I met my littlest sister’s boyfriend for the first time over drinks this week – he was charming, adorable and totally worthy of my unprecedentedly lovely sister. I told him I was working on a football column for Hello Giggles, a website whose audience is made up of the best girls in every town in America. He said something to the effect of, “Are you going to do a thing about mascots? Girls are really into mascots. Like when we’re betting on the final four bracket (college basketball finals) – the girls who make picks based on mascots always do better in the pool than the guys who’ve researched stats and know the teams.” So this week, in honor of Matthew and my sister Abbie (UCLA Bruin for life), I’m profiling every mascot and its history for every NFL team. It’s in alphabetical order by city, so you can scroll directly to your hometown. Hopefully this will give you a little trivia to spout over 7-layer nachos during the Packers/Saints opener on September 8. Consider this a double-issue column to make up for last week, which is when I actually started work on this inanely long catalogue of events…
The Arizona Cardinals started life in the NFL as the Chicago Cardinals in 1922. BUT! The franchise began in 1898 as the Morgan Athletic Club, making the Cardinals the oldest football franchise in America! The ‘Cardinal’ initially referred to the red color of the jerseys, which were donated from the University of Chicago. In 1944, the Cardinals merged with the Pittsburgh Steelers for a season, as both teams had lost a huge number of players to WWII. This war-time team was called ‘Card-Pitt’. Cardinals moved to St. Louis in 1960 (which is when they adopted the bird mascot) and then to their current home in Arizona in 1988. They were known as the Phoenix Cardinals until 1994, when owner Will Bidwell re-named them the Arizona Cardinals. I have one friend from Arizona. His name is Dan. He’s a basketball fan.
The Falcons have been around since 1966, their first coach being Norb Hecker. Doesn’t quite roll right off the tongue, so I’m going to pronounce it ‘Nor-beee’. Cool? Freddie Falcon became the mascot for the team after a city-wide vote received 558 submissions. A few people suggested the Falcon, but a school teacher was declared the official winner because she provided a reason for her submission: “The falcon is proud and dignified with great courage and fight.” Let that be the lesson of the day… ‘Because it’s better’ is never the right response. Allow me to show you in a sentence… Friend: Claire, why do you like the East Side of LA better than the West Side? Claire: Because it’s better. Friend: You’re a jerk. Claire: I meant to say, ‘because the East Side is proud and dignified with great courage and fight’. Friend: You’re a hipster jerk. Claire: You’re right.
The Baltimore Ravens assumed their current name and mascot in 1995 after Art Modell moved the franchise from Cleveland to Baltimore. The team had been operating under the name ‘Cleveland Browns’ since 1946. Modell’s move of the franchise resulted in legal action since he had violated the terms of his lease with the stadium. Part of the resolution was that Modell could move the team and staff to Baltimore but Cleveland would be allowed to keep the name, colors and mascot and establish a new team after a 3-year deactivation period. The team adopted the mascot ‘Ravens’ after the poem ‘The Raven’ by Edgar Allen Poe, who lived and is buried in Baltimore.
More interesting to me, however, is the story of the Baltimore Marching Ravens – one of only three marching bands still in existence in the NFL and made up entirely of volunteers. They were established in 1947 to support the Baltimore Colts football team and stayed active even when the team left Baltimore in secret, in the middle of the night, in 1984. (Didn’t I tell you NFL storylines were better than anything you’d see on scripted television?) Owner Jim Irsay feared a raid by the city after negotiations for a new stadium had stalled. The marching band continued to play without a team and at one point, band president John Ziemann pawned his wife’s wedding ring to pay for new equipment. It doesn’t say, but I’m assuming she was cool with it, because marching band members don’t seem like assh***s. Maybe that’s just the stereotype… So, please! Send me your stories of romantic injustices at the hands of the timpani player! We’ll start a message board.
The Bills began as the Buffalo Bisons in 1946 in Buffalo, New York as a member of the semi-pro All America Football Conference. The team was renamed in 1947 after a contest held by ownership, the Frontier Oil Company. Runner-up suggestions included The Bullets, The Nickels and The Blue Devils. The winner submitted ‘The Bills’ in honor of Buffalo Bill Cody, one of the most famous American frontiersman (not to be confused with Wild Bill Hickock, one of the most famous characters in Deadwood). A couple people suggested the Bills but James F. Dyson, like the winner of the Atlanta Falcons’ contest, provided a reason: Like Buffalo Bill, the Frontier Oil Company was helping to create a ‘new frontier in Western New York sports’. My takeaway thus far is that flattery will get you everywhere in naming contests. As further proof, allow me to direct your attention to the ‘Pregnant in Heels’ baby-naming focus group episode (Bowen, anyone? No! The answer is no one!). In very sad legend, another fan who suggested the name ‘Bills’ drew a picture of Buffalo Bill wearing a football helmet to sweeten his entry. The pic was included on the first program of the new season but alas, the artist was not declared winner. Poor artist.
