I’m a Philadelphia Eagles football fan. And yes, Eagles’ fans have a bad rep. It’s so bad that Urban Thesaurus lists philly fans as a synonym for “reputation.” That, my friends, was an eye-opening and, thankfully, little-known fact I bet even life-long fans don’t know.
(To be fair, it’s only a tiny percentage of intoxicated fans who besmirch the name of the City of Brotherly Love. Most of us are nice people.)
Having found this piece of trivia, which I can’t wait to share at my next tailgate, I collected a few more. Go ahead and share them… maybe you can impress a friend while discussing whether the wings are spicy enough.
#1: Most Popular Bird Name for a Sports Team
According to SportsCasting.com, as of 2014, coming in with 1,064 sports teams, the most popular American sports team name is Eagles. (I swear I didn’t plan that.)
In fact, it’s the most popular name overall—bird or otherwise—and this makes perfect sense. As the astute people at SportsCasting.com note:
There’s arguably nothing more important to a sports team than their name… The team’s name determines who they are, and lays out signifiers about what the team is all about, which is why it is impossible to escape teams that take their identification from natural predators, impressive weather events, and other things which are, when actually viewed, awe-inspiring.
See also: Bald Eagle Facts and Trivia
#2: Most Represented Bird Among Pro Sports Teams
There are lots of teams named for birds, but which type gets the most recognition?
Across the 13 National Football League (NFL), National Basketball Association (NBA), National Hockey League (NHL), and Major League Baseball (MLB) sports teams named after birds, five are raptors.
- Atlanta Falcons (NFL)
- Philadelphia Eagles (NFL)
- Seattle Seahawks (NFL); the osprey is this team’s inspiration.
- Atlanta Falcons (NBA)
- Toronto Raptors (NBA); I think this one speaks for itself.
- Chicago Blackhawks (NHL)
You could argue the Atlanta Falcons should count only once. And I would see your point. So, we have five raptors versus four passerines (commonly called songbirds):
- Louis Cardinals (MLB)
- Baltimore Orioles (MLB)
- Toronto Blue Jays (MLB)
- Arizona Cardinals (NFL)
Raptors take it with a score of 5-4.
The remaining three bird-named sports teams are neither raptors nor passerines:
- Pittsburgh Penguins (NHL): Penguins are from the family Spheniscidae.
- Anaheim Ducks (NHL): Ducks are from the family Anatidae.
- New Orleans Pelicans (NBA): Pelicans are from the family Pelecanidae.
#3: Which Bird-Named Teams Weren’t Named for the Bird?
The Blackhawks hockey team, formed in 1926, was named after the Native American Chief, Black Hawk, of the Sauk people. The Blackhawks are one of the “Original Six” NHL teams along with the Detroit Red Wings, Montreal Canadians, Toronto Maple Leafs, Boston Bruins, and New York Rangers.
Philadelphia Eagles (football)
Before they were the Eagles, they were the Frankford Yellowjackets. In 1933, Bert Bell and Lud Wray purchased the team. The new owners, fans of President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal, named the team in honor of the symbol of his National Recovery Act—an eagle.
St. Louis Cardinals (baseball) and Arizona Cardinals (football)
No one would fault you for thinking these teams’ names honor the beloved bird… but you’d be wrong.
St. Louis Cardinals: In 1899, from amidst 12 teams, the Perfectos baseball team finished in fourth place. The next two seasons were no better. You can imagine how the name would be a sore spot for their owners, brothers Stanley and Frank Robinson, and the team’s fans.
The Perfectos players wore uniforms trimmed in red and solid red hose. Sportswriter Willie McHale began referring to the team as the Cardinals when he overheard a woman comment on the “lovely shade of cardinal” displayed by the team. In 1900, the brothers officially changed the team’s name and fans welcomed the improvement.
Arizona Cardinals: Arizona’s football team originally called Chicago home. After the University of Chicago bought its team new uniforms, Chris O’Brien, who organized the team, bought the old ones. The uniforms were originally maroon and white, but when O’Brien saw the faded outfits, he recognized the color as cardinal red and the second Cardinals team was born.
It’s true that the year before Toronto formed the Raptors, Jurassic Park and its velociraptors were a huge success. But that doesn’t mean the team adopted the name because of the movie. Let’s just say the movie highly influenced the Canadians who voted for the name in 1994.
The runner ups were Dragons and Bobcats.
Now if we could only get these teams’ logos to be less misleading and look more like the real birds. What are the odds?