) and moved to San Diego (thus becoming the San Diego Clippers) the name referred to the local prevalence of ships known as as "clippers" in the bay. Indeed their early logo seems to render three sails, thus referencing the boating nomenclature:
Again, though, I felt that the best course of action was to place the team in the transportation category since, literally, the terms Jets and Clippers both refer to types of vehicles used in transportation.
San Jose Sharks
There is a huge debate over what animal, in particular, is on the Wild's logo. At first I thought it was a large cat but then I thought it kind of looked like a bear. Since I couldn't conclude on which of the two it was (but being confident that it depicts some kind of existing mammal) I opted for that category.
Boston Red Sox
Chicago White Sox
Seriously--what is more lame than being named after a part of your uniform? Failure of a maximum degree here.
New York [sic] Giants
San Francisco Giants
The stories behind both Giants teams are pretty lame. The Titans one was interesting and gave me a moment's pause. Supposedly, part of why they are called the Tennessee Titans is because of Nashville's colloquial nickname as being "The Athens of the South." Presumably this, in some way, also refers to the mythological Titans, which would then just cycle back to the designation of "Giant Creature" or, more simply, "Giants."
Los Angeles Kings
Kansas City Royals
...because when you think of "Sports Royalty," the most deserving candidates are the L.A. Kings (0 championships), Sacramento Kings (0 championships), and the Kansas City Royals (one title).
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Sadly, Oakland was named through a contest and Pittsburgh...well...Pirates? Really? Tampa Bay's really the only one that could pull it off. Wicked stadium / pirate ship too.
St. Louis Rams
I really wanted to include the Broncos and Colts here too since they're ungulates as well but, of the five, they were the only two that were directly related and could sustain their own category.
CITY NICKNAME: 4
Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim
Los Angeles (née Minneapolis) Lakers
Along with the Utah Jazz, the Los Angeles Lakers comprise the two most confusingly monikered teams in the league...unless you're privy to the history. The Lakers originated in Minneapolis, a key city in the state of Minnesota, which, as you might know, is the "State of 10,000 Lakes." Hence the Lakers. And since Minneapolis and St. Paul are referred to as "The Twin Cities," you get a two-fer with the Twins' name.
The Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim used to be the Anaheim Angels...and then the Los Angeles Angels again before that. L.A. is the "City of Angels," hence the team name...
...but what about the Dallas Stars. Surely there must be some connection with the star on the side of the Dallas Cowboys' helmet, no?
For the Stars' history we return, once AGAIN, to Minnesota. Originally, the Stars were the North Stars and, originally again, they played in Minnesota. Another of Minnesota's million and a half nicknames is "The Star of the North," thus, the North Stars.
Minnesota: not JUST the home of collapsing football stadiums.
Toronto Maple Leafs
I really couldn't come up with a better name for this category, so it's kind of a catch-all. The Nationals are here because the name refers to Americans, overall, which is somewhat political. The Maple Leaf is on the Canadian flag...so...yeah...cut me some slack for this one.
Really, Chicago? You had to double-dip in the bear category?
San Antonio Spurs
I know--"The Cavaliers"? I couldn't find anything in particular that explained their history adequately (seriously--wtf is up with basketball teams not having this sort of information readily available?) Since their logo has swords and the term Cavalier refers to a type of cowboy, it seemed fitting that they got placed here.
NATIVE AMERICAN: 6
Kansas City Chiefs
Golden State Warriors
I know again: I was surprised by the Warriors too. Apparently, they started out in Philadelphia as the Philadelphia Warriors and this was their logo: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/5/58/PhiladelphiaWarriors.png
Pretty self-explanatory, no?
Native Americans: because the first thing you associate them with is basketball.
LOCAL INDUSTRY: 7
Green Bay Packers
Though this one should be self-explanatory, some brief explication: Seattle's core industry for ages was based upon its ports and fishing; the Packers were named after a local packing company; Pittsburgh = steel city; Milwaukee, home of the Miller Brewery (and other beer related awesomeness); Houston--we wouldn't have a space program without it; Detroit Pistons? Nuff said. Ditto for Indiana and Pace(ca)rs.
Tampa Bay Rays
Oklahoma City Thunder
Tampa Bay Lightning
Let's welcome the Tampa Bay Rays with a warm round of applause to our Weather category. They USED to be the Devil Rays but, one look at their uniforms will confirm for you that they are now the (Sun) Rays. It's interesting that two of Tampa's major sports franchises are named after seemingly conflicting weather phenomena: sunshine and lightning.
I wasn't too sure that the Avalanche belonged here because I couldn't decide whether or not it fell under the weather or geological category (or something else entirely). I went with Weather because it is related directly to snow, which is a weather phenomenon; no snow = no avalanche.
LOCAL HISTORY: 7
San Francisco 49ers
New England Patriots
Columbus Blue Jackets
Another category that gave me great difficulty. I decided to set up my specifications for inclusion in this category as "relation to important events in American history with a heavy local association with a city, area, or region." Here's my reasoning:
49ers = the Gold Rush of 1849 in California
Patriots = Boston being a hub of activity during the Revolutionary War
Rangers = a specific reference to the famed Texas Rangers police force
76ers = Philadelphia being another hub of activity and the site of the signing of the Declaration of Independence in 1776
Blue Jackets = Copied from the team's Wikipedia page:
The name "Blue Jackets" was chosen to celebrate "patriotism, pride, and the rich Civil War history in the state of Ohio and city of Columbus." When President Abraham Lincoln requested that Ohio raise ten regiments at the outbreak of the Civil War, the state responded by raising a total of 23 volunteer infantry regiments for three months of service. Ohio also produced a number of great Civil War figures, including William Tecumseh Sherman, Ulysses S. Grant, Philip Sheridan, and George Custer. Columbus itself was host to large military bases, Camp Chase and Camp Thomas, which saw hundreds of thousands of Union soldiers and thousands of Confederate prisoners during the Civil War. There was also a Shawnee leader named Blue Jacket in the Ohio Country after the American Revolutionary War.