The Panthers were awarded the 29th NFL franchise in 1993, which was the first new franchise established since 1976. LOTS of internet debate about the origins of the mascot, Sir Purr (Sirr Purr would have been better, yes?). Royalty thrives in the NFL! One site has the Panther being chosen by owner Jerry Richardson’s son. Another site says that a contest was held and that the team wanted to choose a regionally appropriate mascot like the 49ers in San Francisco and the Dolphins in Miami. Since Sir Purrs are a jungle cat endemic to North and South Carolina, it seemed a perfect fit. Don’t try to argue with me or the internet about the existence of Sir Purrs in nature, because I just won’t let you win. Aside from the Sir Purr employed by the Carolina Panthers football team, the species can only be found in alleys celebrating heartily with every Panthers win, which has been never as of late, so that’s why you probably don’t believe me.
The Chicago Bear is known as ‘Staley Da Bear’, named after A.E. Staley, who founded the franchise in 1919. Staley’s a bit of a newbie on the Bears scene, however, taking the job in 2003. Previous Bears were ‘Rocky’ and ‘Bearman’. Rocky mysteriously disappeared in 1996 and Bearman was a crazed fan in a bear costume, and no one can take responsibility for someone like that. Call your mother. Enter sweet Staley, providing some much needed stability to Bears fans everywhere. The Bears are one of the charter members of the NFL (along with 14 other teams). They were originally known as the Decatur Staleys but moved to Chicago in 1921 after A.E. Staley could no longer afford to keep the team in such a small market. They started playing games at Cubs Field, so Staley deemed it appropriate to change the mascot – from a Staley to a Bear (grown-up Cub, you got it). The Bears have changed colors over the years – from blue and tan to orange and black and finally the current navy and orange in 1958. The Bears wear my favorite uniforms in all of football. I might argue, also, that Jay Cutler is the current human mascot of the Chicago Bears, having just divorced himself from Kristin Cavallari. I saw them at a Barnes & Noble at the Grove once. They were totes buying coffee table books.
The Cincinnati Bengals mascot is named ‘Who Dey’, after the chant ‘Who Dey, Who Dey, Who Dey Think Gonna Beat Them Bengals?’ According to his bio, Who Dey majored in Entertainment and Fun from Bengal University, which was coincidentally my own major at Northwestern University. An earlier football team called the Bengals played in 3 different leagues in Cincinnati from 1937-1942, so when Paul Brown received a franchise for a team in 1967, he decided to name it the Cincinnati Bengals to honor the past football tradition. The Cincinnati zoo is also home to a very rare white Bengal tiger, but can we be honest with each other and admit that Tony the Frosted Flakes Tiger or even the right pair of Air Jordans has more in common with Who Dey than some extremely rare white Bengal tiger at the Cincinnati zoo? Hold on… Someone on the internet is telling me that there is a type of tiger that roams the hills of Ohio and looks kind of like a Bengal tiger. I’m already too behind on this post to do a fact-check on that one, but tweet me if you’ve had a sighting. Also, tweet me if you’ve had a sighting of the Loch Ness Monster.
The Cleveland Brown is named after Paul Brown, the founder of the franchise. The team used a ‘brownie’ logo from 1946-1961, denoting the elf-like goblin from Scottish folklore. This is the same goblin that I inhabited in kindergarten and first grade as a member of the girl scouts. I didn’t graduate past Brownie status. It’s fine. Brownie goblins are household spirits who help with daily chores and do their work at night because they don’t like to be seen. This is appropriate for the Cleveland Browns, who haven’t done much work during the (Sun)days in recent years. Oh no I di-n’t! I actually like the Browns a lot, an easy task for me since I’m not from Cleveland and don’t have to root for the poor team. Oh, yes I di-id! Cleveland, I promise I love you and Peyton Hillis and Colt McCoy and you have a WAY better team than my 49ers right now, so I’m going to take this moment to shut the hell up about it.
