Animals of the NFL Tackled by New Documentary

Brian Handwerk
for National Geographic News
January 24, 2003

It's a wild place where lions and bears do battle, eagles and rams fight to the bitter end, and dolphins and broncos struggle over the same stretch of frozen turf.

Dolphins and broncos? What kind of place is this? It's the National Football League, where gridiron warriors head to battle each Sunday under the banners of falcons, ravens, panthers and other fearsome and noble beasts. Animals of the NFL premieres in the United States on the National Geographic Channel Friday, January 24 at 8ET/PT, when James Brown of FOX's NFL Sunday takes a look at the animals behind the logos and finds out how their lives in the wild may be related to the play of their football namesakes.

"It was a lot of fun to work on," said moving-image researcher Trinity Laurino, who worked to pull the film together in National Geographic's film library. "Every fact in the show is true but they're presented in a really different and tongue-in-cheek way."

Wild Mascots Sometimes Honor Their Home Turf

Some wild franchises have local ties. Dolphins seem like an appropriate symbol for the seaside city of Miami, Florida. But memories of Flipper may predominate in many minds. Does this lovable animal possess the fierce qualities necessary for football success? You'd better believe it.

Although people know them for their high intelligence, many don't realize that dolphins use their brains to efficiently attack their prey in a precise "wolfpack" fashion. Working together in an amazing example of teamwork, these marine mammals herd schools of fish into tightly packed balls—a death trap which the dolphins feast upon again and again until they have had their fill.

The Indianapolis Colts franchise traces its name back to its days in Baltimore, Maryland. In 1946 the Miami Seahawks moved north to Baltimore and decided that the team needed a new identity. Because their new home was in a state known for racehorses, the team adopted the name Colts—after feisty, young male horses under 4 years old.

The Colts soon matured into stallions, becoming champions of the NFL under the arm of legendary quarterback Johnny Unitas.

But not every franchise-animal connection is so straightforward. Some NFL mascots caused headaches for moving-image researcher Laurino and the film team.

The Seattle Seahawks were one of those challenging teams. Though the fierce-looking mascot emblazoned on the team's helmets is certainly imposing, Laurino found that there is no such species as the "seahawk." "We looked at the logo and searched for similar species," Laurino said. "We considered the sea eagle, but the Seahawks' public relations people told us that 'seahawk' was really a more of a local term for an osprey."

Osprey it was, and while these graceful hunters make a noble mascot, perhaps even some Seattle fans will be surprised to learn that their beloved seahawk is really an osprey.

Continued on Next Page >>




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