Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Clash of the Really Big People / A Modest Football Proposal

With the Steelers playing again already on Thursday night I feel like I have a little more football on the brain than usual. Which I suppose is what the NFL had in mind a couple of years ago, when in addition to Sunday Night Football and Monday Night Football they rolled out Sure, Why The Hell Not Have One On Thursday Night Too Football. This, however, is televised nationally only on the NFL Network, which leaves the rest of us peasants to go to a sports bar or listen to it on the radio. I prefer the latter option since this lets me experience professional football the old-fashioned way: Sitting on my couch drinking a beer and yelling at a six-inch by eight-inch by four-inch clock radio made out of silver-colored plastic. Some would argue that this is an inferior sensory experience but the Steelers are playing the lowly Bengals, which means that it probably won't be a great game and, being a game played in Heinz Field after midseason, has something like a one in four chance of becoming an offense-destroying slog played in ankle-deep mud.

At any rate: Football on the brain, and as I was reading some commentary on this past weekend's games I realized that this season's Super Bowl favorites are the Tennessee Titans and the New York Giants, teams whose names are nearly identical thematically. Surely this would be a championship match of literally gargantuan proportions, a Big Bowl for the ages. Perhaps great football rivalries develop out of mere geography or division rivalry but I'd like to think that some of them are based on the opposition inherent in their team names (the cowboy who ethnic-slurs his prairie foe as "redskin"; the packer who must defend his refrigerated beeves from the wily, scavenging bear). Giants/Titans, in contrast, would be an intriguingly homeopathic sort of showdown, like fighting like.

* * * * *

Actually I've thought for a while that NFL team names are more like each other than not. A couple of years ago I wanted to figure out if there were more teams named after birds or teams named after cats, so I produced the following classification of the current NFL teams. Note that while, say, Major League Baseball is stocked with franchises named for white socks and trolley dodgers and such, roughly half of all NFL names are taken from either birds or non-hominid mammals:

Baltimore Ravens
Philadelphia Eagles
Atlanta Falcons
Arizona Cardinals
Seattle Seahawks

Mammals, Cat
Cincinnati Bengals
Jacksonville Jaguars
Carolina Panthers
Detroit Lions

Mammals, Horse
Indianapolis Colts
Denver Broncos
San Diego Chargers

Mammals, Misc.
Miami Dolphins
St. Louis Rams
Chicago Bears
Houston Texans

Persons Who Pillage
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Oakland Raiders
Minnesota Vikings

Persons Held in High Moral Esteem
New England Patriots
New Orleans Saints
Cleveland Browns

Rugged Frontierspersons
Dallas Cowboys
San Francisco 49ers
Buffalo Bills

Pittsburgh Steelers
Green Bay Packers

Very Large Persons
Tennessee Titans
New York Giants

Socially Retrograde References to American Indians
Kansas City Chiefs
Washington Redskins

Singing, Dancing Street Gangs from Broadway Musicals
New York Jets

* * * * *

Taking the above into account and averaging the geographic coordinates of all the home stadiums, I've calculated that the average NFL team is called the Catbirds and plays on the outskirts of Perryville, Missouri, about an hour south of St. Louis if you take I-55.

Indeed, in its next expansion I think the NFL should seriously consider incorporating the Perryville Catbirds because of the would-be team's very averageness. I'm not saying that the plan doesn't have its difficulties: The ownership of the St. Louis Rams will presumably oppose any incursion into their regional market and the adoption of a major professional sports franchise may present special challenges to a community of less than nine thousand people. Nonetheless, I think the attendant economic boom in the region will more than offset the medium-term costs of major infrastructure improvements and I believe football fans the world round will embrace all the charms that Perryville has to offer. In the words of the Perryville Area Chamber of Commerce:

It is a community of honest, friendly people, a place to get to know your neighbors. Perryville's pleasant atmosphere, excellent schools, medical facilities, shopping opportunities and progressive, growing base of local business and industry make it a natural choice for anyone who appreciates the many advantages of life in a smaller community.

Now, if that doesn't sound like a town crying out for the amped-up, bonecrushing, man-on-man violence sport that the National Football League is selling then I don't know Real America at all. To achieve optimal averageness the home field will have to be situated at the exact geofootbalgraphical center of the country, as mapped above, which looks in Satellite View like a fairly rural plot near the intersection of U.S. Highway 61 and North Perry Boulevard. I project that an $800 million sports complex, including hotel and retail spaces, could be constructed at that location within two years of groundbreaking, with about 60% of the total cost provided by the municipal government via a sales tax increase. Until the completion of that facility the Catbirds' home games can be played at the nearby soccer park.

I think the NFL is eyeballing the Los Angeles market again, having failed there most recently with the Raiders and the Rams. But I think introducing a flashy, high-profile team in Southern California would risk overextending or even diluting the NFL's brand and quality of play. The Catbirds, in contrast, could be rolled out with little fanfare and, assuming league-average onfield performance can be reached within three or four years of expansion, will bring a modest increase in revenue while doing little to upset the competitive balance of the league. Indeed, casual observers of the sport will most likely mistake them for just another small-market club that has toiled with only middling success since the early 1960s. Perryville fans need not despair, either, since a projected 8-8 record each season should make them sufficiently competitive in the NFC West. Go you Catbirds!


Blogger Pete said...

Wow, Nate. Wow. You should, like, submit that to someplace, somewhere.

11/19/2008 1:32 PM  
Blogger Jack said...

Sometimes when Nate doesn't post anything for a week and a half, and then he comes back and posts something really long and really weird, I wonder if he spent the whole week and a half coming up with it.

OK, I can't lie, this made me laugh though.

11/19/2008 9:24 PM  
Blogger Kyle said...

I can attest that he wrote that in one evening but the research for the average location was done during his lunch hour. He has been refining the categorizing scheme for awhile though; the Chargers used to have their own category: “Pure Electrical Energy.”

11/20/2008 3:09 AM  
Blogger nate said...

Well, Pete, I figured it would be sufficient to post it here. Unless you know of some artsy, academic quarterly journal that publishes amorphous blog ramblings.

11/20/2008 3:27 AM  
Blogger Pete said...

I dunno. My initial thought was the public sector of McSweeney's, but I'm not sure that that exists in anything but their lists site anymore. Although, the categorical list of the NFL teams might qualify, though I dunno if it loses its charm without the explanation.

11/20/2008 2:51 PM  
Anonymous Dad said...

Try here.

11/20/2008 3:49 PM  

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