The Cowboys were formed in 1960 as an NFL expansion team. They were first called the Dallas Steers, then the Dallas Rangers. To avoid confusion with the Dallas Rangers baseball team, the football franchise was renamed the Dallas Cowboys before the start of the opening season. The star logo represents the Lone Star State (of Texas). The Dallas Cowboys had an unofficial mascot in ‘Crazy Ray’, whose real name was Wilford Jones, which is almost as great a name as Crazy Ray. Cray Cray Ray Ray was at almost every home game since the team’s inception and while not officially employed by the team, he had a special parking pass and all-access to home games. He made balloon animals, rode a hobby horse and had a trademark whistle. I wish I could find an audio file for you, but I’m just going to assume it sounded like the theme to The Lone Ranger crossed with the melody from ‘Thank You For Being a Friend’. Ray died in 2007 but was replaced by the official Cowboys mascot, Rowdy, in 2006. In a major mascot controversy, Ted Oveltrea, who plays Rowdy, was fired after the 2009 season. The Cowboys are now re-evaluating Rowdy’s role on game days. Poor Rowdy – just another devastating casualty of this economic downturn. The Dallas Cowboys are sometimes referred to as ‘America’s Team’ (not by me, sorry Jerry), since they have an enormous fan base all over the country and rake in more dollars than any other NFL team operating today.
A name contest! Phew. Back to familiar territory. The Broncos were established in 1960 as a charter member of the American Football League and then joined the NFL during the merger of 1970. They were the first ever AFL team to beat an NFL team in 1972, after the merger. In the 70’s, they were known for their super successful ‘Orange Crush Defense’. Unfortunately, the Broncos defense of today is more aptly titled the ‘Orange Julius Initiative to Hope for the Best’. The Denver Bronco is named ‘Miles’, which is the name of my best buddy Julia’s dog. Just speaking honestly, Miles is a really weird name for a horse. Save ‘Miles’ for dogs and the ironic naming of turtles. The Broncos have another mascot, Thunder, who is a real horse and takes the field during home games. Fun fact: it may LOOK like Thunder is drinking 10-15 bottles of water per game, but he is actually just squeezing all of the water out of the top and crushing the bottles with his feet. Like a boss.
The Lions’ mascot is named Roary. FINALLY. An appropriate moniker for a truly fearsome beast. Full disclosure: I’m VERY biased toward the happiness and success of the Lions since my good friends Peter & Adam bleed Detroit blue (and they are some of the very best guys on the planet Earth). Roary lists his shoe size as ‘bigger than Shaq’, which seems like a whole lot of bulls**t, but he is a lion, so I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt. The Lions’ colors are ‘Honolulu Blue’, Silver and Black. Honolulu has nothing to do with Detroit and has everything to do with exhaustion. Cy Huston, the team’s GM at the time, said (about the choice) ‘They had me looking at so many blues I am blue in the face. But anyway, it’s the kind of blue, I am told, that will match with silver.” If I were Cy, I would have lied and called the color ‘Ford Motor Company Anti-Freeze Blue’ to appease the fans, but I am an overzealous people-pleaser by nature. My mother’s fault. The team began as the Portsmouth Spartans of Portsmouth, OH (an independent team), but moved to Detroit in 1934 since they couldn’t financially survive in the small market of Portsmouth.
Green Bay Packers
The Green Bay Packers were founded in 1919 by Earl Lambeau and they are one of the oldest franchises in American football history. They are the only non-profit, community-owned major league professional sports team in the US, which is probably why they have won more league championships than any other NFL team. Nice guys finish first! In football! The team was initially sponsored by the Indian (and then ACME) Packing company, which gave them their name, which hasn’t changed over the years. The ‘G’ logo was designed by the team’s first equipment manager and was meant to stand for ‘Greatness’, though trying to argue that G means ‘Greatness’ over ‘Green Bay’ may leave you in a losing battle with your Sunday couch mates. Speaking of, Green Bay Packers fans are called ‘Cheeseheads’. Cheeseheads have been around since 1987, when a Chicago White Sox fan used it as an insult to a Milwaukee Brewers fan during a game.The hats really got going in 1994 and now it’s impossible to watch a game without seeing a stadium full of cheese wheels. I’d like someone to design Carr’s table water cracker hats for the Cheeseheads to wear during away games.
