Watch out cardinals, seahawks, orioles, blue jays, falcons, eagles, ravens, penguins, thrashers, ducks, and hawks, there’s a new bird in town—and its a lot fiercer than you might think. On Thursday, the NBA’s New Orleans Hornets announced that the franchise will change its name to the Pelicans, Louisiana’s state bird.
While some have critcized the selection, Deadspin’s Barry Petchesky has come to the team’s defense. In his Dec. 6 column titled “F— You, Pelicans Are Awesome” Petchesky debunked some common myths about the bird. Bill Littlefield spoke with Petchesky about New Orleans’ new nickname.
BL: Why is Pelicans a good nickname for an NBA team?
BP: Because Pelicans is a unique nickname. I was terrified that they’d go with some other fearsome predatory cats—Jaguars or Panthers. But they went with something with some local flavor and that actually stands apart from the usual ‘let’s-sell-merchandise-to-fourth-graders’ naming schemes.
BL: In your Deadspin column of last December, you relate that the pelican only eats meat and may be the world’s perfect killing machine and ‘wants to kill you and everyone you’ve ever cared about.’ I hope that last part is hyperbole.
BP: You know, I’m not actually an ornithologist. I probably should have made that clear. But I have watched some YouTube videos about pelicans, and it seems that killing is the only thing they have on their minds.
BL: Let’s do a little role playing here. I will criticize the pelican nickname and you be the guy who rebuts me. OK, here goes: ‘Oh, a pelican, that’s intimidating. It splashes around in the water and gulps down fish that are just swimming by.’
BP: That’s part of the anti-pelican lobby. That’s not what pelicans do. The brown pelican, which is native to the Gulf Coast, they, like any other bird of prey, will swoop down from above and pull live fish directly out of the water and swallow them whole. If you’re a fish swimming around, you probably don’t want to make fun of pelicans because there might be one above you right at this moment.
BL: In your article you assert that ‘Pelicans work as a team. They give up their own bodies to protect their home court. There’s no way New Orleans will lose a home game.’ But are these qualities really transmittable through a mere nickname?
BP: You have to think there’s something mental behind it. You have to think that team in the locker room, they are going to get their pep talk from their coach, and he’s going to tell them, ‘Go out there and play like a pelican today.’ And you know the team’s not very good right now and if they lose a game, that’s not playing like a pelican.