Saturday, October 14, 2017

From My Nature Journal: Nature and Sports (In a Very Random Sort of Way…)

I had an interesting reverie this afternoon while on my daily walk. If I’m not with Gail or someone else and conversing, or alone and conversing with God, I often will try to occupy my mind with something that will help the time pass: nature observations, word or number mind games, shatteringly profound theological thoughts, things like that. Without having thought about it much yet today, in very quick succession I noticed several birds – a blue jay, cardinal, hawk and eagle -- and then realized, in this weird time of the year when pro and college football, postseason baseball, and preseason hockey and basketball all strangely crowd upon each other, that these first few birds I observed were also the names of major American professional sports teams. Sorry, it’s a shame what sports can sometimes do to one’s mind. Then my thoughts moved to U.S. college teams, and while my forty-eight minutes progressed, I began to think of the huge number of cities and schools that had chosen from nature for their team name or mascot, and was surprised by the number. OK, OK, so it’s not the deepest subject for the tight theological mind I possess, but it was an off day. 

So let’s have a little fun with it anyway, no matter how avid a sports fan you are, or aren’t, and play a little trivia game. How many of these nature-based team names do you know the city or university where they play? And in the case of pro teams, what sport? Can you name them all? I doubt it, but see how you do. Those of you who are really good (and I imagine my son Jarrett and three dear sons-in-law will be quite excellent) will quickly find that some nature mascots are represented by more than one pro team, even in different sports, and most are also used by college teams, sometimes many different schools. Can you spot some of those, too? If I were to keep score, I might give a point for each pro or college team you know that shares the same name, but I’ll leave that for the diehards. I’m not going to give answers either, but will be glad to have any of you play with it and see how you do. You can even let me know how many you came up with. (All right, now that I am thinking more carefully, I think Jarrett may kick my sons’-in-laws butts…)

Start with the birds that I first noticed, the Blue Jays, Cardinals (even singular, as in Cardinal, though in at least one case, it’s not referring to the bird, or even a prelate, but simply the color!), Hawks and Eagles. These are easy. What city and sport or university do they represent? There are lots more birds – Raptors and Ravens, Orioles and Owls, Ducks and Hens and Gamecocks, even Penguins and Pelicans. And don’t forget the other raptors, the Seahawks and Falcons. And is there really such a thing as a Jayhawk? My friend Dave would sure say there is…

Of course, mammals are hugely represented. We could start out with Lions and Tigers and (da) Bears, oh my! While on the subject of bears, there are also the Bruins, and look, there’s even a cute little baby animal, my beloved Cubs! (Bear cubs, they are, in case you’re wondering – I wouldn’t want you to confuse my Cubs with lion cubs, badger cubs, raccoon cubs or hyena cubs. Yes, they may be the only sports team in the universe named after an animal baby, but by the way, did I tell you they won the World Series last year? Sorry, I digress…) But we easily move on from there to the Badgers and Bison and Beavers and Bobcats, Rams and Razorbacks, Wildcats and Wolverines and Wolf Pack and Timberwolves, even wolves in Spanish, the Lobos. There are Grizzlies and Gophers and, yes, even Gorillas. How about Cows and Horses? I know of none of these, but there are Bulls, Longhorns and Mavericks, and Chargers, Colts, Broncos and Mustangs. There are no Dogs or Cats either, but the Panthers, Jaguars, Bengals, Lynx, Cougars and (here’s a hard one) Catamounts are all there, as well as the Bulldogs, Huskies, Coyotes, Terriers and Salukis. Nope, no Deer or Elk, Rabbits or Hares, but the Bucks and Stags and Jackrabbits are in.

Reptiles and amphibians are not neglected -- Horned Frogs, Diamondbacks, Gators, Terrapins. The fish are playing, too, at least when they’re not in school: Marlins and Sharks and Rays and Dolphins. (Oh, wait, dolphins aren’t fish. Stick them up there with the mammals...) There are even insects – Bees, Hornets, Yellow Jackets and Monarchs, though I don’t think the latter are of the butterfly variety.

Hey, even the trees get their day in the sun – the Maple Leafs and Timbers, and what do you know, there’s even a nut, the Buckeyes. How appropriate. And water, you ask? Well, there are Whitecaps and Waves.