The Houston Texans are the newest team in the NFL, having joined the league in 2002. Owner Bob McNair first tried to bring a hockey team to Houston in 1997 but was rejected by the NHL because the good people of Houston had very little interest in hockey. Shortly thereafter, the Houston Oilers left the city and moved to Tennessee (becoming the Tennessee Titans). Now poor Houston had no football team OR hockey team. McNair bid for the next expansion franchise and was battling with Los Angeles and Michael Ovitz (The movie Battle: LA is based on this struggle. Not really. I don’t know what Battle: LA is about, but I think it’s a dystopian thriller about the Kale Shortage of 2089). McNair was awarded the team franchise in 2000, with the first game being played against the New York Giants. The team chose ‘Texans’ from a pool that included Apollos, Bobcats, Stallions and Wildcatters. The Houston Texans’ mascot is Toro, a friendly bull. He lists his weight as ‘big enough to BULL you over’. So coy, that Toro. The Texans’ colors are Deep Steel Blue, Battle Red and Liberty White, which are coincidentally my favorite Essie nail polish shades.
The Indianapolis Colts’ mascot is Blue, a nice horse born in Jockey, Indiana. For part of the Colts’ history, see the Baltimore Ravens entry above. The team was named the Colts to honor the tradition of horse breeding and racing in Maryland and they kept the name after moving to Indianapolis in 1984. Blue was introduced in 2006. He became a mascot after being diagnosed with an incurable skin disease that left all of his hair and tears blue. If you don’t believe me, check this website full of only truthful information: HERE Nothing has made me more aware of the fact that adults are really big liars to children than the writing of this article.
The mascot of the Jacksonville Jaguars is Jaxson de Ville, a yellow and teal jaguar. He weighs 403 pounds and stands 8.5 paws high. He is the Jaguars’ starter in the all-pro position of ‘Left Out’. In terms of fake mascot information invented by adults for the children, I think that is my favorite. The Jaguars joined the NFL in 1995, same time as the Carolina Panthers and the debut of Cats! on Broadway. Now I’m just lying to you. It’s contagious. ‘Touchdown Jacksonville!’ was the group formed to organize the bid to the NFL to get a team to Jacksonville. It was led by J. Wayne Weaver, founder of Nine West and Shoe Carnival. The animal ‘Jaguar’ was selected during a fan contest, where the finalists included Sharks, Stingrays & Panthers.
Kansas City Chiefs
The Chiefs’ mascot is K.C. Wolf, named after a group of fans known as the ‘Wolfpack’ who used to sit in temporary bleacher seats (you’ve heard of the cheap seats?) in Arrowhead Stadium. The team was founded in 1960 as a charter member of the AFL by Lamar Hunt. Back then, they were known as the Dallas Texans. The team moved to Kansas City in 1963. The new team name ‘Chiefs’ was chosen by a fan contest. The Mayor of the city, Roe Bartle, founded a Native American honor society called The Tribe of Mic-o-Say in 1925, which was sponsored by the Boy Scouts of America, and Bartle came to be known as ‘The Chief’. Prior to K.C. Wolf (who looks like the Rat King from The Nutcracker) the Chiefs used a mascot called ‘Warpaint’, who was a horse ridden by a man in full Indian chief headdress. Before Warpaint, there was an attempt at a ‘caricatured Native American mascot’ (according to Wiki) in the 80’s. I picture a Village People cast-off here and you should, too.
The Miami Dolphins were also named during a contest. In this version, exactly 622 contestants suggested Dolphins and owner Joe Robbie agreed because he felt that Dolphins were one of the ‘fastest and smartest creatures in the sea’. Other candidates included: Mariners, Marauders, Mustangs, Missiles, Moons, Sharks, and Suns. I honestly would have preferred the Miami Moons so that the mascot could be called Moon Over Miami, but I don’t run the world in Florida, thank goodness (now you know all of my biases). The Dolphins were originally a member of the AFL (1966) and joined the NFL when the leagues merged in 1970. The Dolphins have completed the only perfect season in NFL history. It happened in 1972, culminating in a Super Bowl win against the Washington Redskins. The QBs that year were Bob Griese and Earl Morrall. The Dolphins also set the single-season rushing record that year, with RBs Larry Csonka and Mercury Morris each rushing for 1,000 yards, which is the first time that had happened. The Dol-fan club is currently on hiatus, but anyone is welcome to submit suggestions on how to create a better ‘fan’ experience right now. I’m sure most fans would say ‘get a better quarterback, win a lot more games and make a mascot of Richie Incognito because he has the best name in all of football.’
