How I Learned to Love the Cardinals

I am not the sort of person to go gaga over a professional sports team, even my former hometown Milwaukee favorites. The last time I really got hooked on Brewers baseball was in 1982. I still guiltily remember listening to one of the post-season games on my cousin Peter’s little pocket transistor radio with earphones– at my grandmother’s wake. Mea culpa. And they lost.

 Well, something happened this summer. As the Brewers started winning ball games, lots of games, I discovered and quickly succumbed to a cheap and easy way to listen to all their games on my computer and get to hear Bob Ueker doing the play-by-play on WTMJ, my (hometown) radio station. What a deal. $19.95 charged to plastic and I was online and spending–or wasting– many hours listening– and watching– the little moving graphics of the batters on the website, while sitting on the couch driving Louise slowly bonkers…no earphones this time around. One of the big rival teams– THE rival team in this division is the St. Louis Cardinals. Great team. Great rivalry. Great games. Each team won some of the season series.
Both teams went to post-season.  They are currently facing off for the National League pennant.

So what does my online addiction have to do with sustainability? Well, about two weeks ago at dusk as I was cooking dinner in the kitchen a familiar and pleasing sound caught my ear through the open back screen door.  I put down my garlic-chopping knife and spotted a bright red cardinal taking a little drink at the bird bath. I love their pleasant “chip-chip-chip” call. A few minutes later the grey female showed up: “chip-chip-chip.” I love cardinals. With global climate change we are seeing a lot more of them in central Iowa than we used to, as their normal range extends farther north.

A few days later, at the same time, just before dark, as I stood chopping garlic and kale at the kitchen counter, the cardinals were back at the feeder: “chip-chip-chip” and suddenly it hit me. I love cardinals enough that I should wait to tune-in the ballgame (Brewers-Cardinals)  so that I don’t miss the show going on outside at the edge of the birdbath. Chip-chip-chip. Much more calming, beautiful, and sustainable.

 Could someone tell me how many sports teams are named after animals? Dolphins, Tigers, Lions, Diamondbacks (I don’t like the team or the snake), Cubs, Badgers, Bucks…what if a team were the Polar Bears? In 10 years there will be no more polar bears. There will probably be brewers. Chip-chip-chip.

What about those cardinals?

Jim Zaffiro

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4 responses to “How I Learned to Love the Cardinals”

  1. Larry Happel says:

    Jim, I’m glad to see you have an appreciation for my favorite team.

    Your search for animal-themed team names is well-timed. writer Keith McMillan just came out with a story about Division III team names. And by the way, Ohio Northern is defying global warming by clinging to its nickname of the Polar Bears. Here’s an excerpt from Keith’s story:

    It’s a zoo trying to figure out which names Division III fans appreciate most. Well, it might as well be. At least 109 of our 239 schools used their animal instinct to come up with something to call its teams. Eight use the most popular name; Birmingham-Southern, Chapman, Ferrum, Greenville, Hanover, LaGrange, Middlebury and Plymouth State each are Panthers. They’re among the 32 cat-themed mascots, which comes in right alongside birds (33) and other animals (34) and way in front of dogs (10).

    Lions (Albright, Mount St. Joseph and TCNJ), Tigers (DePauw, East Texas Baptist, Hampden-Sydney, Sewanee, Trinity and Wittenberg) and Bearcats (St. Vincent, Willamette), oh my. The D-III mascot safari is litter-boxed with felines. Besides Panthers, Lions and Tigers, there are Cougars (Averett, Concordia Ill. and Kean), Bengals (Buffalo State), Leopards (La Verne) and Lynx (Rhodes). Besides Bearcats, there are Wildcats (Linfield, Louisiana College), Bobcats (Bates, Frostburg State), Tomcats (Thiel) and, of course, AmCats (Anna Maria). If only all these teams could be outfitted by Puma.

    Naming your team after a bird is no way to cause a flap in D-III. You blend in with the flock. There are six Eagles (Benedictine, Bridgewater, Husson, Juniata, Northwestern and UW-La Crosse) of the regular variety, plus some golden ones from Brockport State. There are just three regular ol’ Hawks circling (Becker, Hartwick and Huntingdon) but many varieties. Don’t confuse the national champion Warhawks (UW-Whitewater) with the headed-for-D2 War Hawks (McMurry); after letting go of their longtime Indians moniker, McMurry went a few seasons without any mascot at all. Less-violent fliers include Red Hawks (Montclair State, Ripon), Kohawks (Coe), Duhawks (Loras, located in Dubuque, Iowa) and Seahawks (Salve Regina). Sea Gulls (Salisbury) and Gulls (Endicott) fly nearby. Cardinals (Catholic, North Central, Otterbein, St. John Fisher and Wesleyan) are popular, as are Falcons (Concordia Wis., Fitchburg State and UW-River Falls) and Blue Jays (Elmhurst, Johns Hopkins and Westminster Mo.). More unique are Ravens (Anderson), Owls (Westfield State) and Sagehens (Pomona-Pitzer), the latter of which I had to look up to be sure it was a species of bird.

    Only eight schools go by dog names, and that’s including UW-Stevens Point’s Pointers. Adrian, Redlands and Texas Lutheran are Bulldogs and others bark alone. Moravian is the Greyhounds, Pacific the Boxers, Hiram the Terriers and Sul Ross State the Lobos. (Note: Yes, I realized that Wolverines =/= wolves)

    The most popular name in the rest of the zoo is made up of teams trying for a buzz. Six teams (Baldwin-Wallace, Defiance, Howard Payne, Randolph-Macon, Rochester and Waynesburg) call themselves Yellow Jackets, plus there are a pair of Hornets (Kalamazoo, Shenandoah) and some Wasps (Emory & Henry).

    Every other mascot is four-legged, starting with the four Bears (Bridgewater State, Coast Guard, Ursinus, Washington U.), two Polar Bears (Ohio Northern, Bowdoin), Golden Bears (Western New England) and Grizzlies (Franklin). There are three Mustangs (Morrisville State, Mount Ida and Stevenson), plus Mules (Muhlenberg) and White Mules (Colby). Stags (Claremont-Mudd-Scripps), Rams (Cornell, Framingham State) and Bison (Bethany, Gallaudet, Nichols) also gallop nearby.

    There are also elephants (Tufts’ Jumbos), roosters (Trinity’s Bantams), Gators (Allegheny), Kangaroos (Austin), Wolverines (Wesley, Grove City) and Beavers (Bluffton, Buena Vista).

  2. Walter Cannon says:

    hmm, sports teams named after animals…good question. I’ve wondered if the Oregon Ducks were named after the geoduck, a species that I believe can be found on the Oregon coast. There’s the Maryland Terrapins which seems an unlikely name for a sports team, unless perhaps it’s golf. And then there’s the Georgtown Hoyas! Despite all the PR to the contrary, I believe that Georgetown is the only sports team to be named after a plant. I don’t think it’s extinct though which is a good thing. And finally, there’s the Huskers who are kind of plant-like for most their lives and then for a few Saturdays morph into something resembling an animal…at least that’s how it was when I was there; things may have changed since then.

  3. Dave Booth says:

    Right on Jim. I rather be doing something rather than watching someone do something. Let it be yourself that is bicycling, gardening, boating, hiking outdoors rather than watching a game played by professional sports players. Watching games with friends is fun, but watching televised games to the exclusion of your own participation in the world is sad. Just do it, don’t watch it.

  4. Mark Howard says:

    How about those Cardinals?!
    Sports teams named after animals……..A couple of my favorites…
    TCU Horned Frogs and UMKC Kangaroos.

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