Tuesday, April 13, 2010

MLB Nickname Review: St. Louis Cardinal

This past weekend, The Common Man was inspired by an NPR story of two intrepid bloggers with a book coming out, who were handing out letter grades to animals. Jacob Lentz and Andrew Nash brilliantly decided, probably over a lot of alcohol, that the really cool animals were not getting their due, and that someone should take to objectively assessing the performance of each species. So they created Animal Review. For those wondering, pandas, Africanized killer bees, and alpacas get an F. King cobras, great white sharks, and sloths get an A. It seems fair.

The Common Man thinks it’s important that everything get objectively graded, which is why he’s beginning a series of articles grading your team’s mascots/nickname. Frankly, some of you deserve to be taken down a peg or two (I’m looking at you, Red Sox Nation!), and some of you deserve to be rewarded in the face of your great suffering (Pirates…well, not nation…Guy). So in honor of the inspiration for this new series of articles, The Common Man will begin with the only team nickname/mascot that the budding minds over at Animal Review have looked at thusfar: the Cardinals.

First, some basic stats:

Name: St. Louis
Nickname: Cardinals
NicknameTypology: Bird
Color: Red
Size: 20-23 cm, ~45 grams
Special abilities: Flight, Singing, Being Easy to Spot (males only)

Best thing about the Cardinal: The bird is fiercely territorial. According to Animal Review, it “will even attack its own reflection in a mirror.” That equals a massive homefield advantage, Cardinal fans!

Worst thing about the Cardinal: Apparently kind of dumb. It is attacking itself in a mirror, after all.

More good news: Not only are Cardinals fiercely territorial, but they are non-migratory. In fact, as Animal Review reminds us, they rarely stray far from where they were born. Also, they mate for life and are monogamous. Those tidbits are welcome information for Albert Pujols fans who would like to see Prince Albert stay in red.

Also, they have a terrific singing voice, as part of its flashy attempt to pull in a mate. Flying is never not cool. Finally, the sale of cardinals as pets is banned thanks to the Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918 (despite the fact that it’s non-migratory, but whatever), which means THIS BIRD CANNOT BE CAGED!

On the other hand: It’s awfully small. I mean, 45 grams isn’t a lot. And it’s not very aggressive toward non-Cardinals. Given this, TCM is surprised the Whitey Herzog clubs stole as many bases as they did. Frankly, they’re not very scary. Sure, sparrows are small too, but they divebomb the hell out of The Common Man when he rides his lawnmower, and even useless birds like pigeons and seagulls might poop on you as they fly by. The Cardinal is just kind of pretty. Also, that territorialism could lead to some clubhouse friction.

Final analysis: Cardinals are all right. They are generally beloved because they’re pretty and they sound nice. And they have some really nice qualities that baseball fans look for. They’re very loyal, after all; and that’s nice in an era of free agency. Also, cardinals are very popular. The Arizona Cardinals play in the NFL, there are lots of colleges (including Ball State!) that use them as mascots. Also, seven states have adopted them as the state bird. That said, they just aren’t very exciting as a mascot. Nobody is going to be intimidated by a cardinal, unless he’s wearing a football helmet. And even then, they’re only threatening once every 20-30 years. They simply aren’t very tough. Instead, fans of the cardinal are going to stare politely at it through binoculars and leave food out, hoping to entice them to return.
They’re nice, but not awesome. Like our new friends at Animal Review, The Common Man is forced to give the Cardinals a B- for a nice effort but meh execution.

Update: The Common Man's second nickname review, for the Toronto Blue Jays, is up here.


bikemonkey said...

Cleveland's team dude. Let's get right down to it, shall we?

The Common Man said...

Tell you what, brother BikeMonkey, just for you, TCM will devote next weeks' nickname reviews to the Indians and the Braves. They will make nice companion pieces. The Common Man does welcome suggestions for which team to look at next.

Pete Ridges said...

For what it's worth, my understanding is that the MLB and NFL Cardinals were separately named after the color, not the bird:

The Common Man said...

TCM saw that article, Pete, and it was also an inspiration for this series. And TCM is sure the origin story for the Cardinal nickname that Scott Allen recounts is absolutely correct. That said, St. Louis seems to have decided to reference the bird as its nickname and mascot, as the team logo reprinted above indicates.

CalvinPitt said...

I took an ornithology in college, where part of it was mist-netting to capture birds, then banding them. I can tell you cardinals will bite anything in reach while being held, be it a stick or your fingers. As their beaks are designed to crack open seeds, they can draw blood easily.

I don't know if that would alter your grade for them or not, but I thought I'd mention it. I think this is going to be a fun series of posts.