Zygi Wilf is the current owner of the Vikings and my choice for team mascot, but that just isn’t the case. Viktor the Viking has been the team’s mascot since its inception in 1960. Bert Rose, the team’s manager, named the team ‘Vikings’ because a large number of Minnesotans can trace their heritage back to the Vikings of Scandinavia. Minnesota had two previous football teams – the Minneapolis Marines (1905-1924) and the Minneapolis Red Jackets (1929-1930). In my opinion, Jared Allen is the best mascot the Vikings could ever hope for, so they should just retire Viktor and his luscious blonde braids already. Allen is a defensive end for the team, a monster QB sack-er, and was a roadie for Motorhead while playing amazing football in Northern California. Oh, and he’s also got a cookbook. It’s called Quarterback Killers and contains recipes for recently-shot-and-killed game. You can buy it for the low low price of $18.18 here: Quarterback Killers . Once Jared is done with football, he’s going to continue his love of dominating animals by returning to the rodeo to compete in steer wrestling. Good on you, Mr. Allen.
New England Patriots
The first thing that pops up when one googles ‘New England Patriots Mascot’ is a sordid story about a recent mascot involved in a crazy prostitution ring! The caption under the photo of Pat the Patriot reads ‘Pat the Patriot in more innocent days, with a wholesome cheerleader’. It needs no embellishment by me, so I’ll just provide the link HERE. The original logo for the Patriots was designed by Phil Bissell, an artist for the Boston Globe. The Patriots started their franchise in Boston in the AFL and the mascot was chosen by locals, who were asked for suggestions by owner Billy Sullivan. After the AFL/NFL merger, the Patriots moved to Foxborough, MA, a suburb of Boston, and adopted the ‘New England’ distinction. In my experience, this means ‘Anywhere on the East Coast that’s not New York’. I’d love Vermont to be awarded the next NFL franchise. The Vermont Creamers. Or, the Vermont Maple Syrup Wood Rocking Chair Argyles.
New Orleans Saints
The New Orleans Saints were established on November 1, 1967, which is All Saints Day. They were named after a fan contest, although there’s never been a more appropriate regional mascot, in my opinion, than the Saints in New Orleans. “When the Saints Go Marching In’ is a traditional New Orleans funeral march. On the way to the funeral, the song would be played by a jazz line in a type of slow, lamentable dirge. On the way back from the internment, it would be played in a quicker, ‘hot’ or ‘Dixieland’ style. If you’ve never seen – get on YouTube or download some episodes of Treme. It’s the most appropriately honorable send-off into the hereafter that I’ve ever seen. The Saints logo is a fleur-de-lis, which is the symbol of the city of New Orleans, as well as France’s Royal Family, which included the house of Bourbon. Ahhh… yes, thank you. Last time I was in NOLA, my good friends Angelena and Lyle took me to Spahr’s, the best place in Louisiana to get a pre-kickoff bloody mary and plate of fried anything.
New York Giants
The New York Giants joined the NFL in 1925 and got their name from then-owner Tim Mara, who borrowed the city’s baseball team name for the football franchise. The New York Giants of baseball eventually moved to San Francisco and the football team adopted the official title ‘The New York Football Giants’ in 1937. Fans call them G-Men and while they don’t have an official bouncing costumed mascot, Eli Manning is as good a fan-rouser as any stuffed jungle cat. Eli is the younger brother of Peyton Manning, QB for the Indianapolis Colts, and the son of Archie Manning, who played QB for the New Orleans Saints. My good friend Adam, the smartest Giants fan I know, says this about Eli: ‘He is underrated as a team leader. He’s under the most intense media scrutiny of the toughest sports town in the country and yet he goes out there and starts every game. Also, the fact that he has a sterling off-field image is huge. He’s not a bad boy and avoids controversy and I think his discipline helps anchor the team in an intangible way that stats alone won’t reflect.’ Listen up, Mr. Jay Almost – Mr. Kristin Cavallari-Cutler… If I were to invent a mascot for the Giants, it would just be an enormous beanstalk in the middle of the goal posts, where a giant Giant foot would dangle down during every missed field goal.
