Thursday, March 1, 2012

The Origins Behind 9 Sports Team Names

I'm very pleased to introduce my fiance, Greg's, first post as a guest blogger. He suggested this clever topic for me and I suggested he write it instead...I'm not much the sports buff. Let us know if you'd like to hear more from Greg!

Of all the blog subjects you thought you would see on here, I'll bet that a sports post would not be near the top of your list. If you actually know Mary, you'll know that a sports themed post would be as likely as me competing on the uneven bars at the next Olympics. In the sports world, nicknames and mascots come from some awfully strange places. Here's a list of sports teams whose names have a connection with the Civil War.

Lets get the obvious ones out the way first...

1. New York Yankees

Duh, not really that much to explain here. I did find it interesting that the way most people feel about the Yankees now (not me; I'm a fan) was actually eerily similar to how southerners thought of the "Yankees" during the Civil War. Confederates usually thought of the "Yankees" as wealthy, egocentric, aristocrats that only cared about two things: money and winning. OK, maybe that sounds a little similar.

2. Ole Miss (University of Mississippi) Rebels

Again, a little obvious. Mississippi, the home of Jefferson Davis, President of the Confederacy, was one of the first states to secede from the Union in 1861. As you can see in the picture above, Ole Miss had a dashing mascot known as Colonel Reb who patrolled the sidelines of Mississippi sports events for many years. In 2003, Colonel Reb retired from service in order to have the university distance itself from a controversial Confederate mascot. In 2010, Ole Miss introduced Rebel Black Bear as the new on field mascot.

3. Columbus Blue Jackets

I remember my thoughts the first time I heard the name of the new NHL expansion team in Columbus, Ohio... "Uh, what?" Like most people, I was wondering what the heck a Blue Jacket was. For some reason I was expecting some kind of blue bumblebee. As it turns out, Blue Jackets is actually a reference to Union soldiers from Ohio (think Red Coats). The state of Ohio provided President Lincoln and the USA with a whopping 198 infantry regiments in the course of the war along with a few generals you may have heard of: Grant, Sherman, Sheridan, and Custer. Hey, turns out that I wasn't too far off with my initial thought of this nickname... the Blue Jackets mascot is a giant bee named stinger. 

Why he's green is beyond me.

4. UNC (University of North Carolina) Tar Heels

OK, now we're getting a little obscure. The term Tar Heel existed prior to the Civil War, however it gained its popularity during the war. The best way to explain this strange nickname is to use it in the context of the 1860's. Ok, let me give this a shot... "Look at them Carolina boys! No matter how many times those Yanks advance they can't be moved!! It's like they've got tar on their heels!" Sorry, even my written Southern accent isn't very good. 

5. Notre Dame Fighting Irish

I know, you're thinking, "How does this have anything to do with the Civil War??". I am not in any way, shape, or form a Notre Dame fan but this is a pretty cool connection. During the Civil War, Rev. William Corby served as the Chaplain of the famed Irish Brigade. Father Corby is perhaps best known for his general absolution (the forgiveness of sins) of the entire Irish Brigade prior to the Battle of Gettysburg. Most people now know Father Corby by his iconic statue close to the spot where he granted absolution.

Well, Father Corby's story didn't end on the battlefield that day. After the war, he made his way to Indiana and served two terms as the president guessed it, the University of Notre Dame. Father Corby's impressive past inspired the now famous nickname, the Fighting Irish. 

Interestingly, Father Corby's statue from Gettysburg has a double located on the campus of Notre Dame. The locals however, just call him...

Fair-catch Corby

6. Calgary Flames

What? The Civil War in Canada? Well ok, they weren't always the Calgary Flames... They moved to Canada in 1980, but from 1972-1980 the Flames hailed from Atlanta, Georgia. In 1864, Union General William Tecumseh Sherman was on the war path. Literally. U.S. Grant, the general-in-chief of the Union army, sent General Sherman south to create utter havoc... and boy did he succeed. Sherman led his army to Atlanta and proceeded to burn it to the ground. Thus, the Atlanta Flames. 

While I'm on the subject of teams changing cities and not leaving their nickname behind...

7. Utah Jazz

The New Orleans Jazz is a pretty cool name, but come on...Utah?? Salt Lake City doesn't seem like much of a jazz hotbed. 

8. Los Angeles Lakers

Yeah, those Lakers. Not that I doubt that there are lakes near Los Angeles, but scenic LA isn't quite the Land of 10,000 Lakes that Minnesota is. Why can't teams just leave behind their names???

and finally...

9. New Orleans Hornets

Why is this a big deal? Well, the Hornets used to be in Charlotte, North Carolina. While a hornet is a pretty cool mascot and nickname for a sports team, the name is actually based on fierce pockets of fighting located within North Carolina during the American Revolution called hornets nests. I don't really find this one quite as offensive as some of the other hijacked team names but still, the Charlotte Hornets was a cool, kind of incognito nickname. 

Well, thats all for now folks. I hope you enjoyed this little guest feature. If anyone has any other interesting connections, I would definitely be interested in hearing them. 

Hope you enjoyed!

1 comment:

  1. I loved the guest blogger! I love your posts, Mary, but it was fun to see something from a different perspective and a male. I had never thought about the origins of team names. Love reading about things I didn't know. Keep it coming!