Saturday, December 6, 2008

Birds and Sports Logos

 [This post was originally run as a guest post on 10,000 Birds]

Hello 10k Birds readers! Thanks, Mike, for the invite, this is one heck of a site you guys got yourselves.

OK, so, on my own site I sometimes like to explore the ways birds and birders are misunderstood by the media and the general public.  It may be nitpicky, and the people may mean well, but I've spent a lot of time honing my power of bird-observation, and I'm not going to turn it off just because I'm at home on the couch.  Plus, if you're producing a big-budget American TV commercial, how hard is it really to make sure that the bird you're using isn't restricted to, say, the South American rainforest?  Isn't that your job?  I mean, there's a reason he's named Smoky the Bear and not Smoky the Wallaby, right?

Regardless of whether some hotshot commercial producer cares, I care.  You know what else I care about?  Sports.  And, as it just so happens, sports teams represent (and misrepresent) birds all the time in their team logos.  So today I'm going to do a breakdown, Uni-Watch style, of the best, okay-ist, and worst bird-themed sports logos in sports.  Grades will be given out based on ornithological accuracy and whatever other criteria I see fit.  [Note: I'll be sticking primarily to professional American sports: MLB, NBA, NFL and, I guess, the NHL.  For a list of bird-themed college teams with some snarky commentary, look here.]  Let's do it.

Major League Baseball

Baltimore Orioles.  Although they are a perennially crummy baseball team, the Baltimore Orioles represent the pinnacle of bird-sports achievement.  First, they are the only team that I know of which includes the team's geographic location as part of a species name: the bird is named the Baltimore Oriole, and the team is the Baltimore Orioles.  Genius.  I really wish more teams would do this, and someday bird-nerds around the country could celebrate when the California Condors play the Nashville Warblers in the World Series.  

Second, the Orioles logo is, ornithologically, spectacular.  Although the logo hasn't always been so accurate, the current version, at least compared to some of the logos we'll see later on, looks to be right out of a field guide.   Closer inspection reveals some discrepancies, however.  Unlike the bird in the logo, actual male Baltimore Orioles have gray/blue bills and no cream eye-ring. Real birds also show a good deal more white in the coverts and secondaries than the logo bird.  I'll let those details slide as artistic license, though, and at least the team isn't making a mockery of the bird.  Oh, wait...let's move on.    Grade = A

Toronto Blue Jays.  Another mediocre, American League East baseball team which has chosen a smallish, not-particularly-intimidating bird as its mascot.  I love the logo, though.  At least, I love the one the one they used to wear, before they started to make a mess of things.

Like the Orioles, the Blue Jays logo isn't ornithologically perfect. The biggest difference is, of course, that real blue jays have black bills and collars, not dark blue.  It's a pretty logo, though, and it's not a bird that traditionally gets the sports-team treatment, so it's OK in my book.  These guys, however, must be destroyed.  Grade = A-

St. Louis Cardinals.  As far as I can tell, the Cardinals are the oldest bird-named team in the country since changing over from the weirdly-named Brown Stockings in 1900 (and that would be this kind, not this kind).  And it's a good thing, too, because their logo is classic.  It's not perfect, though.  The beak and legs are bright yellow, while on a real male Northern Cardinal they are red/orange and dark pink, respectively.  The eye of the logo is also not the black it would be in real life, but, as with the Orioles, I'll let that slide as artistic license.  Note that the logo used by the Cardinals from 1967-1997 get the beak and legs colors a bit more realistic, and adds a funky little hat. Good work, St. Louis.  Grade = A

Boston Red Sox.  What do the Red Sox have to do with birds?  Am I just putting them on this list because they are my favorite sports team?  Well, yes and no.  Check out the Red Sox "B" emblem.  Got it?  Okay, now turn the B ninety degrees clockwise.  What do you see?  Yes, it's an owl.  Isn't that cool?  Somewhere along the line I thought that it was used as a logo for some college (Rice Owls?  Temple Owls?) but I haven't been able to confirm that.  Grade = A for coolness

The National Football League

Atlanta Falcons.  Alright, here is the time for some real tough, badass birds!  None of these wimpy orioles and jays, we want some tough birds to represent some tough guys!  And what could be tougher than a falcon?  The fastest birds in the sky!  Lightning-quick raptors that swoop from the sky!  Surely the Atlanta Falcons would honor this noble family through a cool logo! 