New York Jets
The Jets were founded in 1959 as part of the AFL, known then as the Titans of New York. The team joined the NFL after the merger and started playing as the ‘Jets’ when ownership changed in 1963. Like the Giants, the Jets don’t have an official mascot, probably because they’ve had such strong unofficial mascots over the years. In the early years, they had QB Joe Namath, known as ‘Broadway Joe’. He guaranteed a Super Bowl win over the Baltimore Colts (known that year as ‘the greatest football team in history’) in 1969 and made good on the promise. Guaranteeing a win in football means about as much to me as when someone says ‘we apologize for any inconvenience’ after a 29 hour flight delay or when the girl at Menchie’s says ‘sorry!’ after telling me they don’t have root beer frozen yogurt for me to serve myself that day. These days, the unofficial mascot of the Jets is Fireman Ed. He is given credit with originating the famous ‘J-E-T-S, JETS! JETS! JETS!’ chant and he’s even got his own television commercial. I have it on good authority that his enthusiasm isn’t totally derived from sheer team spirit and may have to do with massive amounts of one drug in particular. You know which one I’m talking about, but that’s just hearsay so don’t quote me on that because Fireman Ed looks like he could throw a mean punch upside my tiny head. My best buds Julia and Jordan are enormous Jets fans, as is their dog Miles, who I’ll nominate for the next unofficial Jets mascot duties when Fireman Ed collapses from one too many human pyramids.
Have you heard about the shooting at the 49ers/Saints pre-season game over the weekend? Please meet the hard-hitting, thug-busting, black and silver bandit fans of the Raiders of Oakland, then Los Angeles, and then back to Oakland. The mascot of the Raiders is fear and destruction. What’s one to expect when a football team is established in a city that then-ranked as the murder capital of the world? These are the bad boys, which make them a formidable match for any other cheese ball half-mascot in a giant head and wings. The Raiders were formed in 1960 by Chet Soda and then taken over by Al Davis. Al Davis is not the guy you took to prom, but you were probably tempted to ditch your date and follow him under the bleachers for a bottle of Boone’s. In fact, do an image search of Al Davis right now, but then don’t blame me when you have nightmares tonight. There’s no real mascot for the Raiders, but a skeleton pirate graces the logo. To be honest… do you really need a mascot when you’ve got guys like the below? Raider culture is so legendary that ESPN devoted an entire 30 for 30 special about the Oakland Raider fans (‘Straight Outta LA’). Raider fans seem very content with their current status as the most gnashing, snarling underdog in all of football.
Then again, maybe I’m just a little biased. The Raiders are the perfect villainous counterpoint to the team across the bay, my own squeaky-clean, lovable-though-currently losing, 49ers…
The Philadelphia Eagles were established in 1933 by Bert Bell and Lud Wray as a replacement for the Frankfurt Yellow Jackets, who went bankrupt mid-way through their 8th season in 1931. The Eagles were named after The Blue Eagle logo created by the NRA (National Recovery Act, not the gun club) to identify a business’s compliance with the National Industrial Recovery Act during the Great Depression. The NRA was a government program enacted as part of FDR’s New Deal program. Part of the legislation guaranteed union workers rights, including the establishment of collective bargaining practices, regulating fair working practices (work day limits, minimum wage requirements) and the other creation of the Public Works Administration. There’s much more detail that I won’t go into here, but it’s worth researching, especially in light of our current apocalyptic economic crisis. The Blue Eagle itself symbolized industry and power. The Eagles’ current mascot ‘Swoop’ is an anthropomorphic eagle that also appears in the weekly Eagles Kids Club show. According to several mostly unscientific surveys that rank fan loyalty, the Eagles fans are consistently sit at the top. If you ask a fan of any other team what they think about the Eagles fans, however, you are most likely to hear that they are ‘crazy’, ‘insane’, or ‘the worst’. It’s all about perspective, as usual. My step brother is an Eagles fan. He is a completely wonderful human being although obsessively loyal to the team.
The Mascot for the Steelers is Steely McBeam, who was only introduced in 2007. Steely was selected by over 70,000 fan submissions. That should give you an idea of the sheer magnitude of overwhelming national fan-dom (I’m looking at you Nico, Matt, Josh & Farley) behind the Pittsburgh Steelers football team. The team was founded in 1933, is the oldest franchise in the AFC (there are two divisions in the NFL – the AFC and NFC) and holds the record for most Super Bowl wins. In 1933, Art Rooney established the team as the Pittsburgh Pirates after the city’s baseball team, but changed the name to ‘Steelers’ before the 1940 season. The Rooney family remains owners of the franchise. Dan Rooney established what is now known as the ‘Rooney Rule’, requiring every NFL team to interview one minority candidate before hiring any new coach. The Steelers logo has remained the same since the team’s beginning – it’s the Steelmark designed by Pittsburgh company US Steel. In 1975 Steelers broadcaster Myron Cope designed the Terrible Towel, the first ‘rally towel,’ which fans swing at games and also take on vacation. The Terrible Towel has been photographed at Mt. Everest. Easier to shove in your backpack than a gnome, certainly. Mike Wallace, who plays wide receiver for the Steelers, is my favorite football player at the moment (not only because he’s smokin’, but a little because he’s smokin’).
