Continuing my ratings of NFL team names, I now come to the NFC. This one’s a bit challenging, since the names aren’t as near eccentric as the ones you find in the AFC. That’s never stopped me before, though, so lets give the NFC a whirl!
Washington Redskins – The Washington football team has unfortunately been saddled with the most offensive name in any sport. Pundits claim the “redskin” name is offensive, derogatory, and unthinkable to use in this day an age. Frankly, I agree. The Norland potato has always taken a back seat to the Russet and Yukon Gold varieties. And now an NFL team endorses the more generic “red skin” potato name? For shame, Washington Redskins. 1/5
And would it kill the Redskins to at least put a potato-based logo on their helmets?
Dallas Cowboys – Texas is known for a lot of things: chili, the death penalty, oil. However, you cannot get a more perfect personification of Texas than the cowboy. When you think “cowboy,” you think of a guy with boundless swagger, a weather-beaten face, and hot blondes pining for him every day. In essence, Tony Romo. Also, “cowboy” can be used interchangeably as either a compliment or an insult, not unlike the love-’em-or-hate-’em relationship football fans have with America’s Team. Thus, the Dallas Cowboys are one of the most perfectly matched city/team names in the NFL. 5/5
New York Giants – New York must be the most vain place in the world. Every team name seems like the city is rubbing it in that they’re so much better than your city. The Yankees, for instance. To the rest of the world, “Yankee” means “American,” but the New York Yankees name says “New Yorkers are the only true Americans.” And then there’s the Giants, whose name seems to say, “Our city is so much bigger — and thus, better — than yours.” It’s a good thing the Jets changed their names from Titans, because that would seem to say, “Our city is so big that we needed two football teams named after vertically endowed peoples.” 3/5
Philadelphia Eagles – As I understand it, the Eagles were named after the symbol on the New Deal’s National Recovery Administration (the other NRA). Philly would be in real trouble if FDR had chosen an ant or a bee, both equally appropriate totems for his plan of widespread economic recovery. But then again, no one would be putting NRA posters everywhere if it was something less striking than an eagle holding a cog and thunderbolts. Anyway, that’s about the only thing interesting about the Eagles team name. There’s nothing wrong with it: it’s both a little fierce and a little patriotic. However, it’s also a pretty bland name, so there you go. 3/5
Chicago Bears – This has to be the only team whose name is justified by the players themselves. Every time I see the Bears play, they seem to completely dwarf the other team in both height and girth. They look like guys who should be shambling through the woods, wading in streams to swipe at salmon, terrifying inattentive campers, and then hibernating for the winter. Its as if the Bears HR department was deliberately recruiting players under the guideline: “Must be ginormous.” Good show, Chicago. 5/5
An actual picture of Brian Urlacher.
Detroit Lions – I have no idea why the Detroit team is called the Lions. There’s no mention on Wikipedia or the official site as to its origins. I can only assume that early Lions management picked name out of a hat. As a name, I suppose it’s fine… but there’s a reason college football teams generally choose to be called Wildcats rather than Lions. First of all, “Lions” sounds foreign and British-y, and that’s doesn’t fly in a league full of Cowboys, Patriots, and Texans. Second, when you watch footage of actual lions on the Discovery Channel, they’re always lazing around, barely working up the energy to chase a gazelle. Which is a perfect description of the Detroit Lions football franchise, by the way. 3/5
Green Bay Packers – A few years ago ago, fans raised a ruckus when it leaked that the NBA Vancouver Grizzlies might be renamed the Memphis Express, which was some sort of corporate synergy thing with FedEx. But really, what’s the big deal? The most storied franchise in the NFL, the Green Bay Packers, were named after its sponsor, the Indian Packing Company. And the name is about as perfect as you can get: it simultaneously channels the American Everytown vibe and provides giggly frat boys with yet another euphemism for male genitalia. 5/5
Minnesota Vikings – The Vikings name recalls Minnesota’s Scandanavian pioneers, who were led by Eric the Red and came to this country seeking the freedom to eat disgusting lutefisk, I think. I must’ve slept through that part in history class. The name, which recalls fierce and mighty warriors, is somewhat mitigated by fact that historians nowadays claim that Vikings were demonized as bloodthirsty barbarians by enemies, and were in fact a civilized, advanced people who did not wear horny helmets. This is because historians are unpleasant men who live to suck the magic out of life. 4/5
“An’ don’ forgit da Viking gift of homespun humor, Lena.” “I got no idea whatcha talkin’ about, Ole. We were never funny. Now fetch me somadat biscuit dough, whydontcha?”
