As we head to the final stretch of the NFL season, we start to don our jerseys every Sunday and hope that our collective howls will somehow propel our team into the post season. In between nacho breaks and high-fives, you need to contemplate a very important question: how great is your football team’s name?
Rooktopia makes it easy for you. Here’s my unscientific, yet undoubtedly wise, look at the team names. Today, we start off with the mighty AFC.
Buffalo Bills – It’s a good thing the city’s name is Buffalo, because otherwise, this team name would make no sense. Unless, they moved to, like, Duck, North Carolina. In any case, I guess Buffalo gets some nice points because its named after Buffalo Bill Cody… but I had to subtract some points because it makes no sense for an upstate New York team to be named after a Wild West legend. 3/5
“What? They gave my name to an NFL franchise synonymous with choking at the Superbowl? Son of a…”
Miami Dolphins – The dolphin with the helmet and the can-do smile is cute and all, but that’s hardly the image you want to project for your team of fierce macho types. At least it beats one of the entries in 1965: one of the finalists was the Miami Moons. I shudder to think of the potential fan cheers and gestures that would’ve gone with that name. 2/5
New England Patriots – Patriots is a nifty name, and befitting of a team from Boston … where, if I recall, protesters dressed up as Native Americans dumped crates of tea in the harbor. I suspect that they got their Indian and ninja gear costumes mixed up. My quibble is with the New England name. It’s nice to give the folks in Connecticut and Rhode Island something to cheer for, but the team is obviously rooted in a Boston fanbase. Non-Boston New Englanders: do you really want to be associated with a fanbase that goes hand-in-hand with incessant whining? 4/5
New York Jets – I’d heard a rumor that the Jets were named after the Jets from West Side Story. Now that sound like a contradiction I can get behind! A melding of American sports and legitimate theater? Cool! But then the Wikipedia page states that they’re actually named after the jets that took off from nearby LaGuardia. Lame! Methinks some theaterphobe Jets fans are trying to bury their dance-based origins. 4/5
The New York Jets only wish they could do jazz hands.
Baltimore Ravens – OK, so the Jets may or may not be named after the Jets from West Side Story, but the Ravens ARE named after a literary figure. Specifically, Poe’s famed creation. This is kinda difficult, though, since ravens (the bird) themselves are second only to the Cardinals for least threatening avian-based name in the NFL. And, when you read the poem again, the raven itself was kinda nonthreatening himself. Staring at some jittery, balding poet… cackling, “Nevermore”? Only Homer Simpson would be afraid of that. 4/5
Cincinnati Bengals – According to Wikipedia, Bengal “is a historical and geographical region in the northeast of South Asia.” So let’s forget about the tiger motif for a second. (If you’re wondering about the team name, it was named after a rare, white tiger in the Cincinnati Zoo. So why is the team color orange? Popular theory: Bengals owner Paul Brown was ticked at Art Modell, owner of the Browns, for firing him, so he adopted the same color.) I think the NFL’s got some untapped merchandising opportunities in Bangladesh and east India, one of the most densely populated places on Earth. Dhaka, represent! 4/5
Cleveland Browns – The official line is that the Browns were named after my main man, Joe Louis a.k.a. “The Brown Bomber.” (There are rumors that it’s actually named after first head coach, Paul Brown, but that’s less mythical.) That’s actually pretty sweet. Joe Louis was the guy who totally embarrassed Hitler by beating German boxer Max Schmeling. Take that, Nazis! Joe, though, has hardly ever been used in Browns promotional material, and most people understand the name to represent the color. Judging on who you are, that name’s either racially insensitive (to which I say “Get over yourself”) or the color of raw sewage at best. Personally, brown is one of my favorite colors, so nuts to y’all. 4/5
He humiliated the Nazis. What have YOU done in your life?
Pittsburgh Steelers – Living in Seattle, I constantly hear the rather lazy pun, “Pittsburgh Steal-ers!” (How do you hear that when they both sound the same, you ask? I have no idea myself. I think my brain immediately converts the spelling. It’s a mystery.) Frankly, I have no problem with the name itself: it’s bold, it’s manly, and it’s about wanton thievery. I like it. 5/5
Houston Texans – OK, I known that the Texans name has its roots with Lamar Hunt’s Dallas Texans (now the Chiefs). But why in the world would you resurrect such a boring name? The Houston Texans? If every team followed that convention, we’d have the Jacksonville Floridians, Green Bay Wisconsites, and New York New Yorkers. This is the absolute pit of lame, unimaginative sports names. And the other two potential names (Apollos and Stallions) exuded such moxy that you die inside knowing that the team was eventually called the “Texans.” 1/5
Indianapolis Colts – I love Peyton Manning and all, but I don’t have much to say about his team’s name. Colts. It’s very serene. Sedate. Lullaby material. Also, I haven’t quite forgiven Indy for stealing Baltimore’s legacy. 2/5
Jacksonville Jaguars – I don’t understand how an oversized retirement suburb like Jacksonville gets a team called “The Jaguars.” It’s a great name, and it’s a great logo, but to me it belongs to a glitzier city like Los Angeles or Miami. And then there’s the lingering ties to ancient Incan heritage, which Jacksonville decidedly does not have. I love the name, but I’m not sure it matches its host city. 4/5
Tennessee Titans – When I first heard the name, I thought team went from an interesting name (“Oilers”) to a rather generic, high-school name. Titans? As in “Remember The”? I think it’s a tribute to the “New York Titans” … but things like that always kill me. You have a blank slate with names … why not carve out a new and different legacy? But I’ve mellowed out somewhat, and “Tennessee Titans” does roll off the tongue rather nicely, so my wrath has been tempered. Minor point: the team goes out of its way to associate the name with the Titans of Greek mythology. Fine … but if it turns out that they settled on this name because downtown Nashville happens to have a full-sized replica Parthenon, I will be very cross. 3/5
What? I heard a Titan was on a video game cover.
Denver Broncos – It’s already a great name, but its legacy improves due to two great cartoon references. First, when the South Park boys spot an American flag in Afghanistan, they salute it: “Go, America! And, go Broncos.” Second, when Homer Simpson requests the Dallas Cowboys from his supervillian boss, Hank Scorpio, he gets this team instead. His reaction is priceless. “Ohhhhhhhh… the Broncos?!?!?” Point, set, match. 5/5
Kansas City Chiefs – The name is as boring and generic as “Titans,” with one key exception: if you remove the “I”, you get Kansas City Chefs. This leads to some great fan costumes, as well as that awesome Snickers commercial where that old man introduces us to the phrase “Holy oogly-moogly.” Priceless. 4/5
Oakland Raiders – Earlier I said that “Jaguars” suited LA. This name is different: it’s a great thing the LA Raiders went back to Oakland because this name belongs to a tough, hardscrabble town. It’s named after pirates, it’s got football’s most brutal color scheme, and it inspires fans to dress up as Darth Vader or the Road Warriors. 5/5
San Diego Chargers – This name’s fine when the team dons the retro duds and they paint the field with a nifty horse design. On those days, Chargers takes on a military aspect, which suits a navy town like San Diego perfectly. But on the other days, Chargers refers to the electrical charge, as represented by the lightning bolt on the helmet. And these days, when I use that term, it’s usually in the context of “well, I gotta go charge my iPod/cellphone/Gameboy.” Frightfully mundane. 3/5
A San Diego charger.