San Francisco 49ers
The 49ers were founded in 1946 and are the oldest major professional sports team in California. The 49ers are tied with Dallas for 2nd most Super Bowl Wins. The team is named after the gold-seeking adventurers of the California Gold Rush who roamed Northern California in 1849. I spent large chunks of my childhood pillaging ghost towns and panning for gold in Coloma, near Sutter’s Mill, and in the environs of Mono Creek with my dad while he fished for fish, so believe me when I tell you that I know what it means to be a San Francisco 49ers football player. The 49ers are most famous for QB Joe Montana (whose son Nate wears his #16 as a quarterback for the U of Montana Grizzlies) and coach Bill Walsh, who is credited with inventing the ‘West Coast Offense.’ The West Coast Offense is defined as a pass-first (as opposed to run-first) offense, using successive plays of short, horizontal passes to a variety of receivers. I can try to explain it to you, but this entertaining VIDEO does it far better. The 49ers’ current mascot is Sourdough Sam, a real nod to the famous bread bowls of San Francisco. SF’s Boudin Bakery and their sourdough recipe, which has been around since the Gold Rush, is the stuff of legends! They do the quintessential clam chowder in a bread bowl and it’s the only version anyone should ever eat. Don’t talk to me, Boston, because I don’t want to hear it.
San Diego Chargers
The Chargers joined the AFL in 1960 in Los Angeles but moved to San Diego in 1961. The name ‘Chargers’ was given to the team by then-GM Frank Ready. His reasoning was as follows: “I liked it because they were yelling ‘charge’ and sounding the bugle at Dodgers Stadium and at USC games.” Charger colors are Powder Blue, Navy Blue, Gold and White. The Chargers have undergone many changes to the shade of blue in their uniforms with fans ‘clamoring’ for the team to keep the throwback powder blue of the early years, so you’ll see them on the field in either navy, powder blue, white or oh my god I’m bored, too. The Chargers have an official fan club for women called ‘Lightening Ladies’, with membership fees benefiting the American Heart Association’s Go Red for Women campaign. The Chargers may not have a costumed mascot, but they do have a song! It’s called the San Diego Super Chargers and it’s a disco masterpiece. LISTEN HERE
The Seattle Seahawks joined the NFL as an expansion team in 1975. The Seahawk mascot was chosen in a fan contest – 20,365 people entered and according to one account, 151 people entered ‘Seahawk’, but according to Wikipedia only Mary Hoolahan of Seattle submitted that name. Seahawk is one of apparently many nicknames for the Osprey, which is a bird of prey and dressed in colors nowhere near as neon green as the football Seahawks. One of Seattle’s unofficial mascots is the Kingdome, where the team played until 1999 (they now play at Qwest Field). The noise of the fans (due in part to the acoustics of the stadium) make the Kingdome the loudest place to play football in the NFL. As tribute, the Seattle Seahawks retired the #12 for the fans, who represent the ’12th man’ on the field. The official mascot of the Seahawks is Blitz as well as an Auger hawk, a real bird, who flies around the stadium prior to the players coming out of the tunnel. My mother’s greatest fears are elevators and birds flying in closed spaces, so I will never take her to a Seahawks game. I put her through enough torture with my parakeet named blueberry/muffin. Blitz went through a major makeover in 2004 to make his appearance ‘less menacing to children’ because of his menacing facial features. He now appears as a big blue bodybuilder in a Seahawks uniform wearing a bright yellow beak that takes up half his face, but with kind eyes. I’d still flee that scene.
