Dec 102012
 

(Cartoon by Owen Courreges)

Owen Courreges

“The New Orleans Pelicans.”  That’s what Tom Benson wants to rename the New Orleans Hornets, our local NBA franchise.  Yes, dear reader – that was the sound of your jaw dropping.

The proposal has already ignited a firestorm amongst New Orleanians, providing a necessary distraction from far less sexy news stories, like the wholesale lack of transparency in the recent water and sewerage rate increases that were approved this week, the resignation of our U.S. attorney amidst a scandal in his office, and the results of the run-off election in City Council District B.  Snore!

Those stories are admittedly far more important and worthy of my considering than the renaming of a sports team, but they’re also boring and/or depressing, whereas “Pelicans: YEA or NEA” has infinite potential for humor and vapid commentary.  As a column topic, it’s the equivalent of jingling keys in front of a toddler.  I’m literally giggling and wagging my hands.

So to start my total abdication of my responsibility as a political watchdog, I’ll announce my position on this frivolous issue: I absolutely adore the idea of renaming our team “The Pelicans.”

Tom Benson already owned the naming rights to the “New Orleans Pelicans” from a while back, but had been keeping in his back pocket, biding his time.  The name actually originates from our old minor league baseball team on which “Shoeless” Joe Jackson played, so it has a decent pedigree.

Of course, New Orleans originally wanted its NBA team to be named “The Jazz” to celebrate our musical culture, but when that team hightailed it to Utah, they bizarrely refused to abandon the name.  Utah has about as much to do with “Jazz” as New Orleans does with sobriety.  Nevertheless, they cling tenaciously to the name for no discernible reason, like a cat refusing to leave the water.  I almost think we should rename our team “The New Orleans Big Loves” just to shine them on and highlight the silliness of it all, but I digress.

We later managed to snag The Hornets from Charlotte, which is thankfully a more generic name.  Hornets, after all, are found damn near everywhere.  However, they are really not found so much in New Orleans as they were in Charlotte.  Pelicans are synonymous with Louisiana and New Orleans.  Plus, Charlotte actually seems to want the Hornets name back (according to AOL Sporting News, at least), and we don’t exactly have much attachment to it.  It should be a win-win.

On the other hand, some people seem to regard the pelican as some kind of silly bird, the kind that doesn’t intimidate.  After all, the argument goes, we didn’t choose the turkey for the national bird – we picked the bald eagle, Ben Franklin be damned.  You’ve got to prefer the animal that is elegant and evokes visions of unprovoked attacks on lesser creatures.

I say these people just don’t know pelicans.  For my exhibit “A,” I present a Youtube video of an Australian weatherman being attacked by a surly pelican as he cowered in a most undignified fashion.

It should also be noted that while a pelicans’ beak is designed for scooping up fish, they are also prone to using them to freak out people by biting their heads in a hilarious show of avian bravado.  For example, to the right is a random photograph of a pelican biting a kid’s head.

In Internet parlance, that kid was just owned.

Thus, while pelicans may have a somewhat ungainly appearance, they are also prone to irrational violence, and nothing says “team mascot” like random attacks on kids and weathermen (i.e., people who have it coming).

Plus, pelicans are perceived as being a very noble bird.  Our state seal features a pelican tearing her own breast to provide blood to feed her young (because apparently pelicans are vampires).  In Christianity pelicans are closely associated with the Eucharist, even to the degree that it has sometimes supplanted the Biblical “lamb of God.”  The first edition of the King James Bible, in fact, featured a pelican on the title page.

I’d actually prefer that these putative pelican characteristics better characterize modern sports.  Rather than NBA players striving to boost their own stats, even at the expense of the team, I’d rather see players willing to sacrifice themselves for the higher good.  On the other hand, I don’t expect a hive-like, mindless player to be the norm either.  Thus, pelicans are more ideal models for team sports.

The pelican is a scrappy but noble creature closely associated with New Orleans.  How can that not be an improvement?  We should all learn to stop worrying and love the pelican, because in the final analysis, it is the bomb.

Owen Courrèges, a New Orleans attorney and resident of the Garden District, offers his opinions for UptownMessenger.com on Mondays. He has previously written for the Reason Public Policy Foundation.

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  • SafetyDance

    No bones about it, this name is embarrassing. It is hard enough for a small market team to attract free agents, or resign their former first round draft picks, with the lack of prime-time exposure, poor performance record, and unattractive location (in comparison to LA, Miami etc, note: that’s definitely not my opinion, i prefer NOLA to any other city…). Why shoot yourself in the foot and change the name and branding from something exciting and recognizable (ie the Hornets), to the likeness of an awkward and ungainly bird.

    Has anyone in the Benson inner-circle told them how unpalatable the fans fine this rumored re-brand?

    The one upshot of the Pelican rebrand, is that the Honeybeez will be renamed to “The Cans”…

    • http://twitter.com/Owen_Courreges Owen Courrèges

      Safety,

      Oh, I disagree. “Hornets” is just so blasted generic; “Pelicans” really sounds like New Orleans and the bird has a pretty storied history. I do understand that some people might think of pelicans as silly birds, but they’re really not and I don’t think that’s going to be the governing perception. Time will tell, though.

  • TimGNO

    Oooh, “Pelican” really does fill the bill!

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=712200880 Angie Peckham

    Even though I feel that they’re silly birds, I got buzzed by one while ocean kayaking in California. They’re huge. I was definitely intimidated. He did it on purpose – I’m almost positive.

  • Rob Graham

    Suppose we rename the team the New Orleans Mormons. Then we could begin negotiations for a “name trade” with Utah…