Atlanta Falcons – I really have no idea why Atlanta has the obsession of teams named after birds. The Hawks represent basketball, and the Thrashers play hockey. Somehow, the Braves escaped this naming convention, unless they’re named after a brave who could shapeshift into a bird. “Falcon” is fierce yet bland like the “Eagles,” but they don’t have the wonderful NRA trivia or the latent patriotism to back it up. 2/5
Carolina Panthers – I’m not too big a fan of this name, mainly because another team, the Florida Panthers, had already debuted the moniker in the NHL. I don’t know if this is a lack of creativity on the part of the Carolina Panthers organization, or a testament to the enduring affection we have for the noble panther, or the fact that no one south of the Mason-Dixon Line really cares about hockey. 2/5
New Orleans Saints – Good Lord, how could you found a team in New Orleans and not call it the Saints? This is about as perfect as you’re going to get, folks. The name’s highly unique, it suits the city to a T (if you’re still trying to figure out where it comes from, think “When the Saints Come Marching in), and it provides the indelible mental image of Saints Augustine and Thomas Aquinas playing gridiron football. Francis Assisi with a Hail Mary to Polycarp! And the crowd goes wild! As an added bonus, the team debuted the name on November 1, All Saints’ Day. That’s dedication to a motif, my friend. 5/5
Bonaventure: Patron Saint of Touchdowns
Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Thank you, Tampa, for making the All-Pirate Superbowl a reality! Back when the Raiders faced the Bucs, I remember newspapers filled with illustrations of black-and-silver pirates locking swords with orange-and-pewter pirates. Good stuff. I have two problems with this name, though. First, there no actual city named “Tampa Bay,” and I’m not fond of teams that use unofficial regions as titles, which, to me, always sound like a cop out. (I’m looking at you, Golden State Warriors.) Second, a “buccaneer” always struck me as pirates who didn’t take pirating seriously. (I blame Jack Sparrow and the entymology of “buccaneer,” which is all about smoking meats.) Still… pirates! 4/5
Arizona Cardinals – It’s a good thing the Cardinals moved to Phoenix. Otherwise, I’m guessing it would be pretty awkward to hold sports conversations in St. Louis. “Ugh, the Cardinals have broken my heart, yet again!” “Can nothing satisfy you? Did they not just win the World Series? Oh, you incorrigible monster!” “No, my love, I speak of the football Cardinals. Curse you, interathletic synergy!” However, I have no idea why the team decided to retain the name when they moved to Arizona. What, were the trying to preserve the glorious legacy of the friggin’ Cardinals? And a cardinal is perhaps one of the last things you associate with a team located smack dab in the middle of the desert. Compounding the issue: have you noticed that the logo resembles a rooster more than it does a cardinal? This is a no-win situation. 1/5
St. Louis Rams – This is one of those team names that oddly matched St. Louis better than it matched its previous host, Los Angeles. As I mentioned in my previous post with the Raiders, it’s the sort of name that brims with blue collar pride. However, there’s something lacking that I can’t put my finger on. Maybe it’s because a ram is actually a male sheep, and there’s something fundamentally ridiculous about choosing a sheep as a mascot. 4/5
San Francisco 49ers – How awesome is the 49ers name? It’s so awesome that US Senator Dianne Feinstein is sponsoring a bill that would forbid the team from retaining the name if they ever moved out of San Fran. That’s because Ms. Feinstein knows that there’s an intangible magic in team names that are also numbers. (As a side note: Dianne Feinstein is a sports fan? That’s a surprise. She always struck me as one of those, “Sports are for dumb jocks, we should be pouring money in the arts” type of ladies.) 5/5
“I’m also introducing a bill to Senate that forbids the 49ers from using that name if they don’t bench Alex Smith… immediately.”
Seattle Seahawks – It’s a swell name, except that there’s no such thing as a “seahawk.” The official line that a “seahawk” is actually an osprey doesn’t make much, either. When has an osprey, a South American bird of prey, been naturally spotted in the Pacific Northwest? And then craved into totem poles by native tribes, as stylized on the official team logo? Baloney. My guess is that the team was supposed to be the Seattle Hawks, but then the marketing people went a little nuts and thought, “You know what would be cute? Let’s make a portmanteau of Seattle and Hawks! Sea-Hawks!” Then there were a lot of high-fives. If my theory is true, this is on par with the naming of the town of Seatac (i.e., Seattle + Tacoma. Rrrrrrrr…..) 3/5