Finally, there’s a nature category that might have to be called the ‘acts of God’ group: Cyclones and Hurricanes, Earthquakes, Crimson Tide, and Avalanche, as well as the perfect trifecta -- Storm, Thunder and Lightning. There are Flames and Heat and Fire, and we can’t overlook the Suns, though you’re not supposed to look at it. The Stars are still in the Sky. And rocks get their due, at least in the first case a large pile of them, the Rockies; but a small pile will also do nicely, the Nuggets. And in the other big and small sub-category of the acts of God, there are always the Sparks and the Galaxy. Whew. That one’s ostentatious.

OK, now for you nutcases whose marriages or relationships are shaky because of your infatuation with sports, here’s the extra credit paragraph; and if you get any of these, maybe you should check with available night jobs on ESPN. How about the Retrievers, Anteaters, Camels, Roadrunners, Great Danes, Blackbirds, Greyhounds, Ospreys, Leopards, Pride, Foxes, Rattlers, Peacocks, Spiders and Kangaroos? Kangaroos? Don’t you think a case should be made for American teams using only American animals?

So, how did you do? Leaving aside the fifteen in the extra credit paragraph, there are 92 nature-based team names listed, and these include all those in the six major pro leagues and the D1 schools. But did you get 80? Excellent! Even 70? Still quite good! I think I’d’ve only gotten 75 myself before I researched this inane subject, but I still know my four aforementioned and beloved sons will beat me. So what does that make them? Hey, guys, pay more attention to your wives…

Nature names are good names, because nature is good. God made it that way (Genesis 1:31). And nature names surely beat the dumb names like Packers and Red Sox. I mean, what’s a packer anymore, a frequent traveler? And who wears red socks except maybe Pee-wee Herman? Yes, nature names are good.

The Bible also says that nature understands its significant place in the cosmos as well, which cannot always be said for us sports-minded humans. Consider:

Ask the animals – they will teach you,
The birds of the air – they will tell you.
Speak to the plants of the earth and they will inform you,
Even the fish of the sea will declare to you:
Who among all these does not know that the hand of the Lord has done this?
In God’s hand is the life of every living thing,
Even the breath of all humankind. (Job 12:7-10)

So I hope you enjoy this little gamey essay as much as I’ve enjoyed writing it, but I also hope it gives you, if even just slightly, a little more appreciation for nature in the midst of sports. It’s certainly more about sports than it is about nature, but you might find it a fun way to spend a few minutes, or at least to kill a little time on a long walk. Try the quiz and see how you do.

Game on.

~~ RGM, October 14, 2017


  1. That was a pretty nice and simple yet innovative and different piece of article from others. Was really good to read your point of view on these sports icons.

    1. Thanks! I enjoyed pulling it together! And by the way, my son-in-law BJ beat my son, 89 to 88!

  2. John H Packer fan of Central MNMarch 14, 2018 at 3:27 PM

    Just ran across this, and can't help but offer up a brief history lesson. The name Packers ties directly to their origin. Curly Lambeau was a star athlete at a GB high school, and played on Knute Rockne's first football team at Notre Dame. He dropped out of ND and returned to GB. It is 1919, and he wanted to play football. To help organize a team, he convinced his employer, Indian Packing Co. (employees known as Packers), to provide team uniforms. They played their first games in the field next to the plant. Two years later they joined the league which became the NFL. In 1922, Acme Packing Co of CHICAGO, bought Indian Packing. In 1921, the Decatur Staley's, owned by A.E. Staley of A. E. Staley Starch Co, moved to Chicago. George Halas bought the team for $100. they became the Chicago Bears. How do you pick an animal for your team name. I guess Chicago must have been inhabited with Bears is the only thing I can think of.
    Actually, I no longer watch football. We have always known retired football players have many physical problems. We now know that they are also damaging their brains, developing CTE. Not just from the big hits with concussions, but the accumulation of all the hits to the head. It destroys many lives...players and their families. Bears...hmm...they sleep all winter...go figure.

  3. Thanks, John H! I'm actually a closet Packer fan, having been born in the U.P. where everyone gravitates to Green Bay rather than Detroit. Actually, I say, they are Team Two for me behind the Bears (who, unfortunately, yes, DO hibernate all winter, except for that glorious Superbowl XX. And I agree with you about the dangers and excesses of professional football, even youth football for that matter. And by the way, I was a bit familiar with the Packer name, was only teasing them in my blog! But thanks for filling me on further -- that's a great story from their history.