Wednesday, October 19, 2011

World Series Prediction: A Nickname Face-Off

Once upon a time, The Common Man committed to objectively reviewing and grading all 30 of the nicknames of baseball's 30 teams.  He got eight done.  While he is committed to finishing the list this offseason, The Common Man did happen to review the nicknames for both Texas and St. Louis, and on the basis of those reviews, he is confident he can predict the outcome of the 2011 World Series. How will it go when the Rangers meet the Cardinals?  Re-printed below are TCM's nickname reviews for each squad.  Predictions at the end.

Basic Stats:

Name: Texas
Nickname: Rangers
NicknameTypology: Human
Definition: Law enforcement officers for the state of Texas with broad jurisdiction over criminal investigation.
Characteristics: Chuck Norris

The best thing about being a Texas Ranger: You are forever associated with Chuck Norris, and boy is he badass.

The worst thing about being a Texas Ranger: You will never live up to the example set by Chuck Norris.

More good news: The Texas Rangers are the oldest state-wide law enforcement agency in the United States, tracing their organization back to 1823 (more than 20 years before Texas was even a state). As such, the Rangers have a strong sense of tradition that is respected around the state and country. For a team as young as the Rangers (the club moved from Washington in 1972), tapping into this tradition is important. The Rangers have also proven extremely successful over the course of their existence. Rangers were instrumental in the capture or killing of bank robbers Sam Bass, Clyde Barrow and Bonnie Parker, and “the meanest man alive,” John Wesley Hardin. They are, as an organization, generally beloved by many of the state’s residents, who have lionized them. Their toughness is legendary, and is underscored by their Western apparel, which they are required to wear. Supposedly, you only need one ranger to stop one riot, which is good when your team is struggling. Finally, they are legally protected (as of 1976) by the Texas Government Code from being disbanded, which means they have some excellent job security.

On the other hand: Look, TCM hates to bring this up, but the Texas Rangers’ history has not always been pleasant. Many of the Rangers left to fight for the Confederacy in the Civil War. Also, while the Rangers have been used to keep the peace along the Mexico border, it had a pretty shameful track record in the 19th and early 20th centuries regarding how they treated Hispanics in that area. In particular, they were known to summarily execute suspected bandits and torture them for information and confessions. In 1918, Rangers massacred every single male between the ages of 16 and 72 (15 in all, all Mexican-Americans) in Porvenir, Texas. A 1919 investigation by the Texas Legislature concluded that, between 1910 and 1919, somewhere between 300 and 5000 people, mostly of Mexican descent, had been killed by Rangers. Tom Hicks, it would seem, would have fit in well with the Rangers of the era. Also, you have been made into a movie starring James Van der Beek, Dylan McDermott, Usher, and Ashton Kutcher (a movie that TCM now, absolutely, needs to see).

Final Analysis: Finally, we get a nickname that refers to a specific group of people with a specific task, not some amorphous group like “Metropolitans,” “Yankees,” or “Nationals.” This specificity is a huge point in the name’s favor. Also, Texas Rangers are a much beloved institution, such that they are protected by law, and are generally respected for being all around bad-asses. While their ability to work together (one ranger, one riot) is somewhat in question, they are generally so awesome individually that we can overlook this deficiency. Aside from that pesky tendency toward racism and massacre (that TCM prays was weeded out a century ago), the Texas Rangers are a pretty awesome nickname. Grade: A

By the way, TCM continues to hold out hope that Chuck Norris will someday buy the Rangers just so that he can arrange a brawl with Nolan Ryan. The fight will end in a draw, when the men collide, emitting a mushroom cloud of testosterone that rains down on the population of Texas, resulting in everyone (women included) growing a manly stubble on their jaw.

And now their opponents:

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, so The Common Man is forced to give the Cardinals a B- for a nice effort but meh execution.

World Series Prediction:  As you can see, it's really not much of a contest.  Cardinals are pretty benign to non-Cardinals, and really aren't terribly threatening overall, especially to a Texas lawman who carries a gun.  Earlier this offseason, The Common Man picked the Rangers to make it to the World Series, only to fall to the Brewers.  Since the Milwaukee was knocked out, he's gotta think the Rangers steamroll over the Cards in five.


Rich C said...

Weren't the cardinals originally named for the color of their socks, not the bird? Wouldn't a color, as an opponent, have an a kind of awesome, terrifying abstraction to it? I mean, how do you fight a color?

The Common Man said...

They were, but they have actively associated themselves with the animal since at least the 1910s. Which should be good enough for us. But yes, fighting an entire color spectrus would be incredibly intimidating. Just look at what yellow does to Green Lantern.