Excuse me. Excuse me. What the hell is that? Is THAT your falcons logo?  That looks awful!  That's nothing like what falcons look like!  OK, maybe it's just a "hip, new" thing, and your older logo was better. No! Awful!

Ugh.  Where to begin?  First, falcons have very distinct, angular wings, a feature completely botched in the logo (the logo bird's wings look more like, what, passerines?).  Second, although there is such a thing as a Black Falcon, it lives in Australia, not Atlanta.  And what's with the leg sticking out?  Is he injured?  Sigh.  So much wasted potential.  Grade = D-

Philadelphia Eagles.  I mean, it's OK. It gets points for being intense, it loses a bunch of points for being green and silver. I'm not gonna hate on it, but eagles are done much better in other places. Grade = C

Arizona Cardinals.  Unlike the baseball team, these Cardinals just went with the head.  Like the baseball team, though, the Arizona Cardinals have miscolored the bird's break and eyes.  I'm generally in favor if this logo, but it's nothing to write home about.  Grade = B-

Seattle Seahawks.  As been covered on this website before, a Seahawk is another name for an Osprey. Although this logo isn't exactly realistic, it's done in the local Native American style, so I'm not going to dock much points. Seattle sports are miserable enough right now without me piling it on. Grade = C  

Baltimore Ravens.  Look, I really want to like this logo.  I think Ravens are a great mascot, and an underappreciated bird.  I like the Baltimore - Edgar Allen Poe's "The Raven" connection.'s purple.  It's unoriginal.  It's ugly.  Grade = C-

The National Basketball Association

Atlanta Hawks.  The NBA is the league with the least number of bird-related teams, with only the Hawks representing.  Annnnd it's a pretty crummy logo, at least from an ornithological perspective.  I researched as best I could (great website there, by the way), and I don't think there are any red hawks like the one in the picture, and certainly not in Atlanta.  It's not so bad, though.  It's a pretty good hawk, for a generic one.  Plus, the Hawks get a few bonus points for making one my my favorite logos ever.  Grade = B

The National Hockey League

Before we get into the real teams, there are a couple quasi-birdy NHL teams we need to get out of the way.  First, the Chicago Blackhawks are named after Chief Black Hawk, not a bird.  Second, while the logos for the Detroit Red Wings, Philadelphia Flyers and St. Louis Blues use wing imagery, they are not countable here.  Moving on.

Pittsburgh Penguins.  The Penguins have a couple of logos, and they are both awesome.  For the skating penguin, regardless of whether or not it's a real bird, how could you not love that?  Adorable.  For the older penguin head logo, it appears to be modeled on the Emperor, and it looks pretty good to me.  I also give the team a lot of respect for picking such an untraditionally friendly bird for a mascot (it's a winter thing, I think). Great job, Penguins. Grade = A

Atlanta Thrashers.  Oh, Atlanta, what are we going to do with you?  Three bird-related teams, and three crappy logos.  Atlanta's hockey team is named after Georgia's state bird, the Brown Thrasher, which is convenient because "thrashing" is also one of those macho sports words.  Too bad the logo looks like crap.  Ugh.  I'll grant that actual Brown Thrashers aren't visually distinctive, but that logo is embarrassing.  Atlanta, for shame.


Anonymous said...

Since you admit to being nitpicky right out of the gate on this post, I can't turn off my editor hat.

Smokey Bear, not Smokey "the" Bear (see Common mistake. Didn't read the comments on the original 10,000 Birds post so didn't see if a gazillion nitpickers already sent this in.

Loved the State Birds post - I landed on The Birdist from the Slate reposting. Put a link back to the Slate repost so folks can see the gorgeous photos???

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