St. Louis Rams
The St. Louis Rams were established in 1936 in Cleveland, Ohio as the Cleveland Rams. In 1946, Paul Brown set up his Cleveland Browns as part of the All American Football Conference, so the Sweet Rammers (as I like to call them, in honor of Bill Chais) decided to set up shop in Los Angeles to avoid competition for fans. The team moved again to St. Louis right before the start of the 1995 season. The Rams mascot was named after the Fordham University mascot of the same name and meant to honor the school’s tradition of football excellence. Interestingly (maybe only to me), Vince Lombardi was on the 1936 Fordham team that inspired the term ‘Ivy League’, which was originally used in a derogatory manner. Sportswriter Caswell Adams said that, in comparison to Fordham’s team that year, Princeton and Columbia’s teams were ‘only Ivy League.’ This comment was expanding on Stanley Woodward’s statement (in the New York Tribune): ‘A proportion of our eastern ivy colleges are meeting little fellows another Saturday before plunging into the strife and the turmoil.’ As a graduate of Northwestern, I appreciate any knock-down to the ivy-covered east coast institutions of higher learning and yearning (yes, just jealous). The St. Louis Rams were the first team to have a logo painted on their helmets when Ram horns were painted on the leather helmets of 1948. The same Ram horns adorn players’ helmets of today. The Rams have a brand new on-field mascot as of last year. His name is Rampage, named during a fan contest where the top suggestions included: Archie, Ramsey, Rampage, Rammer, and Russ.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
The Tampa Bay Bucs were formed in 1976 by Hugh Culverhouse, a tax attorney from Jacksonville, who had previously lost a bid to buy the Los Angeles Rams. The Buccaneers were named during a fan contest and refers to pirate legends in Florida. Mascot ‘Bucco Bruce’ was the first logo for the team. Bucco Bruce is a winking, sword-in-mouth pirate who bears a striking resemblance to Clark Gable and every paperback romance cover ever. The colors of the team back then were sherbet orange and candy apple red, which is the same shade as my toes right now. In 1997, the team’s design was revamped to be more intimidating and less like an ice cream truck at Disneyland Paris. The new colors became red, black, pewter and orange and to the logo was added 2 more swords and a skull. In 2003, the Raiders brought a lawsuit against Tampa Bay arguing that the use of a pirate and black and silver infringed upon the Raiders’ brand. They also accused the Carolina Panthers of the same on account of their use of silver and black. Told you the Raiders were trouble makers…
The Titans started playing in the AFL as the Houston Oilers in 1960. The original ‘Oilers’ mascot was an oil derrick named ‘Ol Riggy. The team kept a similar color scheme when they became the Titans and moved to Tennessee in 1997. They played as the Tennessee Oilers for one year and then changed the team nickname to the Titans in 1998. The team now plays at LP field in Nashville, right on the east bank of the Cumberland River. The Titans’ logo mimics the flag of Tennessee with a circle and three stars. The Titans were a group of Greek gods descended from Gaia and Uranus and ruled during the Golden Age. The original 12 Titans (football starting lineup plus crowd) were Oceanus, Hyperion, Coeus, Cronus, Crius, Iapetus, Mnemosyne, Tethys, Theia, Phoebe, Rhea and Themis. The Titans were chosen to represent the team since Nashville is known (to apparently everyone but me) as ‘The Athens of the South’. Nashville got this designation since it was the first southern city to establish a public school system and was (is?) known as one of the most educated and artistic cities of the south. The team’s current furry mascot is T-Rac, a raccoon, which is the state animal of Tennessee. I visited Nashville for the first time recently and did not see any raccoons, but I was warned about snakes and I did learn that a shot gun is the best way to get rid of them.
The Redskins started life as the Boston Braves in Boston, MA in 1932. They changed their name to the Redskins the following year and moved to Washington, DC in 1937. Owner George Preston Marshall re-named the team after the head coach at the time: William ‘Lone Star’ Dietz, an American Indian. During the late 50’s, Marshall refused to integrate the team (must mention here that he died after a ‘mental decline’ that began in 1962), despite pressure from the Washington Post and the US Government. Since the Redskins stadium was owned by the government, President Kennedy, in 1961, threatened to prohibit the team from playing if they continued to refuse to integrate. In 1962 they were the last team to integrate, drafting Ernie Davis, a running back, who was the first black athlete to win the Heisman trophy. In 2005 an attempt to change the Redskins name on grounds that ‘redskin’ is offensive to Native Americans proved unsuccessful. Subsequent lawsuits have followed, but so far the name remains intact. The NFL operates outside of governmental jurisdiction with regard to mascots, imagery, etc., which is why they weren’t subject to terms of the 2001 Commission on Civil Rights decision that bans any use of Native American imagery and slang in all Non-Native American schools. The current on-field mascot is the Hog, after the nickname for the Redskins’ offensive line in the 80’s. The Redskins have a special group of 12 male fans known as ‘The Hogettes’ who costume themselves in women’s dresses, hats and pig snouts. The group has been around since 1983 and campaign for charities in the area.