Nuggets = no reliable information could be found but I am presuming the reference to be to gold found in Denver during the 1849 (or some other) gold rush
Astros = again referencing Houston's importance in the development of the space program
LOCAL MISCELLANEOUS: 7
New Jersey Devils
San Diego Padres
New Orleans Saints
The second worst catch-all category behind the dreaded "Miscellaneous," this one has the commonality that the teams are all named for things that pertain to their locality...except there is nothing linking the themes of each individual name.
The Vikings are so-named for the large contingent of Scandinavian-Americans living in Minnesota...but likely also for the theoretical historical visits of the Norse Vikings. Caught an awesome program about that on the History Channel. I love Vikings.
The Devils are named after the fictitious(?) supernatural creature, cleverly called "The New Jersey Devil." Surprisingly it does not refer either to Jon Bon Jovi or Bruce Springsteen.
The Celtics had no information so I'm presuming that it refers to the large population of Irish-Americans living in Boston.
The Browns are named after coach Paul Brown of the Ohio State Buckeyes. No, stop laughing, I'm serious. Dead ass--the Browns are named after ONE GUY. Even Indiana wouldn't stoop that low and THAT would be an improvement! (Get it--replacing Hoosiers with "Knights"!?)
The Padres are (supposedly) named after the priests that founded the city of San Diego.
The Saints...again, supposedly, are named because. Shit. I mean, this might even be worse than the Browns. I really don't know. They're named for the DAY they came into existence. How sad is that? Again, according to Wikipedia:
"In December the team was named "Saints" due to its birthday on the Roman Catholic Church's All Saints Day--a fitting nickname for a team in the largely Catholic New Orleans area."
The Flames' name refers to their previous location in Atlanta, which, in turn, referred to the infamous burning of the city during the Civil War. I really don't know about this one...do you really want to name a sports franchise about a low-point in your city's history? As terrible as the Knicks are, I can't ever see them being renamed the "New York 9-11s" or the "New York Governor Pattersons."
Again, WEAK on Detroit's part for their double-dipping.
At least Bearcats are better than Statesmen.
LOCAL PEOPLE: 9
New York Islanders
New York Knicks
New York Yankees
New York Mets
Los Angeles Dodgers
New York is the greatest city in the world...but is the absolute worst when it comes to picking names for its sports teams. Out of nine teams in this category, FIVE are from New York at one point or another.
Self-aggrandizing? You bet. But there really are that many different ways to refer to people from New York (and those are just some of the NICE ones!)
People hate because they love.
San Diego Chargers
New York Rangers
Detroit Red Wings
New Jersey Nets
Portland Trail Blazers
I hate that there are so many teams in this category but I suppose it was inevitable. This cesspool has some real stinkers in it. The Chargers have no discernible history with regards to their name (fitting, because they're one of the most pathetic teams in the history of sports). The Rangers, Flyers, Red Wings, Sabres, Oilers, and Trail Blazers had their own individual wussy reasons for their names...but the Nets and the Athletics really take the cake.
The Nets are named as such because the name rhymed with "Jets" and "Mets" (other local professional teams) but pertained specifically to the sport of basketball.
The Athletics are named after the Athletic Clubs that were fashionable in the 1800s.
Only the Bills have a semblance of cool associated with their name...even if it leaves you scratching your head. (There is absolutely ZERO association between Buffalo Bill Cody and the city of Buffalo, New York).
St. Louis Cardinals
Toronto Blue Jays
There is a surprising amount of diversity here (only ONE repeat animal?) in a category that could have remained remarkably limited in its scope (choosing to focus only on birds of prey like the hawks, falcons, and eagles). I suppose there is a certain level of irony that the category that sparked my initial quest wound up being the most-encompassing one. I'm not sure of whether or not I am surprised, though I suppose I would have figured one of the miscellaneous categories might have had the most. The only one that kind of surprised me (in terms of the team names) was the Thrashers. I knew that the logo was of a bird but I wasn't aware that a thrasher was an actual bird, let alone the state bird of Georgia (the brown thrasher, specifically).
Far and away animals of all types dominated the totality of team names, comprising 36 of 122 total team names, or 29.5%--roughly one-third of the total. I suppose it stands to reason though because, in general, animals are viewed as fearsome or intimidating--two characteristics that one would hope one's sports team would inspire in its opponents.
Of course, every sports team has two elements to its name: the thing that it is named after and the city in which it plays. The latter is of supreme importance (in most cases) because the pride that people take in their respective cities' teams is, in some ways, reflective of the pride that said residents have in their hometowns. The stronger the team's success, the better and stronger the association is with the city; the same can be said for the inverse (Knicks fans are as proud of being Knicks fans as they are about being New York residents (by and large)).
The thing I was most disappointed with in reflecting on my research is just how many teams were named via naming contests. I mean, on one hand, it does mean that some consensus was reached by the public as to the name...but it does seem to detract, at least a little bit, from the street credibility of the name.
At least for me.