WOULD WIN A FIGHT BETWEEN AN OSPREY AND A MUSTANG?
once asked me who would win a fight between a tiger and a polar bear.
I said it would depend on who had the home field advantage. Meanwhile,
who would win a contest between ospreys, aka seahawks, and wild horses,
aka broncos? The answer will be known on Groundhog Day.
of animals that will never meet in the natural world happen constantly
in sports. Of the 32 NFL teams, 14 have nicknames that are birds or
mammals, mostly predators, that are unlikely to square off in real life.
For example, lions (Detroit), Bengal tigers (Cincinnati), jaguars (Jacksonville),
and panthers (Carolina) are all big, fearsome cats. None are found on
the same continent as another so they are unlikely to meet except at
a sports event. Cardinals (St. Louis), colts (Indianapolis), and dolphins
(Miami) seem the most benign of the bunch. They don't invoke an image
of a very scary opponent, although a lion might have a tough time on
a dolphin's home turf (the ocean).
of universities and colleges with biological nicknames have chosen fierce
and powerful creatures such as eagles (54), bears (46), and lions (25),
but a few have chosen plants. The best known would be the Ohio State
Buckeyes. The buckeye is a tree renowned for its perseverance and toughness.
We shouldn't overlook the Indiana State University Sycamores or the
Fighting Artichokes of Scottsdale (Ariz.) Community College. And it's
pure chutzpah to call yourself the New York University Violets. No pro
football team is named after a plant, but if Dan Snyder, owner of the
Washington Redskins, would consider a logo change to accommodate the
Spanish peanuts or Idaho potatoes, he would be adding a biological nickname
that might gain wide acceptance.
not as popular as bird and mammal predators among academic nicknames,
a fair diversity of invertebrates have made the scene. Everyone knows
that spiders are venomous creatures so sports teams are understandably
terrified when the Richmond (Va.) Spiders enter the stadium. And who
would want to be playing when the USC-Sumter (S.C.) Fire Ants swarm
onto the field? Likewise the University of Texas-Brownsville Scorpions
sound like a formidable foe. Most people are probably familiar with
the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets, but 13 other academic institutions
also have the nickname of those relentless stinging members of the wasp
family. The U.C. Santa Cruz Banana Slugs do not sound like a force to
be reckoned with. I remember the first time my kids and I saw one of
these 6-inch-long gastropods crossing a highway in Washington's Olympic
National Park. I thought someone had thrown a banana peel out of a car.
These giant packages of moving slime would not be very intimidating
to an eagle, bear, or lion, but they do have a lot of charisma for a
slug. The Enterprise (Ala.) State Community College Boll Weevils aren't
likely to stir much fear in any opponent, although they might have an
edge if they played in the Cotton Bowl.
also mascots for many schools, especially bulldogs (42), huskies (10),
terriers (6), and greyhounds (6). Also included among canine nicknames,
with one each, are bloodhounds, boxers, and Great Danes. A couple of
schools that make me want to cheer for the team for no other reason
than the nickname are the U.C. Irvine Anteaters and the Pittsburg State
to resolve the question about who would prevail in a contest between
a polar bear and a tiger would be to arrange a shootout between the
Bowdoin College (Maine) Polar Bears and the best of the 41 college teams
that call themselves tigers. The Dalhousie University Tigers in Nova
Scotia would probably have the best shot at beating the Bowdoin Polar
Bears in ice hockey on their home rink. Clemson, LSU, and Auburn would
presumably excel against Bowdoin if the game were football. Princeton,
however . . .
you have an environmental question or comment, email